All Caring, Compassionate and Loving Sisters at Work
If you want to do "real service", Renunciation must be the bedrock for service! This concept of "REAL SERVICE" attracted the minds of some dedicated persons of Ulundurpet in Tamil Nadu. So they engraved this great concept in their minds. This concept is always a motivating factor to inspire them continuously.
Swami Anantananda, a University First Rank holder, took 'Spiritual Initiation' from Srimath Swami Bhuteshanandaji Maharaj, the 12th President of Sri Ramakrishna Math & Mission, Kolkatta. Sanyasa was given by Srimath Swami Madhuranandaji Maharaj, President Swami Vivekananda Ashram, Vellimalai.
When Swami Anantananda stepped out of his house, the unseen divine and gracious hands of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna started to give him a good shape. He put him into many ordeals. He started a school with 3 students in a rented dilapidated building. He had only 0.75 paise as an investment to begin the school. That 0.75 paise was only enough to buy a school attendance register. It was an 'unbelievable initial investment' from the human view point. However, that 0.75 paise might have been touched by Divine Mother for future developments of the Ashram.
At the same time, Divine hands also shaped Yat.Ramakrishnapriya Amba. She was highly impressed and captivated by Sri Sri Thakur's Avatara Mahima. She, along with 3 more sisters, joined to work for the noble aim 'Atmano Mokshartham Jagaddhitaya Cha'. Her attitude was more spiritual-oriented and tapasvic centered. Rev.Mataji was the real mother as well as taking on other roles such as cook, caretaker, teacher, and headmistress. She played the roles from matron to manager. Sri Thakur designed an unknown plan for a ladies ashram for which she was fixed as a pivotal person.
Over time, 45 dedicated Sanyasin Sisters came along. These young women, at the height of their academic life & jobs, left all to serve. Who else to dedicate and name an organisation than the compassionate Mother of all - Maa Sarada? This is how Sri Sarada Ashram was started.
At present, Sri Sarada Ashram (SSA) is based at New Edaikkal near Ulundurpet (200 kms. from Chennai and 150 kms. from Trichy). Economists & policy makers ponder over poverty lines and debate about the right solutions - however growth is observed in India at the cost of humanitarian values, in every aspect of human life.
SSA works both upstream & downstream on ways to eradicate miseries & poverty. In the upstream, SSA's spiritually-oriented services & preaching makes humans more humane & know their real nature. In the downstream, they do services in the fields of rural women employment, education for poor village girls, medical aid, professional training and village development (irrigation, farming etc. ). They have earned good respect and cooperation in the surrounding villages and the communities living there, because of their service to those people for over 25 years in times of distress and need.
Swami Vivekananda said, "Education for village girls will change the face of whole nation."
In the early days of SSA, Swami Anantananda Maharaj himself used to pedal a cycle rickshaw, unable to afford a paid driver, to bring the students to the school and take them back home. The dedication bore fruit and the school has turned out one of the best residential school in Tamilnadu "Sri Ramakrishna Vidyalaya Gurukulam" in Ulundurpet.
Sri Sarada Ashram (SSA) also started:
SRI SARADA SEVALAYA - free home for 150 poor village girls. From the drudgery of menial labour the village poor girls are housed in Sevalaya with free food, clothing and shelter, training in yoga, & culture and vocational training to facilitate their independent living.
VIDYARTHI RAKSHA YOJANA - free night class for poor boys - where free coaching and wholesome food are provided.
KASTURBA GANDHI BALIKA VIDYALAYA - a school for dropouts & the children never enrolled in schools. 100 girls are accommodated in this special school with boarding facilities.
Outside the campus, the ashram expanded its activities in the field of education by establishing a Higher Secondary School in Ulundurpet with 4,000 students.
A College of Education for 100 students and an Arts & Science College for women, Sri Sarada Mahavidyalayam, are being run. The examination results of students under the wings of the Ashram are among the best in the district.
Low-income levels and the lack of adequate medical services are the two most important factors affecting rural people's health. In response to this situation, SSA started a free mobile dispensary in the year 1997 and a free dispensary in the year 2002 which upgraded into Sri Sarada Charitable Hospital.
The Hospital gives out free consultation & medicines, provides nutritious malt & herbal juices to drink, conducts awareness programmes through the Preventive Health Care Unit and gives treatment to the poor in remote villages through the mobile unit. Over the years, regular medical camps have been conducted throughout the district. Clinical Lab tests, ECG, Physiotherapy, Vision Care Unit and Dental Unit are the few facilities being given by Sri Sarada Charitable Hospital.
In the domain of Family Welfare, SRI SARADA VIRUDDHA MAHILA KENDRA is a free home for support deprived aged women- 30 aged mothers are being taken care.
The Social Welfare activities undertaken by SSA are the following:
1. Dress & sweet distribution to the rural poor
2. Nylon mats & blankets distribution to the families in the villages
3. Scholarships, Uniforms, Stationary & Education items supplied to the needy students
The Ashram formed village-based Self-Help Women Groups (from homogenous social and economic backgrounds) to save regular small sums of money, mutually agreeing to contribute to a common fund and to meet their emergency needs on the basis of mutual help.
SSA has taken initiative in forming 500 Self Help Women Groups in 150 villages with 10,000 women members. Villipuram being an agrarian district, the ashram started a centre for Sustainable agriculture "Sri Sarada Krishi Kendra" to impart training in agriculture and other related skills to the rural community.
Rural Training Centre of the ashram offers Vocational Training, Entrepreneur Development Training, Self-Help Group Management and Finance Management Training.
As a future looking institution, it tries to address issues of the coming days.
The Rain Water Harvesting Centre 'Varunalaya' is a permanent exhibition centre established with the assistance of CAPRAT Hyderabad. Fifty technologies are depicted through working models and panels to explain the importance of water conservation and rainwater harvesting. It is established to give exposure to various categories of people like villagers, members of Self-Help Groups, NGOs, farmers, school and college students.
Owing to the revival of village tanks by SSA, 12 Villages have already benefited. Each of the tanks provides 200 acres of irrigation capacity. As water was made available, it boosted agriculture and farmers income. The Ashram takes pride in stopping the flow of urban labourers and farmers are happy being in the village with their family.
Emergency Relief Programmes
The poor people lose their hard earned money and belongings during natural calamities like fire and flood. Relief work is being undertaken in so many villages. Food, Dresses, Cooking utensils, Rice and Pusles, blankets, mats, water pots are the necessary things given by the ashram as relief to the victims.
Owing to the close coordination between Government and Ashram at the shortest notice, sisters rush to the areas of distress. The ashram is on a constant alert to respond to emergencies in the quickest possible time.
These sisters lead a simple life sacrificing for the rural poor thereby strengthening their service in scale & magnitude. In order to develop the living condition of the needy, they embraced technology in one hand and pay respect to our rich heritage in the other.
As a mother nurtures her kids with an all-round focus, this institution (run by 100% women power) has touched thousands of lives in the Villipuram districts in every way. When such a care & focus is there, the service by Sri Sarada Ashram makes the district a heaven to live by.
Copyright © 2014 Saunak Bhattacharyya
Saunak resides in Chennai and is a business consultant with an IT company. He has around 10 years experience of volunteering work with rural orphanages, down-syndrome NGO's and corporate volunteering teams. Saunak is also a happy social investor with various community development funds aimed at poor women entrepreneurs. Lastly, he is a student of development economics who likes to learn the psychology, finance, risks, policies & use of technology associated with the lives of the poor and marginalized of the society.
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