VILLAGE NAME: Amanambakkam
Here is the snapshot of the initiatives that we have taken in our Karma Yoga Leadership Experiential Project.
In this age of increasing tobacco consumption, an enormous number of people die of this dreaded practice. It causes cancer, lung diseases and several other complications. It is necessary to pause for a moment and to consider what could be done about this globally prevalent issue. We, the Amanambakkam village team conducted a program to observe ‘Anti-Tobacco day’ on May 30, 2013 to spread awareness about the ill effects of tobacco. We had an array of events lined up, including talks on the importance of Anti-tobacco Day, an experiment to demonstrate the ill-effects of tobacco, a mime and videos depicting its harmful effects as well. This was conducted in the evening from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. After conducting the session, we made sure feedback about the program was taken from some of the villagers. They expressed their appreciation and encouragement. Some of them liked the skit while others liked the demonstrations. This program helped us to create better rapport with the villagers. We hope to continue building uplifting and healthy relationships with them in the coming days.
As a result of their prior understanding of the importance of IT, we started computer classes for children on a weekly basis. The introduction of these classes was well received by children and their parents alike. We focused on teaching them multiple aspects, including basic ones like the MS office package (MS-Power point and MS-Word) and more creative ones like drawing and painting on the computer. Both programs gave children solid exposure to technology and computer knowledge.
Students in the villages through books. Opportunities to interact and express themselves freely are minimal. To address this issue, we conducted a series of sessions focusing on newer ways on enabling children to think and learn. Activities like pyramid building, profiling and collage work made them work in a group and provoked their thought process. The children took pride in them while creating something new and experiencing team work.
One of the key initiatives taken, this has really made a change in the village at all levels. A group of houses were chosen for an awareness session on the multiple benefits of growing a kitchen garden in their house. This project captured the interest of the children and has seen their full commitment. We were able to implement this project through the continued guidance from Mr. Sami Arul, who is an agriculturist. It gave the villagers and our team members’ immense satisfaction to see the plants grow and bear fruit.
VILLAGE NAME: Echankaranai
The Karma Yoga project is a unique opportunity provided to each of us to discover the skills of leadership by adopting a village and introducing positive changes in it. Our initial visits to the village were aimed at understanding the focus areas for initiating the change process. As we tried to gain better insights into the nature of the problems, we had a growing realization that becoming a part of someone's world is the key, and the most significant aspect, before we start to transform it.
Through intensive interactions with the villagers and through our observations, we drew up an action plan to put into effect our objective of empowering the villagers. Our first focus was the young enthusiastic children in the village with whom we had established excellent rapport with a friendly cricket match which we played within the first few visits. We organized a painting competition and a skit. With this we not only got to know the children better, we also utilized the opportunity to educate them about the importance of good education and preserving the environment for a sustainable future. A few movie clips proved instrumental in delivering inspirational messages to these young children. We found that 6th and 7th grade children are able to read English but they do not understand what they are reading and so we started helping them to understand and to comprehend what they read. We also began conversing with them in English. The enthusiasm and eagerness in our later visits cemented our belief that we had been successful, to an extent, in making friends with them and that we as a group and as ambassadors of the Karma Yoga project had touched their lives in a positive way. This was just the beginning.
After acquainting ourselves with the children through weekly classes, the next step was our involvement in the Independence Day program by facilitating children’s performances in various events like poems, skit, etc. We also organized sports events for the school children -running race, lemon and spoon, tug-of-war- as a part of the Independence Day fest. The children dazzled everyone with their brilliant performance in front of a large audience. This program actually helped us get in touch with the adults of the village. We also started moving to other parts of the village to meet all the people and understand them. This went along for a while, wherein we came to know the actual life style of the people and particularly their source of income. Then we had the annual Karma Yoga convention where some of the adults were brought to our institute to discuss issues in fields like agriculture, health, education and self-help. Some of the experts gave inspirational presentations and methods to tackle difficulties. This event was our humble attempt to give wings to their dreams, and hope to their goals. It was aimed at informing them about the broad spectrum of jobs that could be pursued after a good education.
With an improved relationship with all the people in the village, we involved ourselves with helping them improve their way of life. As a start, the two major areas that we identified for intervention were organic farming and hygiene. To create awareness about these two themes, we facilitated the kitchen gardening project wherein the back yards of households were used for organic farming. Ladyfinger, chillies, beans and lettuce were planted and they have started giving a good yield. This is being done with the help of Swami Arul from CCD.
To improve the health conditions, a blood camp was held in the month of October through which we identified around 120 villagers who were affected by BP or Sugar or both. After knowing this, we started to approach each and every individual to know their health status. As a majority of them are not taking the blood sugar level seriously, we educated them regarding its future implications and future cost if they fail to cure it at an early stage. We are also planning to follow up on other health concerns with the help of RUWSEC hospital.
A Self-help group, Tamilnadu Grama Vaalvadhara Iyakam (TGVI) has been nominated by the Government to advise every village regarding the job vacancies / opportunities in government / private institutions. The team is led by government personnel, with the team visiting the village once a week to interact with the people. As we can be a medium of contact between the self-help team and the villagers, we are planning to involve ourselves in working with this team to provide maximum benefit to the villagers. As we look back at all these memories, we hope to make the last few months of our association with the people of Echankaranai just as productive and as rewarding as before. We sincerely hope that our presence and interaction made some positive difference to the lives of these people and that the batches after us will continue to cement the relationships we have nurtured and continue to make a positive difference.
“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.
VILLAGE NAME: KADAMBADI
Kadambadi has a population of three thousand five hundred, with close to two hundred pucca houses, and a thousand people having voting rights. It is located in Kancheepuram District, Tamil Nadu and is roughly 5 kms from our college. The village is a Tamil Nadu government recognized tourist spot and the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation has allocated separate funds for improving tourism in the village. Agricultural activity in the village is slowly dying due to poor and uncertain profitability. People have started shifting to labour and daily wages work. There is a primary Tamil medium school in the village; however students have to travel to other places such as Mahabalipuram and Thirukazhunkundram for higher education.
The previous batch had done an excellent job in establishing a smooth and credible relationship with the villagers. As we started our project, the objective was to take the relationship forward and build on it. The objective of the leadership experiential project is to gain practical experience in influencing skills; inducing a change in the mind-set and thought process of the people and improve their self-efficacy and self-esteem.
The first phase of our project was focussed on relationship building. The team was split according to the regional areas. From the villagers’ point of view, the transition from the old batch to the new batch was sudden and it was necessary to establish the initial trust and overcome the feeling of alien-ness with the villagers. It was easier to start with the children and help out with their education. Once we got involved with their parents, we got to know a lot about their life and identified areas where we could contribute and thereby learn a lot.
We have organised ourselves into four functional teams.
The team works closely with the primary school. We have selected few students from the 6th, 7th and 8th classes with the help of the school HM. We educate them specifically for talent exams. This programme will change their thought process at a granular level. We also encourage them to impart it to the rest of their class. We are also working closely with the HM to establish a culture at the school where education will be practical and based on common sense
The team has made great steps in establishing close working relationships with the self-help groups. We met with the SHG head and understood its formation, purpose, financials and benefits. We took them to the KVK organisation which provides professional guidance to SHGs. We also educated them on the basics of banking and in turn the SHG leads spread the information to the rest of the village.
