Program Highlights

Girivalam Seva

Girivalam Seva

At the heart of the district we serve, many thousands of pilgrims continuously walk the ancient route that circles the Holy Mountain Arunachala, leaving huge amounts of waste. Without organized trash pickup, this toxic waste causes a serious health risk, especially for children and animals. The earth is heavily burdened, and water can no longer flow freely to wells and tanks.

Several years ago, Amma of Shanthimalai Trust began cleaning the pilgrimage road and established the Girivalam Seva Project. These devoted efforts are also inspiring others to honor and care for the area around Arunachala, leading to increased environmental awareness.

  • For the first time ever, Girivalam Seva workers are removing plastic waste, accumulated over the last 50 years, from the path around the Mountain.
    Girivalam Seva projects Girivalam Seva projects
  • The project employs widows and other destitute women who otherwise would have difficulty finding jobs. The appreciation these women receive for taking care of the Girivalam Road gives them a real sense of purpose and hope for their own lives.
    Girivalam Seva projects Girivalam Seva projects
  • Girivalam Seva teams regularly empty and clean the trash barrels, which encourages their use. In the past, others have occasionally installed waste bins, but when they were never emptied, local people found it pointless to use them. Now, for the first time, trash barrels are being used on a daily basis.
  • A supervisor was hired this year to coordinate the cleaning efforts. This has created a nice rhythm for the cleaning crews. The positive impact on the environment is very striking in areas that Girivalam Seva maintains.
  • In addition, the Girivalam Seva Project plants and maintains trees along the pilgrimage path.
  • Through the dedicated example of Girivalam Seva employees and volunteers, town workers and other groups are inspired to take better care of their own environments.

Costs for this project average about $1000 each month. Please join us in honoring Arunachala's ancient, holy atmosphere by making a contribution to the Girivalam Seva Project today.

School Sponsorship Program

School Sponsorship Program

With the goal of "help for self-help", programs supported by Aruna Partnership give impoverished villagers tools they need to build successful, productive lives. Good education is key.

  • 90% of students at our schools come from rural areas and very poor socio-economic backgrounds; many have a physically handicapped parent or only one parent. Students like these rarely receive support from the Indian government.
  • For the last seven years, 100% of our 10th graders have passed the difficult certification exams for the state of Tamil Nadu.
  • 95%-100% of our 12th graders have passed the state's very competitive high-level final examinations.
  • Each year, quite a few of our students receive perfect scores (100%) in a variety of subjects.

Students, parents, and teachers are proud of these results - and are deeply thankful to YOU for helping make their success possible through your generous financial support. Each sponsorship donation is truly a lifeline, giving a family hope for a better future.

In the beginning, when 5-year olds enter 1st grade, teachers need a lot of patience to introduce these children from simple village backgrounds to the hygienic standards of the school. The children learn how to use a toilet properly, how to wash their hands, to keep their school uniform clean and to wear sandals. The parents are also advised how to care for their children's teeth, nails and hair.

School Sponsorship Program School Sponsorship Program

In a nation of more than 120 major languages and over 1,600 dialects, English remains a prerequisite for success. Early on, students begin learning the English alphabet as well as the Tamil writing system with its 246 characters. They learn how to count and do simple arithmetic, and begin to practice doing assignments at home. By the time they graduate, in 10th grade (with a certificate that makes them eligible for job training in a variety of fields) or in 12th grade (with a high school diploma), the students are well prepared for vocational training or higher education.

Because our school has enjoyed an excellent reputation since its founding in 1994, many more parents apply for sponsorships than can be granted each year.

Please consider becoming a sponsor for only $420/year - just over a dollar a day!

For more information:

Professional Training Program (PTP)

Professional Training Program (PTP)

Without meaningful job training, students from poor families still face a bleak future even after graduating from high school. Most parents in this region are uneducated and live below the poverty line. Family pressures, as well as the lack of economic, social and cultural opportunities, place a heavy burden on students.

Higher education or vocational training can be an impossible dream without financial support.

Aruna Partnership works with Shanthimalai Trust to help qualified students develop the skills they need to provide for their families and become vital members of their communities through scholarships from PTP. For an intimate look at what this can mean, see A Closer Look at Giving Back.


PTP scholarships provide:

  • Career counseling
  • Tuition and fees for vocational training or higher education
  • Room & board
  • Practicums in spoken English language
  • Training sessions in the soft skills required for interviews and successful job placement

This year, 273 deserving applicants hope to enter our Professional Training Program - but we need more funding.

We are actively seeking grants from institutions that might be interested in sponsoring groups of students: trusts, foundations, and businesses. If you know of anyone we might approach for funding, please contact us for more detailed information:

The Professional Training Program welcomes donations of any amount.

Om Shanthi Project

A harsh reality confronts many Indian widows, especially those from poor, rural backgrounds. Often they are cast out of their homes, reduced to begging, and shunned by society.

The Om Shanthi Project was founded by Anna Etter to meet the immediate need of elderly women dying in the streets, and to open minds and hearts in ways that can begin to shift deeply entrenched attitudes.

Om Shanthi Project

Thanks to your loving gifts:

  • Om Shanthi In 2015, a second Om Shanthi Home, the Florence Home, was built to house an additional 13 elderly widows. In 2016, all the new beds were filled. Now 25 elderly women who were previously destitute are living happily together in a caring community.
  • This year, Shanthimalai Handicrafts built a counseling center for young widows and other destitute women above the workrooms and gift shop. Without husbands, these young women are vulnerable to abuse of all kinds. The new center will offer emotional support, educational counseling, tuition assistance, and help with job placement.
  • A counselor was recently hired to work with the women. She will also be responsible for teaching the widows to read and write Tamil, and to speak English.
  • The staff are now able to help many more young women in emergency situations. The work is challenging, but outcomes have been heartwarming and uplifting. Some of their stories are told in the new 2017 Calendar.
Om Shanthi Om Shanthi

Much still needs to be done to help these poorest of the poor: widows and destitute women and their children. We depend on your help and are deeply grateful for your gifts.