Program Highlights

Om Shanthi Project

An elderly widow newly arrived at the Om Shanthi Home

An elderly widow newly arrived at the Om Shanthi Home

Hindu widows, the poorest of the poor, are shunned by society and often by their own families when their husbands die. With little or no economic status, many become destitute, living in the streets.

The Om Shanthi Project

  • provides safe haven for elderly, abandoned women in the Om Shanthi Old Age Home and
  • offers job training and employment to younger widows and other destitute women, as well as free medical care and educational support for their children.

A joyful meal at the Om Shanthi Home

The Om Shanthi Home is well established now, currently housing 29 women whose ages range from 75-93.

All of the ladies seem happy in their cozy compound of 3 homes where they are lovingly cared for around the clock by a staff of 9 warm-hearted women, also widows.

The newly completed hospice home is a tranquil space for women at the very end of their lives. Even as they face death, in that relaxed and peaceful atmosphere the eyes of these women are filled with life.

Our work with the widows is not finished, though. The Om Shanthi Project needs ongoing funding to pay the monthly expenses of the homes (food, electricity, staffing, etc.), which come to about $5,500 /month. And there are now over 100 younger women in the program, some in need of emergency help: medical attention for themselves and their children, a place to live, food to eat, and training so that they can work to support themselves and their children. Without that help, the women are extremely vulnerable to rape, homelessness, destitution, and malnutrition.

A widow left with no income, and two of her three daughters

Three social workers go regularly into the community to find and screen women in desperate situations. As widows themselves, the social workers are well attuned to the suffering of these young mothers. Many of the women live in the remote, rural outskirts of Tiruvannamalai. The social workers arrive with a sack of rice, dhal, and cooking oil, then sit with the women, listen to their stories, and determine how best to address their most urgent needs. The Om Shanthi Project does not offer one-size-fits-all solutions. Instead, it helps meet the specific needs of each woman and her family.

All of the widows are deeply concerned about the future of their children and recognize that education is the key to saving their children from a life of poverty. The Om Shanthi Project provides schoolbags, school uniforms, and other materials. The program helps with the expense of higher education as well.

Currently 95 widows and otherwise destitute women participate in the project, along with 172 students of all ages.

A second floor with four rental apartments is currently under construction at the Om Shanthi Home. Although this will give the Om Shanthi Project some much-needed income, the program depends on ongoing outside funding.

Words cannot convey the gratitude expressed silently in the faces of women who have been part of this project for any period of time. Thank you for your continued generosity!

Girivalam Seva

Girivalam Seva (GVS) removes litter from the pilgrims' path around the sacred Mountain Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India.

The project was started about four years ago by Shantimalai Trust and was inspired by Mrs. Anne Maier who, with her husband Dr. Hugo Maier, founded the Trust. Since then, more than 400 trash barrels have been installed along the path. Surrounding ditches, road edges, abandoned plots, and public areas around shrines and other places of worship have been continuously kept litter-free.

It has taken dedicated, consistent effort to remove debris accumulated over the decades since so much plastic and non-biodegradable packaging entered the litter stream. GVS has accomplished this monumental feat by daily sending out two crews of about 12 people each, with 2 tractors, 2 dump-trailers, rakes, brooms, shovels and bins. Every day they empty the barrels as needed, pick up new litter, and remove some of the old litter piles.

Beautifully decorated collection trucks

One of the beautifully decorated collection trucks

GVS restored this section of the ancient holy path and maintains it with the care and respect it deserves:

GVS team emptying a trash barrel

  • They have designed a barrel, firmly cemented into the ground, that cannot easily be stolen.
  • They empty barrels regularly as needed, and clean up the area around each barrel.
  • They have entirely removed the background litter, so everyone may enjoy a well-cared-for environment. This fosters a caring, respectful approach to litter-waste. Pilgrims, roadside vendors, and even children now often walk over to GVS trash barrels to dispose of their waste.

The GVS teams themselves are inspiring. Each member has a uniform. When they work, they always support each other through their collective effort. And when they look around at their surroundings they radiate the pride of knowing that they have made a positive impact on the environment and on the lives of others.

Team members look truly happy from their work together. This has a huge impact on the people who see them working like this, day after day, on their behalf.

For now, GVS is funded entirely through private, tax-deductible donations. The local government, up to this point, has only been able to contribute its consent for GVS to put its barrels along the sides of the public roadway.

For the foreseeable future, sustaining this important model for litter management will fall to like-minded donors who understand that each of us needs to pitch-in to help make our home, this earth, a little better for everyone.

School Sponsorship Program

New auditorium and main hall

New Auditorium and Main Hall

Construction has been completed on the new multi-purpose hall located on the SRM School campus! The main hall on the first floor has a stage and can accommodate up to 800 people. It is ideal for art & theater events, parent meetings and community functions. The second floor has 4 classrooms and 2 large rooms that are used for Yoga classes.

Yoga

Yoga classes are part of the curriculum.

Our students participated in District and State Level Yoga competitions this past year, garnering 17 prizes from 1st to 3rd place at various age levels. Students attend regular Yoga and Meditation classes at school, and it's clear that these classes are having a very beneficial effect.

Academic Excellence

100% of the SRM School's 10th Standard students passed their State Board Examinations in March 2019, and 99% of the 12th Standard students passed their Examinations!

The top scorer in the school among all of the 10th Standard students is Kiruthiga A., sponsored by Lynne Tobin of Providence, RI.

Psychosocial Counseling

Psychosocial issues are rarely addressed in Indian schools. Shanthimalai is unusual and very fortunate to have a trained psychologist on staff. Currently, Mr. Kulandaisamy is implementing Life Skill training for 10-12 students for 1 hour/week. He also offers individual and group psychosocial interventions as needed and weekly parenting classes.

Planning is underway to provide each sponsored student with a General and Psychosocial Assessment, which will serve as a basis for educational and career planning. The goal is to develop a cumulative file for each student with relevant assessments, notes and suggested strategies for that child.

Upon leaving school, students will receive a certificate of aptitude and qualification.

For information about sponsoring, please contact Robin Walden: sponsor@arunapartnership.org.

Shanthimalai Skill Development Program

This year the "PTP - Professional Training Program" was renamed "SSDP - Shanthimalai Skill Development Program". The name change fulfills the Indian Government's call for Skill Development for Youth. It is also an opportunity to raise local contributions and local registration under the government's National Skill Development Corporation.

Since its inception, the skills development program has helped more than 1400 village youths to pursue their professional education in various fields like medical (MBBS) and paramedical courses, engineering, polytechnic, ITI, and teaching. SSDP is also working to increase awareness among high school students about opportunities for post-school education.

Earlier in the year, SSDP hosted an Alumni Meet. Alumni Meets are a very important part of the skill development program because they allow students to see firsthand the success stories of people who are just like them. Students realize the benefits of good schooling and professional training. Compared to last year, job placement among students grew from 51% to 54% as vocational training participants began to enter the job market.

SSDP Alumni Meet

SSDP Alumni

This year a third of all the job placements were women. Cultural conditions often keep female, unmarried graduates from taking on a job when it is located outside the sphere of influence of their parents, regardless of their qualification. Support of vocational training allows women to work in their hometown after completion of the program.

SSDP participant Mr. G. Undigai Raman

SSDP participant Mr. G. Undigai Raman recently competed in the National Level Obstacle Course Racing competition and won National Level 2nd place in the Devil's Circuit event in Chennai, covering 5km with 15 obstacles.

He also placed 1st in the Wild Warrior event in Chennai. We are proud to congratulate this fine young athlete on his achievement!