The health team is closely working with the village President to bring awareness to the village about possible health hazards. The poor garbage disposal and seasonal problems are stressed upon. Recently, we conducted a health camp, using our associations with the nearby medical institute, exclusively for school children as the children are the ones who are not entirely capable of identifying health problems on their own. Permission was obtained from the educational officer. At least three children were identified with the need for special treatment. The teachers were educated on the basic steps of identifying health problems in children.
The environment team has been building awareness related to garbage disposal. We conducted an environment camp at a common meeting place and we used competitions to stimulate thinking. The team is currently working on Kitchen gardening with the village leaders realising its importance. From the Health camp, we identified the nutrients that school children generally are deficient in and we arranged for the quality seeds of plants with high content of those nutrients.
Finally the activities are just the means to learn about leadership, team work and interpersonal communication skills. 75% of team, with no local knowledge, overcome the language barrier to influence the villagers. The team has learnt to leverage each other’s strengths to form a collective strength and filling out any weakness. We have started to appreciate self-discipline, goals & milestones and more importantly effective goal communication. We also learned to manage conflicts of interest and motivation skills. The Karma Yoga experience has been enriching in every way possible
VILLAGE NAME: KOTHIMANGALAM
About the village
Kothimangalam is situated in Tirukalukundram tehsil, Kancheepuram district of Tamil nadu. It is one of 102 villages in Tirukalukundram Block along with villages like Edaiyur and Puliyur. Total population of this village is around 2074 with male and female population in almost equal numbers. Kothimanglam consists of three parts: Irular, Narikurever and MGR Nagar.
Summary of our village activities:
Our first visit to the village was on 19th May, 2013. We explored the village and met with some of the families. We were excited about the experiential learning project and interacted with people from different parts of the village.
We observed that people in the village including the school going children could interact only in Tamil. This was a problem which we decided to address by conducting English classes for them. We divided the children into two groups: those below class V and those from class V to class X, so that we could give them relevant knowledge according to their age. We started organizing the classes in MGR Nagar. Initially the focus was only on teaching them English and improving their spoken English skills, but as we started interacting with the students, we discovered their interests in dance and music; hence we also organized dance classes once in a while.
For Narikeruvar, we held the classes separately in the Don Bosco Gypsy School. We taught them through videos and music and we also took the help of a nun who works for the tribal people residing in the Narikeruvar area.
We organized various activities in the village to sensitize people about the environment and the importance of utilizing the resources around them with care. We organized a painting competition for children with different themes on multiple occasions. On earth day, the theme was about theenvironment, on Independence Day, it was about India. We organized elocution competitions for the children and encouraged them to actively take part in it.
We interacted with Arun, a student in the local polytechnic college and a resident of Kothimanglam. We found that the students of his college need help in order to increase their employability. So we decided to start soft skills classes for them in collaboration with the management of the college. The students were very excited and the activity was of great help to them.
On Literacy Day, 8th September, 2013, we organized a computer class for the children and made them understand the basic operations of a computer. Later, with the help of Tamil Nadu science forum, we organized a learning activity for the children in the school. In the future we look to establish a long term relationship with Tamil Nadu Science Forum, so that our villagers can derive the utmost benefit out of it. All these activities strengthened our relationship with the children.
To further improve our ties with the village elders, we decided to conduct a health camp for them. We discussed the various problems they were facing and made a list of them. People were excited and our excitement doubled seeing their enthusiasm. We took up the responsibility of making it happen and we were successfully able to organize a health camp for the villagers on Sunday, 8th December, 2013. This health camp was supposed to be beneficial for the villagers but truly speaking, it was more beneficial for us. It was a great experience- handling the logistics, taking care of the villagers coming for the check up and assisting the medical team making it memorable for a lifetime.
We do not know to what extent we were able to empower the villagers or make an impact on their lives; but one thing is for sure that we share a beautiful relationship with the Kothimanglam people and these villagers share a special place in our hearts. There is a lot which we learn from them and this learning could have come only through Karma Yoga experiential project. It made us relate our management learnings with the ground realities to provide a holistic educational experience for all of us.
VILLAGE NAME: KUNNATHUR
The team had started off with basic social campaigns. The village people were made aware of the ill effects of certain social hazards by our continued interactions, which also enabled us to build a relationship with them. The basic aim was to make the villagers aware of their responsibilities.
A drama was performed for the villagers about the ill effects of smoking and drinking. This was further elucidated through the cotton bottle experiments. The villagers associated their lungs with the cotton that got tarred.
Frequent events like rangoli competitions for women, cricket and volleyball competitions for the youth were conducted in order to establish and maintain the unity amongst the villagers.
Education related activities
The team was actively involved in helping the children improve their basics concepts in various subjects. Present in the village, is Mr. Janaki Raman and his team, who believe that education can make a lot of difference to the future of the village. They are a motivated lot and we chose to support them in all their activities pertaining to education. We focused on reducing the gap in education between the children in the village who had received an average matriculation education and those who had a normal education (government education) through regular teaching.
We started teaching the children building a strong relationship with them. The most important thing was that the children were highly motivated to change their lives through education and were enthusiastic to receive instruction from the team.
The village youth lacked basic software skills and were losing out on better job opportunities for this reason. We as a team decided to teach them the basics of Microsoft Excel and Word to start with and constantly nurturing them on this front so that they can leverage this skill to acquire better jobs in the future.
Employment generation activities
Our team has recognized specific individuals from the youth who were jobless and on the lookout for jobs and categorized them on the basis of their specializations and interests. We are continually up-skilling them by providing them with trainings related to their specializations. We helped them to communicate better in English and boosted their confidence levels. On a regular basis we motivated them in this regard and we are continuously moulding them still.
Upliftment of the NGOs
An NGO – The PLF Society headed by Ms Uma Maheshwari and Ramani proved to be a boon for the village. The government had started many sets of activities to promote of non-profit organizations. It had recently announced that it would refund 7% of a loan amount taken by any NGO or a non-profit organization for a cause, if the organization pays the bank (from where the loan is taken) all the due instalments at regular intervals till the end. An additional 3% of the loan sanctioned by the bank will be given to the bank for encouraging such activities. Thus we have created awareness among the villagers regarding all these opportunities and were instrumental in encouraging the NGO’s to start new ventures and sustain the old ones.
SLRM (Solid and Liquid Resource Management Project)
It is the brainchild of Mr Srinivasan, an active environmentalist, who is very enthusiastic in spreading this across to the various places in India and in many places outside India as well. He made a model of a waste management system, which could extract profits through the timely and proper segregation of the waste. We are in the initial phase of this long-term project and as of now we are going to execute this in Kunnathur. The NGO workers were provided with a basic presentation about this project and the villagers who were initially hesitant, later become more enthusiastic with our support and motivation. They find more meaning in these activities and understand the sustainability of the project. The project has proved fruitful in many ways – in building a healthier environment for the village and being sustainable wherever it was introduced until now, always making profits.
Empowering the Farmers
Farmers were motivated about the best practices in organic farming through videos and pictures of the tried and tested methods in organic farming. We also made them realize how much benefit they could create for themselves during non-harvest seasons by creating a sustainable organic farming practice that would depend less on the seasons and at the same time produce better yield.
