(14 Mar '04)
Vellanure Village, Chennai
M.A.M Chenai started an Amritakuteeram project to build houses for the poor and disabled in Vellanure.
Sambandan, an ex-train driver, and volunteer at the Madras Ashram, assists Br.Vinayamrita and gives all his time to co-ordinating the project. He said, “We sifted through 2,000 original applications and after lots of consideration we visited 100 homes to select people. We invited them to visit the site. We spent a lot of time making sure people were happy. Finally all the houses were allocated. The first residents have moved in and soon there will be a group of 15 blind people settling there.
Vellanure Village was developed as a community with 60 houses over 1.5 acres of land located in the countryside about 35 kms from the city of Madras. The houses were built with a communal bathroom block, made roads and organised for water and electricity connections from the nearest village.They also have a community hall.
All the people here are poor or disabled in some way. MAM is looking at ways to help them become self-sufficient by setting up a registered co-operative society for self-employed people. Some residents want to make candles, chairs, bags, and incense sticks. The committee will help them to get big orders and to find the materials they need. One member has donated a lathe for making bottle caps.
Jnanashekar is a businessman. He spends all his spare time working with Sambandan. He said, “The people were living in small rooms, mostly in slums, and were paying exorbitant rents, as much as Rs. 300 a month. Sometimes even more, up to Rs. 700 – that’s more than a month’s wages for them. They were very ready to leave those places, the conditions were so bad. We found the very poor people and selected them for the house.I am very happy doing this work. When we do Amma’s work then we start reflecting and try to think like Amma. So we must do the work very precisely and very correctly.”
Because the housing site is a long way from the nearest village, it is very expensive to make the electricity connection. Amma’s devotees are making a donation to cover the costs. Another devotee will act as caretaker for the site and he will live there and run a community shop.