“A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu
The Karma Yoga Echur Team works with the three parts of the village: Echur Village, Echur Colony and Lingapuram. Echur Village is densely populated with approximately 250 households where the villagers mainly depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Both Echur Colony and Lingapuram have approximately 100 households. The village president hails from Colony and the Vice-President from village. The church pastor is an influential person in Lingapuram.
As far as agriculture is concerned, people in Echur grow Paddy, Groundnut, Snake Gourd, Brinjal and Ladyfinger. Families that have agriculture as the main source of income, earn 3.2 lakhs / annum approximately. Most of the farmers use personal wells and a common canal for irrigation. Since this supply is not sufficient to sustain agriculture round the year, villagers usually migrate to Chennai or to nearby places and work as contract labour. There are lots of people involved in manufacturing and fixing of flooring-tiles. Some families have been in a particular profession for generations. A family exists with three generations of barbers.
The main motive of the Karma Yoga Learning Experiential Program is to enhance the self-efficacy and self-respect of the villagers by enabling them. The Echur team contributed towards this in few ways. Firstly, knowledge of English was critical for the villagers’ growth. The villagers were unable to communicate with the outside world because of this barrier. The team conducted English classes in all parts of the village to remove this barrier. A lot of children and few elders now know some Basic English words enabling them to communicate with others. Secondly, Health facilities are not readily available to the villagers as the nearest hospital is quite far away. The team, with assistance from others, arranged a dental health camp in the village. Thirdly, There was no awareness about science as a career prospect. We organized a science awareness camp at Lingapuram with assistance from Tamil Nadu Science Forum (TNSF), which laid the path towards forming TNSF facilitated Science clubs at all parts of the village. Last but not the least; we empowered the women in the village by making them aware of the opportunities available to them by being part of various Self-Help groups. We got them to participate in sessions of the Karma Yoga convention which provided them with useful information. Currently women of Echur Colony have joined a Self-Help group and have empowered themselves to earn a living for their family.
As rightly said by the great Henry Ford, Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success, we have seen the immense significance of these lines during our experience with this program. Every member of the team started as a stranger to the villagers but we worked as a team and the results were clearly visible from the smiles on the face of the villagers when they see us coming.