We wanted the villagers to take up Organic farming on a large scale and hence continuously educated them about it. We have motivated farmers like Mr. Balakrishnan and Mr. Jayaraman, who take this new trend in farming – Organic Farming- more seriously because of its immense potential to boost the country’s economy. We motivated the farmers and created awareness about the government schemes for farmers who are certificated as practicing organic farming in their farms. We also spoke to them about the sustainability achieved by employing the best practices of organic farming and made them aware of the various methods of producing bio-nutrients and organic products from their farms. The products discussed were:-
- Panchakavyam - Used as an effective nutrient and pesticide
- Jeevamrutham- Boosts the plant growth and gives good yield.
- Gunabajalam – Made from the remains of dead animals
- Biopesticide – Pesticides produced using Organic methods devoid of any chemical content. Doesn’t pose any health hazard to humans unlike chemical pesticides and also very efficient in killing the pests.
- CPP - Cow Pad Pit Manure
- KombhuSaanavaram – Manure produced from the broken horns of the cattle.
We hope to make a difference during our existence and are very much alive to the concept of Karma Yoga - to help achieve the villagers achieve their goals. Our team is very grateful to all the people who have helped in administering this project and helped us realise our potential to cause change in the world for the better
VILLAGE NAME: KUZHIPANTHANDALAM
“Health is the greatest possession” - Lao Tzu
The health of the villagers was one of the key areas of focus during this year. In order to ascertain the nature of the medical treatment required, a General Medical Camp was conducted in Kuzhipanthandalam School on 15th August 2013. Medical Practitioners from RUWSEC hospital treated over 140 villagers in a half-day session. Medicines funded by the Village Panchayat were distributed as required. Patient Name, Age and the Ailments present were recorded, using which we were able to identify the need for an eye camp, which we have planned to conduct in January 2014. We identified Mr. Satish from the village as a point of contact for enabling future healthcare initiatives in the village.
To make the villagers self-sufficient and to enable them to leverage their knowledge and their skills, in farming, we brought about the kitchen garden initiative which promoted organic methods of growing vegetables. In collaboration with Mr. Samiarul from CCRD (Centre for Cultural and Rural Development) our team initiated the Kitchen Garden project at our village. To begin with, we nominated Mr. Samuel to participate in the project, with assistance and guidance from CCRD team. Mr Samuel has implemented this at his home and will now take up the project, assisting and educating other farmers and households to get this implemented. Mr Samuel has identified 4 other households who can undertake Kitchen farming in stage two. We expect that the knowledge inculcated will spread and be of use to the villagers.
Basic computer usage is fast becoming a necessity. The children and the youth in our village are no strangers to this interactive medium. However accessibility to computers is low. Therefore, our team has organized regular computer classes and training sessions for children in our village, using our own laptops, to teach them how to use Internet and other common applications. Apart from computer education, we have also demonstrated them the workings and applications of Tablets.
Waste Disposable Awareness Initiative:
When we first visited the village we could see that there was a lot of garbage thrown outside the homes. There were piles of bottles and other plastic items, inviting disease. Hence we thought of creating an awareness program among the villagers to educate them about on the advantages of waste disposal. For this, we used visual aids to have greater impact. We arranged a projector in the village and showed them a video in which lot of birds die eating plastics. On their death all body parts decomposed but fora trail of undigested plastic material. We then explained to the villagers the various methods of waste disposal. It helped the villagers to understand the importance of waste management and they engaged in a discussion with us. After that, we could see a significant improvement in the village as people were using pits to dispose the wastes and not throwing the plastics on the street.
Activities at Orphanage, the Home of Hope
This year, we started visiting the ‘Home of Hope’ orphanage from the month of September. The residents of Home of Hope were glad to see us back. We continued with our tuition classes for the boys. We conducted these tuition classes in addition to their regular classes at school. The classes were aimed at sharpening their mathematical skills and improving their general knowledge. Apart from tuition classes, we also conducted certain games such as dog and bone which helped the new members bond with the children. We are planning to give a session on career counselling at the end of academic year and finish off on a high note.
VILLAGE NAME: MANAMAI
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
VILLAGE NAME: MULLIKOLATHUR
Connect with the Villagers
We usually visit the village once a week. Mrs. Sumathi and Mrs. Kala are our main points of contact who are always there to help us. The children in the village are a most interactive and curious lot. They have always been our source of encouragement and perseverance. Regular visits and interaction have made it easier for us to know more about the village and to connect with the villagers at a deeper level.
Initiatives & Implementation
We started off by conducting a drawing competition for the children during June 2013. This served as an ice-breaker and we also involved the village women in some games. We saw active participation from all levels. We slowly explored the areas of distress and started focusing on those on a priority basis. There was a school in the village that could coach students up to standard 8. The children wanted to work on their English as it was essentially a Tamil medium school. We started conducting English classes for the school children whenever possible.
We also conducted an ‘Anti-Tobacco’ campaign, to create awareness of the ill effects of chewing/smoking tobacco. We even demonstrated the effects of tobacco smoking. This was received very well by the villagers and one of the students re-created the same act as a demonstration to some dignitaries visiting the village.
The farmers of the village respect their farm land a lot. They believe that the yield is greater than that the yield in neighbouring villages.
We then conducted a ‘Rangoli’ competition to bond with the village women. We were happily surprised with the extent of participation among the village women. The ‘kolams’ that they had made were extremely beautiful and at the end we gave our token of appreciation to all the women.
We then had the 2nd Annual KarmaYoga Convention in the month of August which was a grand success. The villagers who represented Mullikolathur at the KY Convention felt that the sessions conducted on Agriculture, Health, Self-Help and Education were very helpful. This event brought us together even more.
We also had an awesome session by Mr. Velu Srinivasan, on ‘Waste Management’ – turning waste to money. The presentation was very insightful and we took the news back to the village with the women willing to be a part of this initiative.
To implement this SLRM (Solid & Liquid Resource Management project), we had requested the villagers to volunteer to be a part of the initiative. We have collected the names of the interested villagers and handed the list over to the respective authorities who will take it up further.
We then started the ‘Kitchen Garden’ concept. In this, the households can have a small kitchen garden (a 10X10 sqft) in their own backyard, giving them the flexibility to grow small vegetables which can be used for home cooking. As part of a pilot study, we got few samples from Mr. Sami Arul, the brains behind this concept, and gave it to 2-3 households in our village. They are currently implementing the same.
Future Course of Action
- Complete implementation of Kitchen Garden and expansion of its usage in other households.
- Conduct more events or awareness campaigns, especially on Alcohol usage etc.
- Conduct a health camp.
- Conduct more classes for the children.
VILLAGE NAME: Naduvakkarai
Naduvakkarai, located on the Pudupattinam Highway is one of the 3 villages under the Thirukazhukundram block in Kanchipuram district. The other 2 are Kunavakam and Karumarapakkam. There are 3 panchayat wards and 3 election contestants from the village.
Below are the statistics about the demographics as gathered from our multiple interactions with the villagers and Panchayat head;
2500 (1000 adults, 1500 children)
Sex ratio (Male:Female)
This is 4 year old data. Such a healthy sex ratio is a positive social indicator
Number of Children
All children go to school, no child labour thanks to an awareness program named "Hand-in-Hand"
Area in sq m
Number of Families
Main crops are rice and groundnut (June-April), while watermelon and coconut are seasonal. Unpolished rice is sold to Govt. for Rs.11/Kg while private firms offer Rs.9/kg
Laborers in local Chemical factory
Earn Rs. 70-80 per day every third week
Stitching cloth, Farms and Construction
Work for export cloth markets
Villagers very strict with regards to alcohol consumption.
