Amma donates $1 million to uplift Philippine typhoon survivors

3 April 2014, Manila, Philippines

Amma donated $1 million U.S. to the Yolanda-Haiyan Multi-Donor Fund in the Office of the President of Philippines on April 2nd in Manila.


After seeing the effects of Yolanda-Haiyan firsthand in November 2013, representatives from Embracing the World (ETW) along with Amma decided to donate $1 million U.S. to the most severely affected areas from the typhoon. The American wing of ETW, called the Mata Amritanandamayi Center, contributed the amount, which will be used for children’s educational needs, including orphans.

After more than two months of research, ETW decided that the Office of the President of the Philippines and its Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR) was the best place to present the donation.

Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri, a member of the Board of Directors of M.A. Center, specified that the donation was made to try to alleviate the suffering seen by himself and other ETW volunteers immediately after the typhoon. “This $1 million dollar contribution will be supplemented in the future by vocational-training of typhoon-displaced adults and students’ living expenses to complete high school,” he said.

“We continue to be moved by the outpouring of support from the international community,” said PARR Secretary Panfilo M. Lacson. “We are especially grateful to Embracing the World for being one of the first international private donors to reach out to PARR to make a donation to the Yolanda survivors. We congratulate Amma for undertaking this advocacy, not only in the Philippines, but in the whole world. We hope she inspires more people by her example.”

Japanese students bring warmth to Uttarakhand

February 2014, Uttarakhand

A group of 73 students from all over Japan came together and travelled to India to help take part in Amma’s rehabilitation of the areas devastated by the 2013 floods in the state of Uttarakhand. Amma pledged to rebuild 500 homes in the area. The first phase of that work is going on in and around the village of Chandrapuri in the district of Rudraprayag, on the way up to Kedarnath.

Students from the IVUSA (International Volunteer University Student Association) organization have collaborated with Embracing the World since 1998, participating in projects to build homes for tsunami refugees in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, and more recently in 2011 and 2012 in Raichur, after devastating floods in Karnataka.

Many of the volunteers in this group were coming back to India for the second or third time for this purpose.

Remarkably for many of the students, these few weeks of time they spent volunteering, involving long days of hard physical labor, is their only vacation for the year. Inspired by Amma’s own life of dedication and service, they choose to spend this time not for their own enjoyment, but to do something for the benefit of the less fortunate.

Upon their arrival, the students were given a formal welcome and honored as official state guests by Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Shri Harish Rawat. When addressing the students the Chief Minister said, “Amma is doing wonderful work and if you are with her your path in life will become clear.” The Chief Minister spent some time interacting with everyone and expressed his admiration and support for the students’ efforts.

Over the next several days the students were involved in all aspects of the construction work, including concreting, assembling the metal foundation beams, and transporting building materials from the riverbed up steep hills to the sites. The students are an extremely well organized group and divided themselves up into smaller teams, spreading out to work throughout the valley at all the different construction sites.

Each day when they showed up to do their seva they were met by scores of local villagers who were swept up by the Japanese students’ enthusiasm and compelled to join in the fun. With their open heartedness and spirit of selfless service, the students created joyful interactions, much to the amusement of their local Indian co-workers. Despite the work being very hard on a physical level no one minded. It was really like a party and everyone could be seen smiling and laughing as they worked.

Most of the work involved bringing building materials to the hamlet of Batwadi Sonar where a community hall is being built for the villagers. All day the students and villagers together hiked up and down the steep hill to the hamlet carrying stones and sand that will be used to build the hall. At the end of each day, just before the sun went down everyone would gather together around a giant Pipal tree in the village and sing bhajans together. While there might not have been any professional singers or musicians there, the innocence and beauty of the singing directly carried over from the joy and cooperation the students and villagers had shared working together all day. {Read Blogs here}

On their final morning of work the Japanese students introduced the local villagers to the Amala Bharatam Campaign. Again working side by side with all the locals, the Japanese students fanned out and collected trash throughout the area. Dozens of bags of trash were filled from the riverbed, which is sadly still full of debris from the flooding many months before.

Before leaving the Japanese students took part in a formal cultural program held at one of the local schools just down the road in the town of Chandrapuri. The Rudraprayag District Collector, Mr. Raghav Langar presided over the festivities which included many songs and dances performed by both the Japanese and local students and was attended by hundreds of local people.

When it was time to say goodbye, both the students and locals were sad to bid farewell to their newfound friends. They Japanese students donated their time, energy, and enthusiasm, but the volunteers said that they received much more than we gave.

In the sharing of loving care across cultural boundaries and language barriers, the line between “giving” and “receiving” disappeared, and volunteers and recipients find that they are not so different after all. In truth, even though they spoke Japanese and Garwhali, they share a common mother tongue: the universal language of Love.

– Nath

Read blogs from Uttarakhand

Swami visits typhoon hit Philippines

4-7 Dec 2013, Philippines

The world community was shocked when Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines on November 8th, 2013. With a speed of up to 370 km/h the tropical cyclone destroyed nearly 80 to 90% of the houses in many areas of the country. The deadliest Typhoon in Philippine history took the lives of more than 6,000 people and affected a total of eleven million people, leaving countless without home and shelter.

When Amma heard about the tragedy she announced one million USD relief– and rehabilitation package to provide relief and long-term support to the victims of the disaster.

