Plant for the Future: Permaculture seminar for adults and children

Amma encourages us that we should re-learn to grow our own vegetables.  Teaching this knowledge to our children certainly has a great influence on our future. Amma Center, Switzerland held a seminar this summer to do just that.  This seminar followed permaculture principles taught by Anselm Ibing and Nirmala Iser. An enthusiastic crowd of interested adults and inspired children learned in theory and practice, what is meant by Permaculture and how it can become a part of our lives. With ideal weather, the adults and children learned how to create a flower bed, how to plant the flower seeds; how to make compost and worm compost; how to build shelters for bats, how to build wind turbines for the expulsion of rodents in the garden and how the rain water on the property can used better.

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All participants were able to go home satisfied and inspired. And the Amma Center now has a new compost, worm compost, bat houses and many windmills in the garden.

 

Bottle garden, an innovation for recycling and gardening

On Amma’s 59th birthday celebrations in September 2012, the InDeed Campaign for Nature was launched. This is an online campaign to inspire people to pledge to take any one of six steps to help restore nature’s harmony. Many students made pledges to conserve water, grow organic vegetables, reduce their carbon footprint and more.

In order to keep their commitments, a group of Amrita University students created a unique “hanging bottle garden” – a hanging flower garden using recycled bottles as receptacles for the flowers. The bottle garden is a 36-meter stretch of Jasmine, Lantana, Browallia, Lily,  Tabernaemontana, Duranta, many types of Portulaca grandiflora (table rose), Ixora Miniature, and Springaria – all flourishing in recycled bottles hanging neatly in 4 rows and 48 columns long the walls near the mess hall in Amrita University’s Amritapuri campus. “We are very happy that we could do something which Amma likes and want us to do along with our studies.” says Trayesh, a first year student of enginering.

This beautiful garden is the result of the tireless efforts of students who served an hour every week for a moth in December 2012.

“We are proud of ourselves for doing something to love and preserve nature. I am really satisfied and happy seeing the bottle garden in the campus now” says Keerthi, another first year student.

Serve an Hour

The Amritapuri campus offers a 6-month ‘Serve an Hour’ course focusing on developing an attitude of selfless service among Amrita students.  The course emphasizes student learning through hands-on service projects.  The course also offers opportunities for students to collaborate in creative learning opportunities with students at government schools in rural areas through school visits and educational outreach activities.

Last semester, after a brainstorming session, one team of students decided to design and install a hanging flower garden on campus.

First, they collected the empty bottles from the recycling center. They now had to cut the bottles, drill holes, paint them, hang them in rows, and fill them with potting mixture in order to make them ready for planting. They worked with their faculty advisor and decided to pool in the efforts of all the students taking the Serve-an-Hour course. Making a list of supplies, developing a budget, deciding on the design for the flower garden, contacting the nursery for saplings and getting the saplings to campus – all this was part of the process but the team finally had everything together.

“We never thought that it would be one of the most wonderful experiences we would have at Amrita.   It was nice to involve in some work which help to prevent pollution and preserve nature.”  said Aswathy Nair one of the student volunteers of this InDeed campaign.

– Das

Haritamritam, organic farming project inaugurated

10,000 people to cultivate organic vegetables in 1,000 acres
22 Feb 2013, Amritapuri, Kollam

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy inaugurated Haritamritam, a new humanitarian initiative of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math today in Amritapuri Ashram in the presence of Amma. Haritamritam is an initiative to promote organic farming in the state.

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The Math is becoming a role-model for society
Inaugurating the initiative, the Chief Minister said “The social-service activities executed by the Mata Amritanandamayi Math are always conceived with foresight: its cleaning of public places, its tsunami relief-and-rehabilitation program, etc. In my personal perception, it has not been through words, but through action, that Amma has been able to bring about so much transformation. Today, with Haritamritam, a new chapter in the math’s humanitarian initiative. Haritamritam marks an inspiring step for organic farming—a move in the right direction. Assisting these 10,000 people to cultivating organic vegetables on 1,000 acres, the Math is becoming a role-model for society.”

Through Haritamritam, MAM is promoting vegetable cultivation. This will be initiated via Amrita SREE self-help-groups members. More than 10,000 Amrita SREE members from Kollam and Alappuzha will be growing vegetables on their own land. A total of 1,000 acres of land—comprising individual plots ranging from one cent to one acre—have been earmarked for Harithamritam’s first phase.

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For good health and to restore the harmony in nature

Explaining about the initiative Amma said, “The goal of ‘Haritamritam’ is to sustain the tradition of organic farming and to revive the culture of growing vegetables that one consumes, without using chemicals and pesticides. Everyone should be able to eat vegetables grown organically at least once in a week. The state of agriculture in Kerala is such that even the vegetables and flowers used for ‘Vishu kanni’ come from other states.”