Rigid Caste System. 7 different castes
In-house library with 5 books only and there are 2 govt. municipal workers looking into water supply
Water Supply motors,Handpumps and Overhead tanks,Wells
Water Supply motors: 3, Handpumps: 2 and Overheat Tanks: 3,Wells: 3
In case of any issues with water supply, the BDO and engineer pays a visit on the request of the panchayat
4 govt. and 2 private buses
There are 2 bus stops
One ration shop
The panchayat has taken up the initiative of building toilets.
Here is the snapshot of the initiatives that we have taken in our Karma Yoga Leadership Experiential Project.
The ill effects of tobacco consumption like lung & mouth cancer and other complications are known to all. The habit of tobacco consumption is very common not only in adults but also in children in Indian villages and it is very important to educate them about the harmful effects of tobacco. We thought of spreading awareness about the harmful effects through a small campaign by observing ‘Anti-Tobacco day’ in the village on May 30, 2013. A lot of activities were carried out as part of this campaign. We started by spreading information about the campaign a week in advance by distributing pamphlets among the villagers and invited them for our program. On D-Day, we got a good response audience comprised of children in huge numbers most of whom were accompanied by their parents. We started by screening of couple of videos on ‘Anti-Smoking’, which demonstrated the harmful effects of Smoking. This was followed by the enactment of a skit that depicted the story of a young person addicted to tobacco.
The quote ‘Actions speak louder than words’ is completely apt here. Rather than giving speeches and lectures, the video and skit were able to convey the message to all age groups. After the skit, we tried to bring in some elements of fun as most of the audiences were children. To involve everybody, we had a few rounds of passing-the parcel and some other games. Everybody seemed to enjoy them. After the games, we interacted with the adults and children to gauge their understanding of the videos and skits. In the end, we took the hand impressions of the audience on a chart as a memento followed by the villagers signing a ‘No-smoking’ petition. This program helped us to build a good rapport with the villagers which we intend to utilize for our future endeavours in the village.
Village Name: Nallur
“It is true that real Indians live in rural India!”
We say this with our experience and not mere repetition from people around. The culture, for which our nation is most known for is seen in these villages. Nallur, is one such small village just off the East Coast Road and is a 10 minutes’ drive from Great Lakes Campus. It is full of lush green meadows that captivate you as soon as you enter the village and consists of vast open spaces, which we hardly get an opportunity to see in the city. The population of the village is more than 4000. It is the assembly of five small subparts, separated from each other by a small distance but bounded together by the common Panchayat.
We started our journey to the village by familiarizing ourselves with the layout of the village and exploring all the parts of it. This was very helpful for both the village members and us. It ultimately became an ice- breaking activity. From here on the bond between us and the villagers started to build.
We started with teaching the children basic English, Mathematics or any other subject with which they had problems. Children always are very approachable! We continue helping the children with their studies every time we go to the village. The only thing that all the parents of these children say to us is they want their children to study well and get good jobs. Like other parents they too wanted their children to study well and go places. They wanted us to help their children with studies and help them achieve their dreams. More than empowering them, they wanted their children to be empowered. Hence, education is an integral part of our weekly visits.
Teaching wasn’t the main aim of our visits. We conducted events like a drawing competition, a cricket match so as to get to know the villagers better and reduce the gap between us and them. Since language was a barrier for most of us, events like this were helpful in engaging with them. We were continuously in touch with the village head asking him what the village as a whole thinks about our initiatives and if the villagers are able to gain anything worthwhile. To ensure this, we constantly involved him in all the activities we planned in the village.
On 24th August, 2013 the second annual Karma-Yoga convention was held on Great Lakes campus. The Convention was an inclusive platform that brought in together farmers, businessmen, self-help groups, non-governmental organizations, students, local Panchayat leaders and every stake-holder relevant in the rural development schema together under one roof. The objective of the convention was to get selected people from our village to interact with selected people from the other Karma-Yoga villages. This interaction made them aware of what others did in their village and what they could implement in their village.
Our village head enthusiastically took part in the convention and so did the others. Taking the learnings from the convention they shared the same among other village members. Inspired by the speeches and interactions in the convention, their co-operation and support for any activity we planned in the village was guaranteed.
This year we have introduced the concept of a kitchen garden in the village. This involves planting some vegetables in the open unused land around the house and cultivating vegetables which are enough for a family to survive. This will go a long way in increasing the self-esteem of the family as they are able to sustain on their own, eat healthy organic food, reduce dependency and also serve as a means to use garbage in resourceful manner. The villagers’ happiness on seeing the plants grow had no bounds.
It’s not that our work in the village is restricted to these things. In one part of the village there is a student named Sangeetha who is pursuing her engineering. It is unbelievable the way she manages her studies and household work! We also teach her programing when she has problems in her subjects. Thus our activities in the village are quite diversified.
Towards the end of Dec, the implementation of the SLRM (Solid Liquid Resource Management) project has been initiated which shall lead to the complete transformation of the village. Though, right now we are just in the data collection stage. But, we as Karma Yogis believe that it shall be soon be implemented and that too with great success. This shall lead to empowerment of the villagers and employment to all the people in the village.
In this short time with the villagers, we have become very attached to them. It’s a small initiative to help them realize their true potential by increasing their self-confidence and self-esteem, which in return boosts our leadership skills in the real world!
VILLAGE NAME: Natham Kariacheri
Village Team Members (PGPM): Saptarishi Saha, Shaileja A Verma (Village Coordinator & Section Coordinator), Sunny Suresh,
Village Team Members (PGDM): Ankur Baj (Village Representative), Anuj Ajay Kumar Shrivastava, Arnav Talwar, Mannem Anudeep Reddy, Shiven Saluja, Ramyaa Ramesh
Village Coordinator:'Vijayshree S Menon'
Our journey so far...
Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will... Kariacheri - a village we never heard of has gradually become something close to our heart. As a part of the Karma Yoga project , we started working with village in Kariacheri.
About the village
Natham-Kariacheri is a village panchayat under the ThirukazhukundramTaluk in the Kanchipuram District of Tamilnadu. Natham and Kariacheri are two sister villages that are clubbed under the same village panchayat. It is about 5 KM to the east of Great Lakes Institute of Management, quite near to the pristine beaches of the Bay of Bengal.
Agriculture is the main occupation of the village residents. During off-season, they get employment in the nearby towns like Thirukazhukundram, Chengalpattu, Mamallapuram etc. Many people are permanently employed at the Kalpakkam Atomic Power station, which is 8 kms from the village. Many are also into the Limestone Business
There is a primary school at Kariacheri (till Standard V) and a high school at Natham (till Standard X). Children are enrolled in these two schools. The schools run with basic infrastructure.
Healthcare is poor in this panchayat. Villagers often have to go to Chengalpattu town to get good medical care at the Government General Hospital.
Karma Yoga activities:
Great lakeshas been associated with Kariacheri Village as a part of KY project for the past 3 years since 2009. The areas of focus in this village has mainly been education, SHG ,creating Health awareness, conducting health camps, Skill training &Agri business.
