Japanese touch to Raichur houses

One should be able to see all of creation as one, the unity beyond the apparent diversity. Amma advises us to practice that attitude in our day to day life, and we could get a glimpse of it by seeing the IVUSA Japanese students working on the Amrita kuteeram site of Raichur, Karnataka. For one who is not familiar with Japanese culture, it is really surprising to observe the group-oriented mind, the absence of self-centered attitude and the enthusiasm these students have.

 

Seeing these 78 students (40 girls and 38 boys) acting as one, helping each other, responding all together with the same voice, one is reminded of the different cells of the same organism, and of course, of Amma’s teachings about selflessness and unity beyond diversity.

The IVUSA (International Volunteers University Student Association) group came to Raichur from 14 different universities from all over Japan, via Delhi and Hyderabad, arriving on the evening of Shivaratri. IVUSA has participated in Amma’s charitable activities over the last 14 years, including: the Gujarat earthquake housing project, a slum redevelopment project in Pune, tsunami relief work in Nagapattinam and Cochin, flood relief work in Raichur, etc.

The group was given a warm welcome by local villagers with garlands and a drum band. Shortly after arriving they were asked whether they are willing to walk to the Shivaratri program at the local Shiva temple, some 3 KMs away. Despite such a long exhausting trip, all enthusiastically expressed their desire to participate.
The temple was located on top of a rocky hill, providing an aerial view of the surrounding area: rice paddies, cotton and sugar cane fields, the Krishna river quietly flowing through the plains, and at the base of the hill, the two housing sites of the Raichur Amrita kuteeram project with a total of 717 houses between them. The local villagers led the bhajans while the chorus of Japanese students responded with their own inspired call of “Om Namah Shivaya.”

The next morning, all climbed aboard the truck and tractors for a ride to construction site, which is located 10 kilometres away. The volunteers arrived at the village to wonder struck looks from the villagers and the smiles, giggling and waving from the local children.

The day was mainly dedicated to the construction of a cement roof for the community hall, at a site with 160 Amrita kuteeram houses. After a day of hard work under the scorching sun of the Karnataka plains, everyone went to the Krishna river and had a cooling and refreshing bath, and were given sugar cane to eat from the villagers.

For the remaining few days, the students will focus their efforts on the Dirampur site and will help put the finishing touch on the houses (painting, cleaning, and adding that unique Japanese touch); to get the houses ready to be handed over to the beneficiaries who are now living on an overcrowded and monsoon-flooded island on the Krishna river.

After that, the students will travel to Amritapuri, to experience Amma’s darshan, and then back home, carrying along in their heart life-long memories of their journey in India.

– KaliCharan

Gift of grace in Raichur

These are the 242 brand new pink-coloured houses, standing in all their majesty. Newly paved roads criss-cross the length and breadth of the township, connecting each house. Huge black water tanks stand on either side of the road. 800 trees lovingly planted by the brahmacharis are swaying in the breeze. Lush greenery surrounds each house.
The people here rest easy; the  Krishna river will never flood their houses and farms ever again. This stretch of land where their new homes have been constructed is far above its reach—close enough that they can pipe in its waters to quench their thirst, but far enough away that any future flooding will not touch them.

Kuruvakurda is an island village encircled by two tributaries of the Krishna which have sustained and nourished it for generations. The last time the river flooded was 60 years ago; most of the villagers had heard of the flood only as a legend. Even for those who had lived through it, it was a distant enough memory that the experience was entirely devastating. Six days of unprecedented rainfall, from September 29 to October 4, 2009 caused the Krishna to overflow its banks, rushing into their villages and inundating their homes and fields. Collapsed houses, destroyed crops, lives and livestock lost – their lives were never to be the same again.

This story was repeating itself in hundreds of villages bordering the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Tragedy and devastation loomed large. News of the disaster brought tears to Amma’s eyes. She responded immediately, sending two contingents of medical personnel, accompanied by truckloads of medicines, blankets, garments and food. The Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s medical teams sought out those inaccessible villages that had not been reached out to by any other aid group, working to ensure that no one slipped through the cracks. While attending to the survivor’s wounds, they also worked to fight epidemic outbreaks that could prove even more deadly. {News: Karnataka and Andra flood relief photos}

 

The announcement

On November 27th, Amma announced a relief-and-rehabilitation package of Rs. 50 crores ($10.7 million USD) for those affected by the floods {news}. The team Amma had sent to survey the devastation brought back the name of one village which so far no aid group had offered to assist. Amma unhesitatingly offered to rehabilitate the populace of this village. That is how the construction of a thousand houses began in Dongrampura (Raichur District) replete with roads, parks, electricity, water and a community center.

