It is our villages that sustain us by providing those who live in cities with the nourishment needed in order to survive. However, today, we are just exploiting villages and casting them aside. It is time to acknowledge that our villages are our very foundation and move forward with one heart and one mind to protect and serve them.
Amrita SeRVe was launched during Amma’s 60th birthday celebrations in September 2013 and ushered in sustainable development in village clusters across India. Our work is aligned with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Since then, we have focused on areas in which to begin a series of changes that starts from basic needs and then leads to a state of true empowerment.
Amrita SeRVe’s vision is to teach villagers the skills they need to live in communities that are prosperous and self-reliant. These are places where people are healthy and educated and where they lead lives of dignity in a clean, pollution-free environment.
Such self-reliance will lead us to vibrant cultures rooted in India’s age-old traditional wisdom. Because villagers are the providers of most of the nation’s food supply, these steps can lead to a sense of community and gratitude throughout the entire country.
In the past, all villages in India were self-reliant. Villagers grew their own food and made all the items that they needed themselves. There was a blacksmith and a carpenter in every village. People knew how to build houses. The focus was on using resources available locally. Now the whole world is realising that reliance on local resources is key to sustainable development. Amrita SeRVe wants to bring back the spirit of self-reliance in each one of our villages. Today migration from villages to towns and cities is increasing day-by-day. There are many material problems in the villages that need to be solved.
However, in many other respects, life in the villages is much better than life in the cities. India’s real pulse can be felt more in the villages rather than our urban areas. The goal of Amrita SeRVe is to encourage village youth to stay back in villages and not migrate to cities.
Some of our village clusters are in remote areas (Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Bihar); others are not far from big cities (Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha). Each place has unique challenges. However, some problems, such as the lack of quality health and education services, are ubiquitous.
India has the world’s largest rural population—68% of our overall population of 1.25 billion—and our Human Development Index is low, primarily because rural areas lack access to good healthcare and education.
We have started work to ensure that these conditions change for those living in our villages. Dedicated tuition teachers and health workers are at the forefront of this effort.
Take Krupamma. The only person to have completed college in her village, Krupamma became the Amrita SeRVe tuition teacher in our village in Andhra. She is trying to ensure that other children follow in her footsteps and aspire for higher education.
Like Krupamma, our tuition teachers have grown up in the Amrita SeRVe villages, and are grateful to be part of Amma’s team working for change.
Since 2013, research centres of Amrita University have worked hard to ensure that Amrita SeRVe meets its goals for health and education. The WNA Center helped implement water distribution networks while AMMACHI Labs built toilets. Amrita CREATE is providing curriculum and training support for the tuition centres that have been started all over the country.
Amma says that one child from every family should first work in a rural area for one year after graduation. This will help awaken compassion in the youth and our country will grow holistically.
Accordingly, with Amma’s blessings, the Amrita SeRVe Fellowship Programme was launched in May 2015. The programme has attracted many dedicated young men and women, who are now living in our villages and serving.
Amma has also inspired many retired men and women to actively volunteer with Amrita SeRVe. Several are now mentors to the Fellows. Others are concentrating on beginning income generation programmes or combating the practices of chewing gutka and consuming alcohol. There is a lot more that needs to be done. We have only just begun.