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Located in the Thirukazhukundram Taluk, near Mahabalipuram, Tamilnadu, Manamai is a developing village, with the confluence of technological necessities and the lack of certain basic amenities of a normal life.

Manamai is a home for approximately 3500 villagers and has around 6000 houses. The village is divided into four panchayat wards - Manamai Main, Dargaz, Malamedu and Keezhakazhani. The people are predominantly Hindus with a minority consisting of Christians and Muslims. The village has witnessed turnarounds in the professional and educational fronts despite a few shortcomings.


When compared to the other villages, Manamai is relatively better in terms of infrastructure. It has wellbuilt roads, ration shops, a couple of schools and electric facilities. However, water supply is mediocre and the villagers are not well informed about the hygienic aspects of water storage.

Profession and Past Activities

While in the past, the villagers thrived on agriculture, today the trend has shifted towards other better opportunities such as government jobs, plumbing and working for the nuclear plant at Kalapakkam. A noteworthy aspect is the increase in the number of youngsters who temporarily migrate to other countries to enhance their work experience and skill sets.

Educational and informational activities conducted by Great Lakes in the past have helped increase the number of children attending school today. However, the need for an English medium school cannot be underestimated as it would empower the youngsters for their future. Other activities conducted in the past include - conduct of an eye check-up camp, a tree plantation drive and promoting education amongst the backward sects of Manamai in collaboration with the M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and the Hope foundation. The identification of the backward sects - Irula Tribal Members, was done with Saraswathi Akka facilitating the introduction.

At a glance - TODAY

Today, on an average, the residents of Manamai own motorbikes, cable network connections, mobile phones and LCD televisions. It is ironical that despite these advances, Manamai lacks basic facilities in terms of an English medium school, regular bus service and medical facilities. Villagers are responsible for their own transport and have to visit Mahabalipuram in case of any health problems. The underground water is extremely salty and muddy posing a threat to the villagers’ health. A new panchayat is in place now, elected in 2011 after its dissolution in 2010.

Building Relationships

The team has successfully transcended the language barrier. Out of four parts of the village where the team is currently running its operations only two parts have one Tamil speaker as core member. In the initial days of relationship building the team had done a varied range of activities, judiciously utilizing the Tamil speaking members. Through several cultural and educational events the team has a very good connect with the villagers. The process started with the anti-smoking awareness campaign in the first month of Karma Yoga. The event was organized right beside the crossroads in front of the Panchayat office and the turn-out was huge. The team organized events for different gender and age groups to keep the crowd engaged. The team also performed two skits to increase awareness of the evil effects of smoking. This event worked as an ice breaker in the relationship between the team and the villagers. After the event the team made strong connections with not only the village children but also the important people in the village such as Panchayat secretary and the Church head. The team took another key strategic decision which helped make our relationship stronger. In all four parts of the village we started working with children. The children were very enthusiastic and we not only taught them but also included them in our operations. In some parts of the village the children were given identity cards and which drew other children from the village in subsequent visits.

The biggest challenge was to take it forward to the other age groups of the village. Since we had equipped the children with basic spoken English training, we did not have any language problems in communicating with the rest of the villagers. The children acted as translators in situations where the Tamil knowledge of the non-Tamil members could not suffice to make a conversation. Through months of rigorous work we have been able to win over the trust of the children’s parents as well and they have also stretched their hands to ensure that Karma Yoga activities run smoothly in the village. The team kept on organizing such interactive events regularly, ensuring participation from the villagers.

The participation of our village contacts in the Karma Yoga convention has also been crucial in sustaining the relationship. We invited people from different parts of the village and different walks of life. The participants were happy to be part of such an event and later spread positive vibes about it in the village.

Other Activities

Spoken English Classes:

Spoken English classes are run in three of four parts of the village. During the initial visits to the village the team had spoken to several visitors and conducted small surveys to understand the needs of the village. The team came to understand that poor English communication had become a major problem for the youth. The team had several meetings with the influential people of the village and started spoken English classes in Dargaz, Malaimedu and Keezhakazhani. In order to meet the needs of students from different age groups the team conducted English classes at different levels. Response to these classes has been surprisingly good and the contacts we built are so strong that the team gets calls from the students regularly.

Waste Management:

The team is using the children from the spoken English classes to communicate with the elders of the village. We have divided the entire team into different sub-groups and each sub-group is responsible for a certain part of the village. In the initial days the team went door to door to understand how waste was being treated in the village. With the help of the survey results, the team is now implementing an awareness session targeted towards every household in the Malaimedu area.

Women Hygiene:

With the help of an existing self-help group run by Saraswati akka, a prominent figure in the village, the team runs women empowerment programs in the village. The team is currently working on hygiene issues face by the village women in Keezhakazhani.

Science Awareness Session:

The presence of highly enthusiastic and curious students in the Dargaz area of the village forced the team working there to run science awareness sessions in parallel to the spoken English classes. The classes started off as edutainment session with regular home-work on creating models of solar system and maps of the country. The students proved to be highly creative and currently the team is working on exploring opportunities in the village to implement solar panel utilization and rainwater harvesting.

Organic Farming:

The team is following the footsteps of the last year’s karma yoga team which had successfully implemented organic farming in several parts of Manamai village. The contacts created by the last year’s team have been utilized this year as well and new contacts have been made.

The Road Ahead

  • Regularly conducting Spoken English classes to make the village youth conversant with the language
  • Waste management campaign in the village so that waste produced by the villagers can be utilized in an efficient way.
  • Conduct a heritage site visit for the children who attend the educational classes, in order to broaden their perspective on local culture and history.
  • Assisting the village youth in deciding their career path and make them aware of the options available for different demographic groups.
  • Empowerment of women through self-help groups.
  • In collaboration with the high school of the village, the team will start computer education classes.