On January 16th, a team of 14 brahmacharis landed in Raichur. That was an eclipse day, and though according to tradition one is not supposed to look at the sun or walk outdoors, they traversed the area without hesitation, visiting the proposed site and meeting the various district officials. The next day, the paperwork was finalized, and the very same day, the mammoth construction work commenced {news}.

 

Speed Mantra

Speed was their mantra; Amma’s children literally toiled nonstop, though the temperature soared up to 45o C; half the day they there would be no electricity; no water. Braving these hostile circumstances, they built the first 100 houses in less than 30 days (news) . They had fulfilled Amma’s dream of providing quick solace to those rendered homeless.

This construction miracle broke all records. Statewide, their accomplishment created ripples of awe in all circles. The government made a Powerpoint presentation of this incredible feat to other NGOs. They came in droves to see with their own eyes. Articles appeared in dailies, heaping praise. Ministers and top civil servants sang paeans from public platforms.

Keys to the houses

The keys of these houses were handed over to the grateful Chief Minister of the state of Karnataka during Amma’s Bangalore Brahmasthanam festival. {news}

New records were broken again and again after that day. 242 houses were handed over on August 4th, 2010. Today, almost all the allotted houses on the three sites stand completed, awaiting allotment by the Government for the displaced families. It is truly a gift of grace.

 

The villagers

In this area, the theft of construction materials by the villagers is quite common. It is such a troubled area that for the last 10 years, many officials had dared not enter. But in this area where outsiders would not step in, the brahmacharis were pleasantly surprised: there wasn’t even a single incident of theft.

The locals accepted the ashram and the ashram brahmacharis fully, and everybody mingled freely. They reciprocated the openness and the affection of the brahmacharis and the ashram. They were loving, generous and honest. Poor and illiterate they may be, but what more do they need for grace, when they have such hearts of gold?

Apart from providing shelter, Amma provided the survivors with a livelihood—hiring them in the hundreds for the house building. When they received their weekly wages, many of them would deposit a small portion of their wages in front of Amma’s photo (placed in the office cum residence of the brahmacharis), and bow in loving reverence. Amma generated so much spontaneous reverence and love in the villagers.

Volunteers from all over

Volunteers flowed in from all over India and even abroad. The whole district welcomed the two dozen Japanese student volunteers who came to help with the construction seva{news}. Amazed, even the District Collector came to see them toil. Each new group of volunteers brought a new burst of inspiration and the coolness of Amma’s love as they worked side by side with the brahmacharis in the sun and the heat. Students from Amrita University and Amrita Vidyalayam also came and contributed their help for the construction.
When some of the brahmacharis returned and visited this July, the villagers welcomed us back as if we were family members, with their heart-winning openness and warmth. Troupes of children would tag along with us from house to house, laughing and happy, sharing tidbits with us. And truly, we are family—Amma’s family. Sans race or religion, sans creed or class, defined by selflessness, and bound by love.

 

This house will remain with us

Eeramma lives in house #250 with her son Shekharappa and her 21-year-old grandson, who is working on his B.Ed. and already dreaming of a teacher’s job in the government. Before the flood, they were living in a slum. They say their new house is stronger. Eeramma is illiterate, but even at 65 years of age she exudes a certain vigour. Her feeling toward her new house is summed up when she states simply, “One might give lakhs (hundreds of thousands) rupees but it would not last. But this house will remain with us.”

Happy here
Though none of them can say exactly how old they are, the occupants of House # 232 are all quite young. Suryaprakash, the man of the house, guesses that he might be 23 or 24 years old. The couple have a little girl, Mahalakshmi, who they say is about a year old. With smiles ever-present, this small family has a roof over their heads, and they are happy here.

