Program Highlights

Om Shanthi Project

Thanks to your generous gifts and the Grace that carries this work, abandoned Indian widows are rescued regularly from the streets of our district through the Om Shanthi Project.

Here is Ghandimathi, one of two elderly women Mr. Manoharan found on the road in January. Abandoned by her relatives and left to die, Ghandimathi had terrible eye infections that were oozing pus. Flies swarmed around her and settled on her eyes. According to the doctor, Ghandimathi was extremely weak due to malnutrition. She did not want to sleep in a bed, because she was not used to one and could not use her legs to get in or out.

Ghandimathi

After one week, Ghandimathi was able to sit up more comfortably to greet her new friends.

Ghandimathi with friend

What a blessing that when she passed on, later this winter, her new Om Shanthi family was gathered around her, and she had a "son" (Mr. Manoharan) to take care of the last rites. At the end, Ghandimathi's life was full of dignity and peace. She was cherished.

Several of the elderly widows found this winter continue to require special care after being treated in the local hospital. As a result, our long-term plan to build a third home for hospice care has become quite urgent. We are hoping to begin construction soon.

In the meantime, 25 elderly ladies now live in the two Om Shanthi Homes built and maintained through your generosity. What joy they find in their life together! Here they are, celebrating Diwali with firecrackers. It's hard to believe that widows are normally excluded from festivities like this! Diwali signifies the victory of spiritual light over spiritual darkness. This photo is such a wonderful expression of the renewal that is taking place for these women as love begins to shift old attitudes.

Diwali at Om Shanthi

For younger widows, the new counseling center, built last year above Shanthimalai Handicrafts, is off to a great start!

Counseling Center

Mrs. Chandra has been hired half-days, 6 days/week, to counsel the widows and other destitute women. She is an excellent choice! A nurse at the Shanthimalai clinic for more than 20 years, she knows the village people well and is able to write reports in English about each case. With a daughter of her own who needs special care, Mrs. Chandra has a big heart and gains the trust of the women through her kind and compassionate approach.

As word spreads, more and more ladies seek help at the center and we become increasingly aware of the extremely difficult situations so many of them face.

The center offers emotional support, educational counseling, tuition assistance when possible, and help with job placement.

We rely on your donations to care for abandoned elderly widows, and to provide job training and education for younger widows so they can support themselves their families. Please consider making a gift to the Om Shanthi Project today!

Girivalam Seva - Honoring Arunachala Through Environmental Awareness

Arunachala

Tiruvannamalai is one of the most frequently visited places of pilgrimage in South India. It earns its reputation by being located at the foot of Arunachala, a Mountain held sacred by the Indian people for thousands of years.

As a spiritual center, Arunachala regularly attracts huge crowds of people who circumambulate it in the traditional manner, especially at full-moon when hundreds of thousands arrive in the area within 24 hours. The number of pilgrims is increasing each year, reflecting the strength of spiritual values and traditions among the general population.

On full-moon and festival days many temporary shops and food stalls are set up along the road. In the past, food containers were biodegradable, but modern times and increasing numbers of visitors bring new problems in the form of toxic waste discarded along the road that circles the Holy Mountain.

Trash
  • Plastic waste pollutes the ground water and life-sustaining wells run dry when trash blocks the inflow of water.
  • Germs and pathogens in the garbage present a health risk for the population, especially for children.
  • Cows, monkeys and dogs eat the garbage and often die miserably.

In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced 'Swachh Bharat', the 'Clean India' Project. Encouraged by this nationwide call, Amma of Shanthimalai immediately began cleaning the pilgrimage road and established the Girivalam Seva Project. These devoted efforts are already inspiring others to honor and care for the area around Arunachala, leading to increased environmental awareness.

In the past 6 months, the project has become more established and the work has settled into a comfortable routine. The supervisor, Mr. Jaghan, is always looking for innovative ways to improve the project. Through collaboration with volunteers from the Aruna Partnership community, he has discovered that some of the waste can be recycled and put to good use. Collecting and selling plastic bottles, for example, generates a small amount of revenue.

Clean Up

Even so, the Girivalam Seva Project costs $1,000/month. Although the work is deeply appreciated and gets a lot of positive feedback, it is difficult to find adequate funding.

Thanks to those who have generously donated so far, the Girivalam Seva Project was able to take its first steps - but urgent help is needed to maintain and expand the project.

Every gift helps!

School Sponsorship Program

The School Sponsorship Program enables local children to receive a quality education from grades K-12 while remaining in their village homes.

Each year, sponsors have a chance to write to their children and to receive a letter in return. This is important for the children, and can be very meaningful for sponsors and their families as well!

"Many children start to discover themselves when they begin to share and express themselves in writing. Writing a letter once a year is a key experience, especially if it is followed by an answer from the godparent (sponsor), which conveys a glimpse into another world. For the children it is inspiring and motivating to know that someone in another country is interested in them and their path. Through the program, the exchange with sponsors also promotes a sense of their own responsibility. Writing letters to their sponsors requires attentiveness and empathy, and leads to caring about others."

Dr. Andreas Bachman
Sponsorship Program Coordinator
Tiruvannamalai, South India

Drawing

At the end of 10th standard (10th grade), students are required to pass rigorous State Examinations in order to receive their high school certificates. At that point, students are eligible to go on for vocational training. Academically gifted students who chose to continue their high school education are required to pass a second set of State Exams at the end of 12th standard (12th grade), in order to receive their high school diplomas.

We have just learned:

  • 100% of the 12th standard students have passed their State Exams! This is a monumental achievement for the students, many of whom had to overcome exceedingly difficult circumstances to stay in school.
  • 99% of 10th standard students received passing scores on their State Exams. Out of 96 students, only one student failed, in one subject. This was due to his illness before the exam.
  • One student earned a score of 100% in Mathematics; two students received 100% scores in Social Science.

These test results are remarkable when you consider that our students, whose parents are quite poor and often illiterate, are competing against all students in Tamil Nadu, including those whose parents are wealthy and well-educated. Congratulations to Dr. Sankar Sekar, head of the school, to his dedicated team of administrators and teachers, and to the students themselves. Well done!

Do you know someone who might want to experience the joys of sponsoring a village child with a gift of only $420/year ($35/month)? These two boys were partially sponsored initially. Their teachers feel both boys are deserving of full sponsorship.

Please email us if you'd like to help: sponsor@arunapartnership.org.

Sakthivel

Sakthivel - 2nd Standard
Sakthivel is a top student academically.
He enjoys yoga class very much.

Manikandan

Manikandan - 2nd Standard
Manikandan is a quiet boy who lkes to draw.

For more info about becoming a sponsor:
sponsor@arunapartnership.org
https://www.arunapartnership.org/sponsor.htm

Professional Training Program (PTP)

A primary aim of the Professional Training Program is to foster local employment by preparing students for careers in science, technology, education, business, finance and service industries. As the first in their families to attend college, students benefit from the additional support they receive, above and beyond tuition assistance:

  • Industrial visits to engineering, manufacturing and agricultural firms to show students the types of equipment and processes they can expect in "the real world" of employment
  • Every Sunday, soft skills training in English and applying and interviewing for jobs
  • Placement services and job fairs
  • Entrepreneurs Development Program
Manikandan

Students learn about solar power during a field trip to Auroville.

Arul E., a student who was sponsored for 4 years, has caught the spirit of entrepreneurship and started his own recycling business. As you can see from reading the article about the Girivalam Seva Project, recycling is an endeavor ripe for development in the region. PTP is producing graduates who are capable and responsible citizens!