Program Highlights 2021

School Sponsorship

This year has been a very difficult one for the families we serve. Your generous donations help make it possible for our partners in India to do everything they possibly can to alleviate the suffering caused by the pandemic.

 In May, our partner Shanthimalai was chosen to be part of the District Covid Task Force. They distributed food and medical supplies, provided medical care, hosted vaccination camps, and offered counseling about covid care and prevention. In August, Shanthimalai received the district award for outstanding service during the pandemic crisis. With schools officially closed for much of the year, though, students in Shanthimalai’s schools are falling behind. While this is true all over the globe, it is particularly devastating for children in poor village communities. Shanthimalai is meeting this crisis with extraordinary dedication and creativity.

Currently 787 students are enrolled at the Sri Ramana Maharshi School (SRM) and 220 are enrolled at the Sri Sundaram & Alagammal (SSA) elementary school. SRM opened for in-person classes for students in grades 9-12 on September 1st, while the lower grades at SRM and the SSA elementary had to rely on open-air village classes and online instruction. Students who could not come to an outdoor village class could join WhatsApp classes. Unfortunately, the majority of students do not have access at home to smartphones or computers. As of November 1st, both schools opened for in-person classes for all grade levels.

Dress-Up competitions in the outdoor village school sites have been very popular.

To keep students motivated, all grades offered Yoga and physical training, and provided healthy snacks to all students. Dress-Up competitions in the outdoor village school sites were very popular, as were drawing competitions to create Coronavirus educational posters. Our students won the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes in the district level yoga competition.

A dedicated group of 8 lead teachers is currently working on a new, urgently needed Hybrid Learning Pilot Project. E-books and videos were shared with teachers to help them communicate more effectively with students. Generous donations have made it possible to purchase laptops and tablets which were set up with appropriate educational software. The project team did multiple demo sessions online and has now developed a model for live online teaching.

The new SRM principal, Mrs. M. Sumati, has worked energetically with teachers to help students stay engaged. Thanks to her efforts, 100% of 10th, 11th and 12th grade students passed their government examinations.

On July 15, the Sri Ramana Maharshi School held a special career guidance program for 12th grade students.

Skill Development Program

Aruna Partnership sponsors are supporting 24 new graduates from Sri Ramana Maharshi School in the Skill Development Program this year. Ninety-two students are already enrolled in the program and are continuing their college studies. All government and private colleges have resumed in-person classes. 

Kiruthiga was the school’s top scorer on the State Exams last Spring, and will begin college this Fall.

Environmental Stewardship

In the midst of the global pandemic, the Girivalam Seva Project (GVS) received the 2021 “Swachh Bharat Clean India Award” for the project’s steadfast commitment to protecting the environment and cleaning the pilgrimage path around Arunachala. 

The worst of the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact was in April – June 2020. During that period of total lockdown, Shanthimalai supported each of the 26 GVS employees on a weekly basis with dry rations, groceries, and other essentials. When the lockdown lifted, Shanthimalai Trust implemented education and training for the GVS workers to help them protect themselves from the virus and resume their work safely. The Trust provides extra protective gear such as masks, gloves, trash grabbers, and reflective vests. All 26 employees are back at work full time.

The Indian government made environmental stewardship a national priority in 2014. Locally, the Girivalam Seva Project (GVS) leads by example and inspires greater public awareness through their ongoing efforts to care for the ancient, sacred path around the Holy Mountain. In this way, they also slowly contribute to improving the health of the nation.

The Widows Project

The impact of the pandemic has been severe in the Tiruvannamalai district. During this difficult year, we have continued to focus on helping destitute women in need while also offering support to the general public. When widows and other workers were unable to go to their jobs because of the lockdown, they were provided with bags of groceries and other essential provisions. In June and July, all 150 of the widows also received cash distributions each month to help them get through the crisis.


Nineteen village women, widows without family support or any other kind of financial support, were given dairy cows worth 50,000 rupees each ($675.25 US).The cows are insured and can help the women earn a steady income. We have also distributed 50 sewing machines to other widows in the district so that they can support themselves.
Twenty-six elderly ladies are currently well cared for in the three buildings of the Om Shanthi Home: the original Om Shanthi Home, the Florence Home and the Kati Home.
They are healthy and are doing very well, despite having been isolated from the community for almost two years. Now weekly singing lessons help make their days a bit brighter.

In October, the Om Shanthi Home received the award for best Old Age Home in the Tiruvannamalai district, an area of almost 3 million people. Radha, Mary, and Dyothi, residents of the home, had the honour of receiving the award from district officials. The award recognizes the excellent work done by Mr. Manoharan and his staff. Since 2012, he and Kodialli, Saratha, Malathi, Santa Kumari and Rani have cared for the Om Shanthi widows with love and whole-hearted dedication. The Om Shanthi Home, where destitute elderly women can stay until the end of their lives, is unique in the region.

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