Ready smile
Shankaramma and Sannabasappa’s is a large family; nine of them are staying in the house, including their daughter-in-law and three children. Their extended family members have also been given new homes, situated nearby. On the corner near where their house stands, they have erected a shop to sell bananas, beedis, and small household items. Shankaramma, the head shopkeeper, has a ready smile.
The house is good
“The house is good and the courtyard is spacious” comments 50-year-old Sharanappa approvingly as he gestures toward his new home. Sharanappa is the Chairman of the Atkur Gram Panchayat (community). His wife Parvatamma, like most people in this area, is not sure about her age. Also like most people here, she is more at home speaking in Telugu. Andhra Pradesh is just a few kilometers away.
When will Amma come?
If one were to close one’s eyes and just listen to her speak, one would never guess she was 85 years old or anything close to it. That’s Eeramma.
Her children live on the other side of the island. Her husband passed away five years ago, Eeramma says with a twinge of sorrow. Both speech and thoughts are crystal clear. Neatly dressed, she looks fresh. Only her deeply lined face betrays her age.
In a clear voice she says, “Amma is blessing me all the time; I’m always praying to her.” Then she muses wistfully, “Amma comes to me in my dreams and wakes me up. But when I wake up, she’s not there.”
“I want to meet Amma, when will she come to Raichur?” she asks us keenly. What can we say? We console her saying, “Pray to Amma—she will definitely respond.” This much we know is true.

– Das

One Million to Japan tsunami children’s education fund

16 September 2011, Sendai, Japan

Embracing the World (ETW), the international organization of Mata Amritanandamayi Math, formally presented its donation of US $1,000,000 to Yoshihiro Murai, the Governor of Miyagi, Japan. This money will be used for Miagi children’s education fund. The donation is part of Ashram’s Japan Tsunami relief and rehabilitation work. Amma had announced this amount during her visit to Japan in the month of July {news}.

ETW was represented by its Indian General Secretary, Swami Purnamritananda, as well as the Country Director of ETW Japan, Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya handed over the money to the Governor.

Mentioning the potential for various relief measures, ETW’s representatives expressed their ongoing commitment to the reconstruction work in the region. Governor Murai responded by saying, “We are deeply grateful for your support… Embracing the World is a world-renowned NGO. Thus I hope that you will use your international network to keep people all over the world informed of the disaster conditions here, so they will remember in the future.”

Also in attendance was Indian Embassy Tokyo’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Sanjay Panda along with the other ETW volunteers.

Just two days after the earthquake and tsunami in March, ETW dispatched a team of volunteers to Miyagi to determine the scope of the disaster and distribute relief supplies. Food and relief supplies were distributed at Kotodai Park. The volunteers have continued to return to the area to provide aid and help with the relief work in Ishinomaki and Kesennuma.

Since 1990, Amma has been coming to Japan every year to conduct programs in cities such as Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, and Sapporo. Swami Purnamritananda has been visiting Sendai for the last ten years, offering bhajan and spiritual talks.

– Kalidas

Accept the situation, develop faith, move forward

Amma consoling a refugee at the campAmma visits tsunami relief camps in Japan

25 July, Tokyo

During the programs in Tokyo, many people from tsunami-affected areas came to seek solace and guidance from Amma. A number of them wept in her arms as they shared their grief with her. People expressed their concern over radiation threats. Some of them were anxious to know if their children and the next generation of their family members would be safe with the radiation and constant natural calamities that haunt Japan. Seeing the grief and the pain of the people, Amma decided to visit the disaster area and one of the relief camps.

After the program in Tokyo ended at 5:30 am Amma immediately left for one of the relief camps in Tagajo Sports Complex, 500 kms away. This place is currently utilised as a relief center for the displaced members of the community.

Amma was taken on a tour of the complex, and shown how the cardboard divided cubicles provided for the temporary housing of the over 200 residents.

Amma addressed the refugee residents, with the following words of inspiration, “You have just been through painful experiences, and you have yet to come out of that shock. The situation is such that no words can give you peace. Amma is here just to part take in the grief that you are going through. There are certain situations in life where you cannot do anything but accept. This is one of those situations. If you ask a musician where the music is coming from, he would say ‘its from my fingers, or from my throat, or from my heart’. If you operate the finger, the throat or the heart you will not find music. Actually music is coming from beyond. We have to understand the limitations of our actions, and the place of God’s Grace in our life. Keeping faith in that power, my children, pray for the Grace. Like any other decision, happiness is also a decision. Have a resolve, let any thing happen, I will be happy, I will be courageous. Without losing the self-confidence or faith in God, move forward”.

After a few minutes of silent meditation, Amma led the group in chanting prayers for the departed.

Amma embraced and consoled each resident, offering them Her shoulder on which they unburdened their sorrows. Amma’s face reflected their grief; tears were flowing from their eyes and also from hers. Knowing that the residents had lost everything, Amma presented household items for their material support to help improve their life at the center.