In 2009, the students found few areas where they could pitch in and empower the villagers. They worked with women Self-help groups, the village school and the health facilities available in the village
In 2010, the students from great lakes focussed on Education , Medical camp, Skill training Programme, & Organic Farming. In 2011, the students worked on Health awareness programs , Education & SHG front.
In the education front the following have been done in the last 3 years In 2009: The school children though eager to learn don't have a proper means to do so. Their only support comes from the teachers in the school. GL students tried to improve their awareness about the potential opportunities available to them in the world beyond their village. They were able to convince the school headmaster to meet up with a few corporate and convince them to pay for buying new books for their library. In 2010: GL team took up English and Basic Computer training for secondary school children of Natham village. In 2011: GL Students started teaching children spoken English. We slowly realised that there would be greater benefit, if we could establish science clubs in village. Hence in collaboration with TNSF, we established a science club in our village. It was named Sir C.V RamanTulir Science club. The aim of this club is to teach science through simple experiments and broaden their thinking. It is meant to facilitate learning through fun. We identified Mr.Yoganathan, the local person in the village as its coordinator. Science club formation events:
As a part of this activity, GL students also conducted a star gazing event through telescope in the village. It was a huge hit. Children & adults participated with great zeal and saw Venus& the Moon with its craters.
GL Students also showed the children some motivational videos on people such as the entrepreneurSharathBabu and Tamil Nadu 10th Std.Board Exam toppers so that they could take inspiration and study hard. SHG:
Interacting with the village women was an enriching experience. Their state of affairs is not very different from what we see in the moving documentaries. The raw passion with which they talk tells you something about the years of yearning to do something extraordinary. Though not many had any clue about what they wanted to do 5-10 years from now, not one lady wanted to see life simply pass by.
It was understood that most of the villagers did not even know about the benefits that a self-help group can offer. The first priority was to spread awareness of its existence to the neediest persons of the village. In this regard, GL students were able to convince the self-help group members to come up with a list of women in the village who were interested to start small entrepreneurial ventures with the financial backup provided to be provided by the self-help groups.
GL team spoke to the members of Women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in the village who are looking to take up new business opportunities. The skills they would learn would help them supplement their income from Agriculture, their main occupation. GL team has contacted EdServ, a leading education and training firm, to organise these trainings through funding from Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).
GL team contacted an organization called Prakriti which was into paper bags business. The students had a discussion with the owner to conduct training in the village for the SHG women.
GL students contacted M/s Scope International's CSR division. Apart from educating the villagers and conducting HIV awareness campaign
As a part of spreading health awareness we decided to start from SHG. GL Students contacted RUWSEC Hospital in Karumarapakkam , which conducts several health programs, camps for women's healthcare. RUWSEC will be formally involved in conducting health awareness programs in the village. As a part of this program, GL students arranged for the first health session conducted by RUWSEC on general women's health. The turnout was encouraging.
The primary occupation for most of the village folks is agriculture. They are currently cultivating one crop a year; mostly rice. GL students decided to make them aware of the benefits of crop-rotation and contract farming. In this regard, they interacted with agricultural expert Mr.Madhavan from IIT to give a talk to these villagers. Mr.Madhavan is known to impart training for farmers charging a very nominal fee for his services. He even guides the farmers who undertake his training in their 2 subsequent harvests.
GL team came across Mrs.Sabitha, a resident of the Kariacheri village, actively involved in organic farming. She is interested to take up organic farming to other nearby villages and promote it as a viable business. GL students also worked with her in assisting her promote organic farming in the village. The Journey continues . . . . .
VILLAGE NAME: Neikuppi
Work undertaken in the village till date
Our journey in the Karmayoga Leadership Experiential Project started in May. It was a new experience for all of us to visit such a small and beautiful village. We walked through the village during our initial visits trying to get to know the village and its people. We played with the village children, got to know their interests, hobbies and aspirations. We also spoke to the youngsters to find out that there are graduates in the village who are looking for jobs. Our point of contact (POC) Mr Ezhumalai had been extremely helpful during our attempts to understand the village and its situation. To establish more connections and widen our reach in the village, we organized an address and an interaction session with Mr S Narasimhan (Manager- NABARD, Founder- Bharathi Foundation Thiruvaiyaru, Tamilnadu) and a drawing competition for the children on Sunday, 2nd June. We distributed pamphlets in the village, personally inviting most of the villagers for the event which resulted in good level of participation from the villagers for the event.
Initially we had started teaching English and other subjects to all the students from 1st -12thStd in the two tuition centres in the village. We used pictures, videos and other means to make learning as fun and as interesting as possible. As time went by we realized that to develop leadership skills within ourselves and to make the villagers self-sufficient, their dependency on us had to be reduced. Hence instead of teaching the younger children in the village, we formed a sub team to focus on English education for students of classes 8th – 12th. The plan was to focus on creating self-learning opportunities through videos, reading assignments etc. and make the senior students capable of teaching the younger students.
Videos, animation movies and short films of educational value and social awareness were used at various occasions for their learning. A projector from college was used for screening the videos.
We started interactive sessions with the youngsters (mainly unemployed engineering graduates) of the village, focusing on spoken English, aptitude training and interview preparations. We also used visual aids like Spoken English Tutorial videos to enable easier understanding. However the response from youngsters had been disappointing in the beginning. Our lecturers conducted one informal session but the turnout remained minimal. The youth of our village were more interested in playing cricket and this had hampered our interaction with them.
Cricket Match as an Entry Tactic: Thus we decided to go to their home ground and create opportunities to interact with them through cricket. Great Lakes cricket team played against the Village team. The match was a proper cricket contest with both the teams playing their hearts out. Meanwhile, we interacted with the players who had not come to our previous sessions. It was a good starting point for us to interact and we become friendly with all the village players. We discussed our agenda with them and tried to persuade them to attend our youth sessions and many responded positively. From then on we were able to conduct the sessions on a regular basis.
Blood Donation Camp
Neikuppi KY team also helped TamilNadu Science Forum (TNSF) and Neikuppi village to conduct a Blood Donation camp at Neikuppi. We received good support from the village and our institute with around 30 students from GL attending the camp to donate blood. The event also helped us in getting connected with TNSF.
We celebrated with the students by screening videos and documentaries that depicted India's freedom struggle, freedom fighters, Indian map, Presidents, Prime ministers Etc. We also had a video consisting of speech by Dr Abdul Kalam, addressed to school children. We thus tried to celebrate Independence Day by creating maximum awareness amongst children about our country, the history of the freedom struggle and our freedom fighters.
The second KY Convention was held on 24th Aug. 8 villagers including Farmers, Housewives, and working youth attended the convention from Neikuppi. The convention created ample opportunities for the villagers to interact with experts on Health, Agriculture and education sectors receiving specific inputs addressing rural needs.
Teacher’s Day Celebration
A greeting card making contest was conducted for the students and each of them made a greeting card for their teachers and wished them. Mrs MallikaViswanathan, former principal of Adarsh Vidyalaya and grandmother of one of the team members was kind enough to come from Chennai to address the students and the villagers. Events like Musical chairs, short race, singing and dance were conducted and performers were rewarded with chocolates and candies to appreciate their courage and talent.
