Program Highlights 2023

School Sponsorship Program

 

The Aruna Partnership School Sponsorship Program has a strong record of success and takes a unique approach, committing to each sponsored student for 10 years. 100% graduate from high school and a high percentage go on to higher learning.

This year saw many new initiatives at both schools that the sponsor children attend. 

SSA Elementary School K-5
School opened in June with 203 students enrolled K-5. Joyful Learning, the new Montessori kindergarten, also opened with 16 students. The classroom is equipped with toys and hands-on learning materials. 

Sri Ramana Maharshi School 5-12
Currently, there are 792 students enrolled at the school. All students in the 10th and 12th grade passed their State exams this year.

School Lunch Program – Ensuring adequate nutrition for all students
Our Sponsorship Program now provides lunches for all 350 students. This was prompted by a medical screening that revealed 50% of primary students and 30% of high school students are below the WHO limit of BMI. 

Please consider sponsoring the health and well-being of a child through this program.


Sponsor a year of healthy lunches

Lunch for many students is the only nutritious meal of the day

  • Sponsor one student’s school lunch for one full year $112
  • Sponsor school lunches for 10 students for one full year $1,125

Hybrid Learning – 25 new laptops
Through the generosity of you, our donors, the school was able to purchase twenty-five additional laptops for grades 9, 10, 11 and 12. Teachers and students are becoming comfortable and proficient in the new technology. 

English Proficiency
The “English Tea Time” team meets 3 times a week to practice spoken English and plan how to teach English language fluency to other teachers and students at both schools.

 Yoga and Meditation 
This year the schools added meditation guidance, in addition to the yoga curriculum, for students and staff. Using these ancient techniques, students develop confidence, peace of mind and the ability to persevere. Parents are very supportive of the program. “Parents feel happy when their children are interested in yoga,” says Mani the yoga instructor.

Feedback and Coaching
The Coaching Team has developed a process that allows teachers to give each other honest and compassionate feedback on their performance. This builds the self confidence of the participants and fosters an air of openness, curiosity and collaboration among the faculty. 

3R Team 
The team has developed modules to help children who have difficulties with reading, writing and arithmetic. Forty students have been identified for this program.

Approximately 24% of the student body at each school are fully sponsored, and 16% are partially sponsored. 

Shantimalai Skill Development Program  

The steep cost of college means that higher education is out of reach for many students who have graduated from high school. High school graduates sponsored through Aruna Partnership receive full financial aid.

  • Of 151 students enrolled last year in post-secondary programs, 42 were in the graduating class. Currently 147 students are enrolled for the 2023-24 academic year; 45 of these students are new.
  • Every other Sunday, supplemental classes are offered to all enrolled students. Four tutors cover General Knowledge, English, Computer and Study Skills. These classes support students academically and offer critical skills needed in future employment.
  • Special seminars are offered that prepare students for the entrance examinations required for Government jobs. 

Research shows that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to complete their academic programs when they have academic support in a “safe place” where they can freely ask questions and share their experiences. This program offers that safe place.

The Widows Project:
Two programs for widowed and destitute women 

  • The Mangalam Project for Widows is a program for previously destitute women of working age that addresses all aspects of the women’s lives including work, home life, health and education.
  • The Om Shanti Home is a refuge for elderly abandoned widows in an assisted living, end-of-life community.

The Mangalam Project for Widows

is a program for previously destitute women of working age that addresses all aspects of the women’s lives. 

The Mangalam Project for Widows is a program for 205 previously destitute women of working age that addresses all aspects of the women’s lives including work, home life, health, and education.

Most are offered work as artisans at Premalaya Handicraft Society where they become part of a warm and welcoming community of women who had previously been discriminated against in their villages simply because they are widows. The program expanded in 2023 and is thriving:

  • 100 new women joined the program.
  • 235 of their children received educational financial aid.
  • All 20 families receive medical support.
  • One child of a widow graduated with a nursing degree; one widow also became qualified as a nurse. Both were sponsored through this project.
  • Three houses were built and donated to widowed women in the program.
  • 26 goats were donated, two goats/family.

26 goats were donated,
two goats per family.
Goats supplement the women’s income providing milk and meat for their families and are not expensive to keep. 

  • 31 cows were donated, one cow/family.
  • 400 trees were donated for the women to to plant at their homes.
  • 100 trees were planted at homes of gypsies, a marginalized community. 
  • 18 new women joined the vocational training program in the leaf painting, doll making and weaving sections.

Staff members also advise the women on how to navigate the complexities of government bureaucracy, to ensure that they receive the benefits due to them. 

The Om Shanti Home

is refuge for elderly abandoned widows in an assisted living, end-of-life community.

The Om Shanti Home is a refuge for abandoned elderly widows in an assisted living, end-of-life community. They are lovingly cared for around the clock by a team of 8 warm-hearted women, headed by a social worker. All of the women who work at the Home are widows themselves, with genuine empathy for the residents and their needs. The residents are very much part of the wider community, and there are many activities for them. Sharing meals and conversation, visitors of all ages engage with the residents in yoga, singing, and art classes.

Visitors from all over the world enjoy meals and conversation with the residents.

The home has 24 residents living in 3 houses. Solar power was installed on one of the homes this year

The women receive monthly medical checkups. When 3 of the women passed away this year, all of their funeral arrangements were taken care of by the project.  Mr. Manoharan, the project’s director, serves as both son and brother when there is no family present to ensure that all of the traditional Indian funeral rites are properly observed. He also is on hand at all hours to help with transportation to doctors’ offices and to the hospital when needed. 

Environmental Stewardship

Creating organic compost fertilizer from refuse: Girivalum Seva workers collected and segregated 21 tons of organic refuse from the road. They then shredded the collected waste and mixed it with cow manure to create organic compost fertilizer. This will be used to enrich the soil in a new 5-acre plot that will be seeded with cash crops.

2023 was a very productive year for the Environmental Care Program:

  • Collaboration with local government: For many years, the program’s Girivalum Seva workers have collected with great dedication the refuse left by pilgrims on 3 miles of the holy path around Arunachala. The local government responded this year by placing their own municipal refuse containers on one side of the road.
  • Over 3 thousand trees were planted after extensive brush clearing on Kannappa land. These trees are all native to the area and represent original varieties. Water conserving drip irrigation systems were installed around the new trees. 
  • Medicinal herbs: Staff attended several training sessions on the care and use of medicinal herbs. A special plot was prepared for the planting of a medical garden which is now underway. 
  • Creating organic compost fertilizer from refuse: Girivalum Seva workers collected and segregated 21 tons of organic refuse from the road. They then shredded the collected waste and mixed it with cow manure to create organic compost fertilizer. This will be used to enrich the soil in a new 5-acre plot that will be seeded with cash crops.
  • Planting new crops. The staff were trained in the planting and cultivation of turmeric, a root spice used in cooking and in many Ayurvedic remedies. An acre of land will also be planted with sesame, a seed crop like sunflower or rapeseed that has many valuable uses.

Encouraged by program achievements for this year, Aruna Partnership is excited about the prospects for 2024. We look forward to seeing new developments first-hand this winter!

 We understand how difficult it is these days to make choices about donating funds. Please know how very much your help means, and how deeply your contributions are appreciated. 

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