Amma offering prayers and flowers at the sea

Amma also visited the worst hit areas of Shichigahama coastal region. In some places there was complete destruction, in others one could still faintly make out the foundations of a houses where neighbourhoods once stood.

At the Shichigahama beach area, looking out at the Pacific Ocean, Amma called on all to pray for peace and for harmony in nature. She then led the group in prayers for peace, chanting Aum Shanti, Shanti, Shanti nine times, and Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu three times.

Amma offered a bouquet of flowers to the ocean, wading a few inches in, paying Her respects to it as well. She stood gazing out at the horizon for some time, then encouraged all the members of the group to follow by offering their flowers.

The pink blossoms were drawn out to sea along with everyone’s prayers for peace.

Amma announces one million for Japan tsunami relief

Tokyo, Japan, July 23

Amma announced a donation of one million US dollars towards the relief and rehabilitation of Japanese disaster victims, particularly for the education of children who lost both their parents in the devastating March 11 tsunami.

The donation will be made by Mata Amritanandamayi Center (MA Center) USA along with Amma’s global charitable network, known as ‘Embracing The World.’

The announcement was made at a crowded public program in the Grand Ballroom of Garden City Shinagawa.  Mr. Keiki Soma,representative of the Miyagi Governor also Deputy Director of the Miyagi Prefectural Government Office was present on this occasion.

You may recollect that ( read blog ) Amma’s volunteers have been actively participating in the relief work from March 13, just two days after the earthquake and tsunami. Their activities included cleaning rubble and debris from houses and agricultural land, assisting the elderly and children at relief camps, distribution of food, household utensils, medicine and other daily necessities. In addition to providing the essentials, the volunteers provided spiritual and psychological counselling to the local people in the tsunami affected areas.

Relief work at Rikuzentakata, Japan

Volunteer doing hand massage for one of the refugee at the camp

Volunteers helping with the laundry

Miyoki Ochi and Minako Hayashi, washing the useable clothes

Within three days of the disaster, Embracing the World sent its first group of volunteers to the affected areas to distribute food and water for the refugees. After two additional trips to Ishinomaki, ETW’s relief teams focused their efforts on the village of Rikuzentakata, a remote coastal town of 23,000 people in dire need of volunteers and support. After their initial visit, the city’s Disaster Relief Management Office submitted an official request to ETW to continue its disaster relief efforts there. About 10% of Rikuzentakata’s population died in the disaster, including about 1/3 of the city officials. At the end of April 2011, at least 70% of the original population was spread across 88 refugee centers, as their households were damaged or destroyed. ETW volunteers worked in coordination with Rikuzentakata Disaster Volunteer Center, concentrating their efforts on whatever was deemed most urgent each day.

Their activities included: supporting the refugees in the camps by cooking and serving food; providing daycare for small children, as well as maintenance and laundry services; removing mud and debris from damaged houses; cleaning up public spaces and damaged government facilities (like the local fire department); sorting and transporting relief supplies; and distribution of clean drinking water. The volunteers also worked to clear rubble from farmers’ fields, so they could resume cultivation.

Beyond continuing to help meet the immediate needs of the people of Rikuzentakata, ETW’s plans for long-term relief include the provision of emotional support for those affected, as well as offering free courses in Amma’s Amrita Yoga and IAM Meditation Technique. ETW also plans to ship relief materials to the disaster-affected area as needed.

Read the blogs from here

July 23, 2010, Google Map

Rikuzentakata July 23, 2010, Google Maps

April 1, 2011 Google Map

Rikuzentakata April 1, 2011 Google Map

Prayer circles for Japan

Amritapuri

Since first day after the earthquake in Japan, there were prayer circles for the victims every day. Daily after the evening bhajans, all have been chanting 108 ‘Lokah Samastha’ mantra sitting around the map of Japan with lamps lit around it.

242 houses handed over to Raichur flood affected

Raichur, Karnataka, 4 August 2010:

Raichur houses

Mata Amritanandamayi Math provides 242 free houses to flood-hit
242 families from the flooded islands of Kurvakurda and Mangigadda received new homes today in the village of Dongrampur, in the Raichur District of Karnataka. As part of its Rs. 50-crore relief-and-rehabilitation project {news} for victims of unprecedented flooding in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh late last year, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) has pledged to build 2,000 new houses {news} for victims who lost their homes in the flooding. In February 2010, MAM became the first organisation to complete homes for the flood victims, when it completed 100 new houses just 20 days {news} after beginning construction. At the time, while presiding over the inauguration ceremony, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Shri. B.S. Yeddyurappa  lauded MAM’s efforts, and said he hoped the speed and efficiency with which MAM had completed the homes would inspire other NGOs to move quickly to help the flood victims.