Neikuppi had a considerable number of cattle, goats etc with no proper animal medical facility close by, Hence we came up with idea of conducting a Veterinary camp to help the villagers. We successfully conducted the veterinary camp at our village on 19th Oct. We used different marketing ideas to publicize the event. Distributing pamphlets, meeting MNREGA workers at their workplace, informing students etc. were some of those. The event went on smooth with over 150 animals being treated including goats, hen, cows and buffaloes. The success can be credited to the efforts of Dr. Mariappan& Team and the cooperation and help from the villagers especially our POCs
Public Toilet Issue
To get the unused Public toilet opened and functional, we joined hands with Self-help group heads Mrs.Jayanthi and Mrs Ranganayaki to convey the message to villagers staying near to the Public toilet facility. We conducted a survey in this part of the village and collected the list of households without toilet facility and used the opportunity to try and convince them the importance of using toilets and not defecating in the open. After continued efforts and with the help of self-help heads, a meeting was conducted with all the women near the Toilet facility area. Today they have started using the toilet facility and we take pride in convincing people about the facilities’ health benefits and how it improves their standard of living as a whole.
Tuition Centre in Colony
We also succeeded in convincing the people that tuition centre had to be reopened in the Ambetkar colony area and the classes should be continued like last year. 4 youngsters and Mrs. Devaki agreed to take care of the setting up. And the classes eventually started on 28thwith around 25 students and the youngsters promised to continue this the whole year.
VILLAGE NAME: PATTIKKADU
Pattikkadu is like any other Indian village, characterized by poverty, low level of productivity and lack of basic amenities. There is lack of literacy, primary education and female participation in social activities.
Amidst such a gloomy scenario we found a few bright eyes in the village, full of passion, eager to learn and bursting with energy: the children at Pattikkadu. The team was finding it very difficult to connect with the elders in the village. The children acted as a bridge between us and the elders; the vibrant messengers who carried our messages to their families. We started with helping the children in their studies, organizing games, e-learning sessions and personal hygiene tutorials.
When the team started organizing various small skits to communicate the harmful effects of social evils to the children, we observed that their parents were also drawn towards the skits. It was then that we decided to use this platform to educate the families about the ill effects of various social evils such as smoking and drinking, the importance of cleanliness and of natural resources. With every passing skit the audience increased, the villagers now seem to enjoy, understand and appreciate the cause.
The next major initiative that team Pattikkadu took up was the implementation of kitchen gardens in the village. The initiative had a multi-fold agenda viz. creating awareness about the health and monetary benefits of organic farming and generating awareness and concern about the rapidly declining ground water levels. It was initially difficult to convince the farmers about kitchen gardening, as growing vegetables was the main occupation of the farmers in some parts and doing the same in their backyards at such a small scale did not made sense for them. With repeated efforts to communicate the benefits of organic farming through videos and other educational material, the team was finally able to convince a few farmers to start the kitchen gardens and set the ball rolling. Kitchen garden is now being practiced by more than 15 households in Pattikaddu and the number is increasing every day.
Organizing health awareness camps, with on the spot detection and recommendations by experts, has been yet another significant initiative of the Pattikkadu team. These camps also ensure mass screening of suspected patients from rural pockets, so that they can receive timely treatment. With two health camps every three months, the team is eyeing to cover all four parts of the village at least twice.
In a large country like ours, there is a limit to the reach of NGOs and other organizations. Team Pattikkadu believes that it needs to share its learning and in turn learn from the villagers to develop a mutually empowering framework.
VILLAGE NAME: PUDUPATTINAM
Empowering the villagers is definitely an objective but we also believe that it cannot be a one-sided affair. With this in the mind, we propose to do the following:
- The village is by and large a fishermen’s community and fishing is their prime occupation. Till date as I have learnt we haven’t specifically focused on them. Hence we want to focus on them more
- To understand the various facets of fishing as a business , we got in touch with a couple of NGO’s/companies (especially those interested in CSR activities) who could give us some ideas and insights as to what we might be able to do
- The idea is to understand how the village functions as a unit with fishing as a primary activity. Understand the occupation on many fronts such as:
- How does fishing as an occupation work, what impact does it have on their lifestyle, livelihoods etc.
- The way they approach fishing as a business, understand their market, accessibility to the best practices etc.
- What are their alternate sources of income during off-season
Keeping this in mind we spoke with people regarding this.
Firstly, we spoke with K.Y.Murthy (member of panchayat) and other fishermen regarding their issues in fishing. We identified three major hardships faced by them.
- They are very worried about the additional costs that will be incurred on fishing nets if they go deep into the sea. They told us that the kind of fish present in these areas will cut the net with their teeth and making it unusable
- Also the motor in their boats gets damaged if the water flows into the boat, which happens very often these days due to back– to-back cyclones.
- Due to the small scale fishing, true of most of the villagers, they incur losses in the market due to the additional costs caused because of the problems mentioned above.
When the fishermen demand an additional price in the market to recover their losses no one heeds them. They do not have any support price in the market and there is no government regulation in the market.
Also there are no proper storage facilities and so they have to sell the fish as and when they bring it to the shore.
- He told us that the fish yield has nowadays reduced compared to what was there before the Tsunami. As a result their income has come down. He said there were initially 400-500 fishermen but now there is only 150-200 fishermen. Most of them have gone to the Kalapakkam atomic power station as contract workers and a few of them have their own business.
- He told us that the person who owns a boat would get a substantially higher payment after fishing. Usually 3-4 people go in a boat for fishing. The total cost of the boat is around Rs.1, 00,000, the motor cost comes around Rs.50, 000 and the fishing net costs around Rs.50, 000. He told that they get diesel at a subsidized price.
- The fishing season for them is January. He told us about the different types of fish caught during different seasons. During the 45-day ban imposed by the government, the fishermen do not go to fish. It’s the period where fish grow. In spite of that the fishermen don't find it very productive. He said there is no significant increase after that period.
- Secondly, we spoke with Ashwath’s father (our POC) about various issues in fishing.
VILLAGE NAME: VASUVASAMUDRAM
This year we continued with the tradition passed on from our alumnus. We started our journey with a demographic survey of the population and their occupations. From our understanding, we segmented our activities into three categories – Agriculture, Self-Help and Education.
In the month of November, 2013 we organized a workshop for the farmers, which was also attended by the village Thalaiver Mr.Govindraj. The trainer shared his valuable insights on how to use different waste materials as pesticides, how to make and use bio-fertilisers and also handed over a few samples to the farmers for testing.
We made a pact with the village school to conduct regular classes on each Friday for about one hour after the school time. We are using the existing school infrastructure and provided personal attention to all the students. We started with our class with around 56 students and we expect the number to grow in leaps and bounds. We analysed the curriculum and found low emphasis on contemporary English. Hence we focused on that section heavily.
In the first week of August, 2013 we conducted a self- help workshop in the village school targeting women. This workshop was conducted by a few of our batch mates who demonstrated how one could make dyed clothes using a few simple techniques. This created a huge interest and the women asked for a stitching and handicraft workshop as well. We collected names of interested persons and are now in the process of conducting weekly workshops.
Aside from all the three activities mentioned, we also connected with a lot of people who helped us to understand the current socio-economic scenario of the villages. We had a lot of fun with the village children. In the future, we will surely cherish all our inspirations, activities and realizations during this karma-yoga project.