Amma sent Swami Ramakrishnananda Puri to visit the affected areas in order to assess the situation on the ground. On his four day trip Swami was accompanied by devotees from Japan and Singapore, and joined by Senator Jamby Madregal in Manila.

After arriving in Manila, the team took a military aircraft to Tacloban City in the province Leyte. They visited a local indoor stadium, which provided shelter to 3000 people. Along with Swamiji and Senator Jambi, the volunteers distributed cooked food to the people, who had lost everything in the cyclone. It was the first time after almost a month that the victims received cooked food, which gave them back a smile on their face.

In another relief camp Swamiji met Mr. Petilla, Governor of Levte Province to discuss the ongoing rehabilitation operations. He also took part in the main relief operation meetings at the residence of Congressman Mr. Martin Romualdez, and joined one of the relief operations officers in a helicopter ride to get an areal view of the situation.

Talking to the people of Tacloban, Swamiji heard many sad, and some miraculous stories – like that of the Mayor, Mr. Romualdez. He was inside his house when the Typhoon hit. As the water level rose he moved to the top of a table, then slowly climbed on to the roof of the building. Facing winds with the speed of 250 km/h he made a hole in another part of the roof from which he could descend down. At the same time his wife and two children were trapped inside a car. Once they escaped, they had to hold on to a pole for almost two hours, in order to survive the disaster.

As the team left the Philippines on December 7th, they felt very moved and saddened by the many human tragedies that they witnessed during their visit. Yet they were confident that Amma’s arms of compassion will be able to uplift and create a huge transformation in the lives of those affected.

Swami is now in contact with the local authorities to discuss the next steps of Embracing The World’s relief operations in the area.

Amma to donate $1 million to Philippines typhoon victims

26 Nov 2013, California

Amma said that she is donating a relief and rehabilitation package worth $1 million for the people affected by super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Half of the relief package from the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) will be donated in cash while the rest will be spent for children’s education. The package will come from the Mata Amritanandamayi Center in California.

Haiyan, believed to be the worst storm to hit the Philippines, has affected 13 million people and destroyed one million homes.


“I was greatly distressed to hear about this devastation, which took the lives of so many innocent people in the Philippines and which added an immense burden to those who were already living in poverty. In a fateful moment, the storm snatched away the dreams and hopes of hundreds of thousands of others who survived the initial disaster. During this time of immense agony and sorrow, Amma’s heart goes to those who have endured this tragedy and prays for their peace and mental strength. She also offers her prayers to the departed souls.” said Amma.

50-Crore relief and rehabilitation package for Uttarakhand

10 Sept 2013, New Delhi
Mata Amritanandamayi Math announced two massive charitable projects: a 50-crore relief-and-rehabilitation project in the flood-ravaged state of Uttarakhand and a programme to adopt 101 villages throughout India.

Flash flood in Uttarakhand

“In Uttarakhand, MAM will build approximately 500 houses destroyed by the disaster,” said MAM’s vice-chairman Swami Amritaswarupananda in a press conference in New Delhi. “These will be the totality of homes destroyed in 42 selected villages in the districts of Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi.”

The Swami also stressed that MAM would not only be rebuilding houses in Uttarakhand, but would also be providing scholarships to poor children, providing pension to widows and handicapped people, building an orphanage/care-home for children who no longer have a proper care structure in place, and helping to empower women by assisting them to set up home-based SHG businesses.

The Swami also announced the advent of what he said would amount to the most massive humanitarian programme ever undertaken by the Mata Amritanandamayi Math: the adoption of 101 villages throughout India with the aim of helping them become self-reliant and thriving.

“In order to accomplish this, MAM will draw upon the totality of the humanitarian programmes it has established over the past 30 years,” the swami said of the programme, which he said is being called the Amrita Self-Reliant Village Programme (Amrita Swasrayagramam).

Both the Uttarakhand reconstruction and the 101 village-adoption programme will be officially launched during Amritavarsham 60 on September 26-27.

(Read the blog of Brahmacharis seva in the disaster hit areas)

475 more houses at Raichur

17 June 2012, Dongrampura, Raichur, Karnataka

As part of MAM’s relief and rehabilitation work for the flood affected in Raichur, 475 more houses were completed and handed over to the Govt of Karnataka. Swami Amritageetananda handed over the keys during the program which was attend by the Minister for Housing, V Somanna, District Collector Smt MV Savitri, and other dignitaries along with people of twelve neighbouring villages as well. V Somanna praised Amma for always being ready to offer service anywhere in the country whenever disasters occur.


Praying for the departed in tsunami

11 Mar 2012, Amritapuri
amma prayToday marks the one year anniversary of the Japanese Tsunami. Near the beginning of darshan, just after the morning archana, Amma asked all to take a moment and remember the tragedy. She said, “This is the time the Japanese tsunami happened, so for all the souls of the departed and for the harmony of nature we should pray, pray with your heart, Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu.” Amma continued by saying, “Nature is very agitated. It is as if Mother Nature is surrounded by people holding her at gunpoint. Nature, human beings, everything is disturbed both inside and outside. Let us all pray that everyone may live in peace and there be no more tragedies.” Amma then led everyone in chanting Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu.
– Kannadi

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