The procurement of materials, management of the project, and liasion with government officials as well as members of the community was all handled by MAM.  Beyond that, many of Amma’s devotees and well wishers from all parts of India as well as University students from Japan {news}  volunteered their time and energy to help build the houses so quickly. The villagers of Dongrampur, where the houses are being constructed for the people from the flooded islands, were themselves extremely cooperative, despite the fact that their own houses have not yet been constructed.  MAM intends to build an additional 500 houses for the villagers of Dongrampur.  In addition to this, the people of the two island villages of Kurvakala and Agrahara are also being rehabilitated to a site on the mainland at Atkur.  All four affected villages have been regularly getting flooded during the monsoon season; the villagers have expressed great relief at being relocated to the safety of the mainland.

More than one million people were displaced by last year’s flooding.

The Chief Minister was also present for the handover of the 242 homes, where he exhorted the villagers to treat their new houses as temples. “Every morning, when I start my prayers, I remember Mata Amritanandamayi and all her good work. You are fortunate you are being given these new houses. Earlier, you people lived without toilets, electricity or water. All that is being provided to you now.” Revenue Minister G Karunakara Reddy, Housing Minister Katta Subramania Naidu and Fisheries Minister Anand Asnotikar also attended the function.

Swami Amritageetananda Puri, representing MAM, and Karnataka’s Revenue Minister, Shri. G. Karunakara Reddy, Housing Minister Shri. Katta Subramania Naidu and Fisheries Minister Anand Asnotikar were also present at the function.

Raichur houses

MAM provided each house with electricity and clean drinking water, and also paved new roads for the villagers. Rangamma, wife of Dodda Rangappa, from the island of Kurvaka, was one of the recipients. Expressing gratitude for her new home where she will live along with her family, Rangamma said that she was very happy when her name was announced as one of the beneficiaries. Even before the flooding, she never dreamt of living in such a well-built house with all standard amenities.

— Tulasi

Japanese students help Raichur housing project

10 March 2010, Raichur, Karnataka

Sixty students from Japan’s IVUSA (International Volunteer University Student Association)   came from Tokyo to join Amma’s house construction project at Raichur in Karnataka.

They stayed for more than a week and started spending their days in hot sun helping the construction of the houses. Temperature touched above 42 degrees and many of the students and accompanying bramhacharis fell sick. Amma had sent them umbrella-hats to ward off effects of excessive heat.

Most of the students enjoied working at the construction site during this short visit. They even spent time with the local villagers and children, celebrating the Holi festival at the nearby village. During their free-time, they trekked to visit a Shiva temple atop a closeby hill.

As they arrived  in Mumbai and later in Delhi after their assignment,  all of them met Amma before returning back to their country.

When asked what they had to say about their visit, Yukie said “Incredible India!”.

– Tulasi

Amma to start an orphanage in Haiti

orphanage-haiti

Br. Dayamrita with orphanage children of Haiti

9 March 2010, San Ramon, USA
Amma is starting an orphanage in Haiti in order to care of children who lost their relatives in the earthquake of 12 January 2010.
A four-story house rented in Laboulle, a suburb in the hills outside of Port-au-Prince, which is in the process  of being converted into an orphanage. The orphanage will initially assume care for 25 orphaned children.

Reports say that after the earthquake Haiti is now home to nearly one-million orphaned children.

Other Haiti relief-and-rehabilitation work includes the shipment of a container of medical supplies, which was sent two weeks following the disaster.  The supplies included assorted medications, surgical equipment, feeding and drainage tubes, assorted wound-care supplies, diagnostic supplies,     syringes, needles, sheets and blankets, drapes, tents, sleeping bags, face masks, obstetric and infant-care supplies, wheelchairs, crutches, braces, splints, protein powders, saline solution and disinfectants.

orphanage-haiti

Br. Dayamrita with orphanage children of Haiti

Orphanage in Haiti will be its third such institution; the others being Amrita Niketan in Kerala, India (1989) and Amrita Watoto Boma in Nairobi(2009).

The new orphanage in Haiti is being developed specifically through the Mata Amritanandamayi Center’s Health Care Charities, Inc., and the Amma Foundation of Canada.

— Das