Village Name: Vayalur
The Vayalurian Journey continued with the same excitement as last year. This year was different as we not only had our friends from PGPM (Batch of 2014) and PGDM (Batch of 2012-14), but also the new PGDM (Batch of 2013-15).The Vayalur team had increased in strength considerably. The year overall was a great success owing to events like Cricket Tournament, Rangoli Competition, Teachers Day Celebration, Drawing Competition and most importantly, the Medical Camp for the people of Vayalur.
Our first event in the village was the Rangoli competition. People participated in great numbers and created innovative and beautiful rangolis. This gave us a chance to interact with more people and tell them about the purpose of our visits to the village every week. This was soon followed by a cricket competition. All children love the game of cricket and the competition was well greeted by them. Meanwhile as these competitions were conducted and planned, our endeavour towards improving education continued.
This year we approached a part of village- ‘Chinna Colony’, which had never been visited by Great Lakes earlier. This part of the village constituted of the backward people who had always been ignored. We approached them, apprehensive if our visit would be well accepted. But to our surprise, people there were delighted and were willing to send their children to us to teach them. The excitement within the team increased as the responsibility increased. In the following weeks we divided ourselves into groups and one group was consistently focused on Chinna Colony.
Since the children were not familiar with English, we had to begin with the basics. Soon we realized the fact that teaching them and making them converse in English would be a daunting task and would take more than couple of months to accomplish. The children in this part of the village were eager to learn and observing their high spirits and keen learning skills, we decided to conduct a drawing competition. The competition was conducted in Vayalur School and children from all over the village were invited including the children from Chinna Colony. The main purpose of the competition was to bring out the creativity within these children. The competition was also supported by the school management, who really appreciated the fact that we conducted such competitions as it helped the children to take a break from their regular studies. We collected all the drawings and decided that we would distribute the prizes during the Teacher’s Day celebration in the school.
The event next in line was the Teacher’s Day celebration. Since it was a day meant for teachers we decided to gift teachers something made by their own students. We came up with the idea of bringing chart papers and sketch pens to school and asking the children to make something for their teachers. The students wrote messages in English and Tamil for their teachers and presented them. Some students had made wonderful drawings and wrote messages around them. Every student signed beneath their message as a token of gratefulness to their teachers. The children enjoyed the whole process and expressed their message in a wonderful manner to their teachers. The respect the teachers got from these children was a treat to watch. The children were literally fighting with other to get a chance to express their feelings. Overall the event gave us enough reasons to get close to the school management and the children.
When we visited school the very next week, the teachers asked us if we could teach the children English. We were more than happy to conduct English classes in school as well. We decided to take a small test in English vocabulary and English pronunciation, so that we could club the children of the same level and teach them according to their respective needs. Accordingly, three groups were formed. Majority of the children were in the group which needed the most grooming and teaching. The team formed a list and accordingly we taught the children at three different levels using three different teams for the next couple of weeks.
The most important event conducted this year in Vayalur was the Medical Camp. The medical camp was organized by Rotary Club of Chennai and Great Lakes Institute of Management. This event in itself was a huge task for all of us as it not only needed to be publicized among all parts of the village but also had to be coordinated across on a large scale. From planning the event location to arranging promotional pamphlets, all of it had to be done by the Vayalur Team. The Medical camp was planned on the 8th of December, and the publicity for it had to be started weeks before. The whole idea of a medical camp was to provide the villagers a free medical check-up. Doctors from Vasan Eye and Dental Care from Chennai were to travel to conduct the Medical Camp.
Initially, we went door to door and informally informed the villagers about the event. However, once our pamphlets were ready, the whole team divided itself into groups of 2-3 members and dispersed to every lane of the village. Few teams went to other side of the village- ‘Periyar’ side across the road and creating awareness about the camp. People in the village really needed this camp as they had a lot of health related problems. We still remember how villagers described to us their problems of low vision and sensitive teeth that troubled them. Finally after lot of effort, the day arrived. People turned up in good numbers. The timings for the camp were from 9am to 1pm and the whole event was successfully carried out with people going back contentedly.
The whole Vayalur experience is an enriching experience to each one of us and we all feel satisfied in doing our bit every week towards society at Vayalur.
VILLAGE NAME: Veerapuram
Village Team Members (PGPM): Ankur Chaudhary, Anuj Joshi, Sonali Das, Soumya Sinha (Village Coordinator), Srinivasan R
Village Team Members (PGDM):Harshita Preetam, Inder Deep Singh, Jeetesh Sebastian Irudayaraj (Village Representative), Jivitesh Patra, Karthik Koragappa Bhandary, Surya Murali
The Karma yoga project gives us the unique opportunity of understanding leadership through actual experience. We were sent to our village Veerapuram with the stated objective of increasing self esteem and self efficacy of the villagers. We were supposed to understand the real needs of our villagers through extensive interaction and empower them to achieve it. We had to provide them the means to achieve the end thus in turn increase their confidence in themselves. Our project objective has been to empower villagers in such a way that they
- Are able to achieve their goals through the skills we have imparted- networking, basic negotiation, business skills to a group of youth in our village who were awarded some money by the government to establish their businesses.
- Understand the importance of education in their lives.
- Rise to a better standard of living by spreading awareness of cleanliness and hygiene.
- Realize the importance of healthy living.
When we first went to Veerapuram in the April of 2011 our first impression was of a narrow dusty road flanked by farmland on both sides taking us into the by lanes of this village. This quaint little place with a population of about 2500 was alive with activity on that evening. Girls, dressed in bright Salwar Kurta, had come out to fetch water from the well and men were giving their livestock a bath in the surrounding lake. We found out that the village primary school and a temple under construction beside it were the nerve point, from where all activity of the village flows. We started talking to the villagers to understand their life and the hardships that they faced. We wanted them to trust us and be able to freely communicate with us. After the initial few visits we had identified a few things that we could actually work on to bring a positive change in their lives.
Some of the projects undertaken by us and our seniors through the years are as follows:
A HIV awareness camp was conducted in the village of Veerapuram with Scope International. A health camp was conducted. Candle making, detergent & ink making, selling skills were imparted to villagers. The target group from 5 villages got trained on activities such as candle making, detergent & ink making, selling skills and make a living thereby. 37 people from 5 villages got trained and promised to put the best use of the skills into practice and show us some measurable progress.
A majority of the time was spent understanding the issues faced by these villagers. One major issue that students came across was of lack of basic amenities in the school premises. There were no proper rest room for girls and it was causing them a lot of discomfort and stress. They talked to the school head mistress, who was initially not at all happy about their intruding in school's affair. But when they showed their earnest interest, they won her confidence and went about getting funds for the construction of restrooms in the school compound. Although not an easy task, they were finally able to garner enough support and funds for it to be constructed by the end march 2011.
We started off from where our seniors had left off. While they had worked on improving infrastructure of the school, we focused on improving quality of education that they were receiving. We found out that the children didn't have any extracurricular activity in their school and had no idea about any kind of sports except cricket. They were also very weak in English, math and science. So we first decided to engage the students through Drawing Competition and Sports meet. It was a huge success and the kids became really friendly with us.
After this we started holding Math, science, English and Computer classes. Weekly classes were held wherein they were shown educational videos. We also started a Tamil Nadu Science Forum Science Club to increase awareness amongst kids.
Although we could see our efforts were really helping these kids, we knew it was not a sustainable solution. What would happen after we finish our course here? This led us to work with Eureka Child Foundations. We want to start a tuition center in our village in collaboration with Eureka Child which would provide an all round development for these Children.
