February 2016

Villages are the Roots of India

During a speech at the United Nations, Amma expressed her hope that university students all over the world would consider interning in villages. This sentiment is obviously close to her heart and it gives us an insight into what Amma thinks education should be.

Among other things, it should awaken compassion and make the youth more aware of the plight of those less privileged than them. This will help them solve the problems of rural communities, using innovative solutions based on the best that modern education can offer.

“Let a village remain a village. It should not be transformed into a city,” says Amardeep, an Amrita University student who is obviously taking Amma’s wish to heart. “However, they play a vital role of agricultural cultivation, so villages should enjoy the same benefits as cities.”

Amardeep is among one of the many students from Amrita University who has interned in villages of Amrita SeRVe. In his group, some of the students were doing such an internship for the first time, while others had come for the second or even third time because the visits had made a huge impact on their minds and hearts.

The Amrita University Students’ Internship lasted between 14 and 20 days. The students’ aim was to observe the present conditions in the villages, identify problems, and create solutions to those problems. They also came up with suggestions on how to proceed with the work that was already started.

From dawn until dusk—even into the night—the students were engaged enthusiastically upon whatever they were focused. That included projects in health, education, water and sanitation, agriculture, eco-friendly infrastructure, income generation or self-empowerment, as these are Amrita SeRVe’s main activities.

Students meticulously collected data by visiting every house of the village and helping residents to fill out the surveys concerning their livelihoods and living conditions. After their internship, the students presented what they observed, experienced, and then suggested as remedies for those problems. The young minds were full of enthusiasm, and with full hearts, they shared everything they could in a short presentation, leaving the listeners amazed and inspired.

In the village, students did various things: teaching organic farming practices, conducting awareness classes for men and women, teaching health care practices, forming self-help groups to create income generation and empowerment, opening tuition centers for children, and building toilets with AMMACHI Labs.

Also, students implemented the Amala Bharatam (Clean India) Campaign, helping the villagers tidy up their villages. The students also conducted bhajan sessions, held yoga classes, and played with the children. They lived with the villagers and were treated with utmost hospitality.

Four young talented minds shared their experiences of the internship. Guru Prasadh is an Electronic Communication Engineering undergraduate who was visiting the village of Ransai in Maharashtra for the second time. He said his internship was “an awesome experience and cannot be forgotten”.

Guru Prasadh’s immediate concern was to figure out how to implement tablet education in school teaching. He was happy to report that the dropout rates from school are falling. Since Amrita SeRVe started its work in the village, more children are remaining in school because they are increasingly motivated to study and also because they have greater appreciation for the value of education.

Guru Prasadh mentioned a school girl who inspired the whole team with her insight about studying and how she convinced her parents that there is a need to study. He explained that she visualized a whole chain of learning: when she receives an education, the whole family is also educated because she shares what she has learned.

This gets reflected on a larger scale when more children are educated; the whole village benefits. Guru Prasadh shared that when all the team members realized the struggles the young girl had to overcome, they began to appreciate anew the significance of the work they were doing.

Guru Prasadh reminds us that people in the cities have everything: food, water, electricity and more. In contrast, there is a lack of almost everything in the villages, the backbone of India and the seat of agriculture. When the villages improve, the whole of India will improve. When one lives with the villagers, experiencing their simple natures and loving hospitality, one begins to see things from their perspective.

Amardeep, who is a second-year student of commerce, interned in Harirampura, Rajasthan. He took care of the administrative part, helping to apply for pensions and other governmental concessions. Amardeep did the paper work on behalf of the villagers and met officers. Now, there are people who receive pensions because of that effort.

Amardeep says he practiced and learnt management skills, including how to handle people in difficult conditions. He adds that what he learned about himself was how to use the right emotion in the right place. He also noticed that he was becoming more loving. He realized that he could love people and use that love to bring about change. He says that with the support of the villagers, one can do everything, thus making them even more self-reliant.

Two young women, Malavika and Reshmi went to Indpur village in Himachal. Both of them are final year Master of Science students in Mathematics. During their stay, the team opened a tuition centre so that the children could benefit from individual tutoring after school. Amrita CREATE will continue to monitor these activities and also train teachers in the tuition methods.

In the morning, Reshmi and Malavika would go there to play with and teach the children and to provide individual tutoring. They went to two different regions because there were restrictions on one community trespassing on the space of another. The children came voluntarily after doing household chores in their homes.

Reshmi and Malavika spent the whole day with the children. They also visited every house in the village to collect data for a survey. The team conducted bhajans in the houses of villagers too, then performed arati and gave prasad. Amala Bharatam, the cleaning drive, was also successful: the children joined in first, and then the adults when they saw what was happening.

Some parents asked these young women how their parents let them come so far away from home. They replied that they had not come alone but had been accompanied by faculty members. Parents responded with a smile. In that village, a girl can study up to 12th grade. College is too far away and parents are reluctant to send daughters outside the village. Malavika’s and Reshmi’s example must have made an impression on those who want to study but have to face many obstacles.

Some Indpur villagers do not have jobs in their own village, so they go to other villages. Also, there is lack of awareness about how to find a job. Some young girls want to be police officers but do not know how to proceed. Malavika and Reshmi came up with an idea: conduct awareness classes on how to educate themselves and find a job.

Malavika says that villages are the roots of India; everything originated here, including cultural development. “People here are innocent and affectionate. Children touched our feet because they still respect elders, as per the ancient tradition.”

When asked what their advice would be to the next interns, Malavika said that she would share her ideas with them. She says that villagers are innocent; outsiders should not hurt them with promises they cannot deliver. Building trust is very important. She adds that it is better to do only one or two things and to do them properly and regularly. This time, they concentrated on the tuition centre and on building toilets with AMMACHI Labs.

Amardeep’s advice is to read all of Amma’s books and to assimilate the spiritual wisdom therein; one can then reflect on “how I can implement myself as an asset and implement that positivity to the village?” Guru Prasadh, who has already inspired his fellow students to participate, says that one must cultivate an attitude of working as an instrument. He says that Amma is the inspiration who sows the seed of service in our hearts, where it sprouts.

Indeed, minds like these can make a difference. They can inspire many other students. May God bless universities around the world with like-minded students so that they, too, will be inspired to serve humankind.

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