In the course of our time spent in Veerapuram, we met Vijay, a second year engineering student. He helped us in all our endeavors and is one of the volunteers for Eureka Child Foundation. He also helped us conduct a Health Camp in collaboration with Rotary Club, Madras West which was very successful. We reached out to over 170 villagers through this camp.
We also spent quite a lot of time in convincing our village panchayat head to re-open the village library which had been closed for about a year and half. With our continued effort he saw the benefits and decided to recruit a librarian. Now the library is open every day during school hours. Road ahead for us would be setting up the Eureka Child Foundation tuition Center as we feel that would provide a long term solution to our problem at hand. We sincerely hope that through our efforts we were able to bring about somechange in the lives of these people.
VILLAGE NAME: Vengampakkam
“Never give the fish, but teach how to fish”. This is the mantra for every karma yogi of Great Lakes. Even we the karma yogi of Poonthandalam Village started our leadership experiential program with the same mind-set. We were full of enthusiasm on one hand and on the other anxious to deliver the goods. We planned to do something in the village by which we could increase the self-efficacy and the self-esteem of the villagers. We then divided ourselves into four groups Agriculture, Health, Education & Women Empowerment and started Mission Karma-Yoga.
We started our first initiative in the village on June, organizing an organic farming session with Mrs.Sabita. We then closely followed it up with two farmers, Mr. Dhanabal and Mr.Ramachandran who were interested in pursuing organic farming. We studied their entire supply chain and found that they could greatly improve their bottom line through organic farming. From then on we continuously interacted with them to make sure they practiced organic farming which was both sustainable and profitable. Then in October we again organized an event for the farmers to make them aware the subsidies offered by Tamilnadu government. This event was conducted by Mr. Paranjyothi who is working in agriculture department of the BDO – Thirukazhukundram. He gave many valuable insights to the farmers about the various agricultural schemes of the government which could be availed by the farmers. The farmers were also made aware of the importance of soil testing in their fields.
Team Women Empowerment:
In our village the women’s self-help group was inactive as they were not aware of what a self-help group is and the benefits derived by being part of the group. So, our agenda was to bring awareness among them. For this we took help of Mrs. Ghunabhushanam from Kuzhupanthandalam village who is not only a leader of an active self-help group, but also a successful entrepreneur. We invited her to our village to share her experience about her work and to generate awareness among our village women. This has generated a lot of enthusiasm among the existing self-help group members and they have started to take this initiative seriously.
During our first month we profiled the village youth based on their education and also identified the factors that hindered their interest in education. We were surprised to find that the reason for the decline in interest was due to the sudden halt of a tuition centre that was functioning earlier. The teacher present in the centre had moved to another village. So we persuaded Mr. Sadashivam (civil engineer) a resident of the village to coordinate the tuition centre with back end support from our end. Now we are in touch with TNSF (Tamilnadu Science Forum) to help us establish a science club in our village. The survey that we took recently confirmed a significant increase in the interest in education among the village children. Our goal is to achieve 100% literacy rate among the youth of the village.
Health awareness is the need of the hour for any society. To derive a plan of action for development of health in our village, it was important for us to understand the village surroundings, population and any specific ailments that had occurred in the past. We started our focus on managing the waste disposal in the village, for which we discussed with the village head if a weekly waste carrier could be arranged to avoid piling up of waste. He assured us that he would look into it. To highlight the benefits of waste management we arranged an event, wherein we showed a complete presentation on the current status of the village and how important it was to clean the village. We also included the classification of waste in the presentation and how it helps in better disposal of garbage. The event was a success as the children were motivated to clean the village themselves.
We also organized an eye camp with the help of Dr Gaurishv Kanna from Uma Eye Clinic to eliminate cases of Cataract in our village. The Eye Clinic team appreciated our efforts in organising such a successful event and promised to associate with us in the future. The identified Cataract patients will be taken to Chennai by the Uma Eye Clinic officials for surgery. The dates are being finalised through discussions with the villagers and the eye clinic officials. We are also planning to conduct a Health camp for the villagers in the month of January.
This Karma Yoga project has always been a win-win deal where we are able to learn in practice the importance of transformational leadership by making the villagers take pride in themselves.
VILLAGE NAME: VITTALAPURAM
The Karma Yoga project is a unique opportunity provided to each of us to discover practically the skills of leadership, by adopting a village and introducing positive changes in it. In this project we are supposed to build a relationship with villagers as a team and assist in improving their day to day life. We are expected to learn the lessons of leadership and team work through implementation at the ground level.
Our initial visits to the village were aimed at understanding the focus areas and learning the dynamics of the village. As we tried to gain better insights into the nature of the problems, we had the growing realization that becoming a part of someone's world was the key element, before we could begin to transform them. In the initial few visits we interacted with the villagers and understood some areas where we could pitch in and help them improve on it. Below is a list of major activities conducted in the village by the KY team.
Anti- Alcohol and Anti- Smoking Campaign
We noticed that alcohol and tobacco consumption were major issues in the village. We planned to launch an awareness campaign in the village. We did door to door campaigning and invited the villagers to attend the event. We conducted an experiment to display the harmful effect of cigarettes. We also performed a play describing the effect of alcohol on an individual and the family. In the end we played few videos on the projector to convey our message.
Another area of improvement we noticed was in the health domain. As the villagers had to travel long distances to get diagnosed, we planned a medical camp in the village. The medical camp included eye check-up, dental check-up, diabetes check-up, general check-up. We contacted the rotary club who in turn arranged for doctors from Chetinad hospital and Uma eye clinic. To make the camp a huge success and reach to as many people as possible, we went in for a heavy advertising campaign. We went door to door distributing pamphlets and made announcements on loudspeakers. This heavy advertisement led to a huge turnout. More than 250 people came in and got themselves checked.
Our village is mainly divided into 3 parts namely Chinna colony, Peria colony and Main Village. To improve the dynamics between different parts of village we thought of organising a volleyball tournament. Since we knew that sports help in improving the relationship between different countries, we thought that organising the volleyball tournament here would likewise improve relationships. This tournament helped the village youth to interact among themselves and also helped us in improving our relationship with them.
Spoken English and Maths Class
Due to a huge demand from the parents to conduct spoken English classes, we started teaching the school children on a weekly basis. The children used to learn the words by rote and were able to spell words only from their books. We tried to explain to them how to break words into small parts and try not to memorize the words. After few weeks of English classes, the students and the parents asked us to teach math as well. We were more than happy to include math as a subject.
Teacher’s day celebration
We celebrated Teacher’s day at Vittilapuram School. When we were interacting with the school children we came to know that the children had never celebrated teacher’s day. So we decided to celebrate it and let the students know about the importance of teachers in our lives. We organised a drawing competition with a theme of teacher/school. The creative minds of the students came into picture, resulting in many beautiful drawings. We also interacted with the teachers and tried to explain to the students about the importance of this day.
Apart from the major activities mentioned above there are few more activities like TNSF science club activities, regular help to the school in terms of preparation and selection of the students for the national quiz etc.
The below mentioned activities are also planned for the coming 2-3 months.
- Solid and Liquid Waste Management
- Kitchen Garden
- Vocational training by Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK)
- Getting documents from the school to obtain Desktops, donated by Infosys.
- Tree plantation drive