Amma’s words were full of optimism and hope. “Even if a person is able to do organic farming in one cent of land, it is a big step in restoring the lost harmony of nature. We have not inherited the land from our ancestors; we have borrowed it from our children. We have to return this land to the coming generations without allowing even the slightest damage to happen to it” said Amma in her benedictory address.  “May this ‘Haritamritam’ scheme bring about an awakening and enthusiasm in all to strive for good health and to restore the harmony in nature” Amma said.

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MAM is distributing free seeds to all the participants, and is arranging training and demonstration classes by traditional farmers and agriculturalists adept in organic farming.

An instruction booklet prepared by retired agricultural officer TS Viswan—who has dedicated his retired years to promoting organic farming—is also being distributed.

Since 2005, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) has put more than 100,000 women into more than 6,000 AmritaSREE self-help groups.

– Kannadi

Cleaning Kolkata streets at night

20 Jan 2013, Kolkata, Bharata Yatra 2013

After sitting for almost 12 hours of continuous darshan during the last day of programs in Calcutta {news}, Amma still wanted to do more for her children.

During the darshan, at about 6:00pm, she announced that the road had to be cleaned and in this way the ABC would be launched in Calcutta. She sent brahmacharis to inspect the area that was to be cleaned and procure the necessary equipment for the cleaning operation.

So immediately after darshan at 11 pm, getting up from the stage Amma walked down the long driveway out to Budge Budge Trunk Road, the busy street that passes in front of the ashram. Along with 800 odd devotees, Amma then spent the next three hours cleaning 3km of the road outside the ashram. Amma herself donned gloves and a mask and got right into the filth that had accumulated over the years along the roadside. The devotees fanned out along the roadside picking up garbage of all shapes, sizes and smells and bagged it all up for collection. After raking, shoveling and scraping up the trash from the pavement for three hours, Amma then walked the entire 3km stretch of the road to observe all the devotees hard at work and show her appreciation for their efforts. On her way back to the ashram a large lorry arrived to collect all the bags of trash that had been collected.

Throughout the night, many local residents were roused from their slumber by the laughter and joy with which complete strangers from all over the world were cleaning their neighborhood. Many opened their doors and came out with stunned looks on their faces see what this strange celebration was that was taking place outside in the cold night. The stunned police who came to escort Amma was also helpful in directing the busy traffic on the road. The next morning when Amma and the tour group left for Odisha and the next stop on the tour, the road was completely spotless.

Since its launch, the Amala Bharatam project has held large clean up drives all over India. Several State governments across India have pledged their support for the Campaign and have sponsored clean up drivers in their states.{read more on ABC}

– Kannadi

Amrita Vidyalayam schools top national awards

28 Nov 2012, New Delhi
In a Government initiated sanitation rating of CBSE Schools all over the country, Amrita Vidyalayams have topped bagging 16 out of 100 awards. There are more than 10,200 CBSE Schools in India of which nearly 1,500 are in Kerala. In the state of Kerala, Amrita won 10 out of 19 total awards conferred in the State.

Dr. M.M. Pallam Raju, HRD Minister, gave away the Awards for 2012 to School Principals in a function held at Delhi today.

The Amrita Vidyalayams that received the National School Sanitation Awards are: Thalassery, Palakkad, Mananthavady, Pulpally, Pathanamthitta, Pandalam, Thiruvalla, Ernakulam, Ottapalam, Koilandy, Secunderabad, Kolkata, New Delhi, Navi Mumbai, Durgapur, and Ahmedabad.

The National School Sanitation Ratings is promoted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), Government of India. These annual awards were given for those Schools who have been taken noteworthy steps towards the betterment of sanitation scenario through (i) awareness generation leading to behavioural change through students and community mobilization, (ii) technical innovation and interventions, (iii) creation & conservation of green spaces, etc.

 

 

 

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Green initiative launched in St. Petersburg

Inspired by Amma’s words that “each and every person on this planet should play their part in restoring harmony to Nature”, the group of Amma’s devotees from St. Petersburg, Russia, has launched a green initiative to help the local botanical garden.

Established in 1714, the garden is home to 7.5 thousand kinds of plants from all over the world. It is also a rare green spot in the midst of a big city where its residents can get some fresh air and relax. The garden however does not get enough funding from the State to take care of its vast territory.

Amma’s devotees saw this as an opportunity to serve the society and at the same time to strengthen their bond with Mother Nature. Activities that have already been undertaken include raking up fallen leaves, cultivating the soil, weeding the plants, etc.

Working in the beautiful surroundings of the Botanical Garden, the volunteers feel joy and a sense of fulfillment, restoring harmony both outside and inside. Just as Amma says, “This relationship with Nature will give us a new vitality.”

Walk your path; clean your way

2 Jun 2012, Seattle , USA

Amma’s commitment to taking care of Mother Nature, being good stewards of our Mother the Earth, is not restricted to India {ABC news}. People all over the world are responding–including Amma’s children in the Seattle. On the second night of the retreat there this year, members of the Pacific Northwest Litter Campaign, not yet a year old, arrived in the hall from two back doors–a procession of children and adults, led by Atlas–well, a devotee, anyhow–holding over his head a great globe: the earth that needs to be clean and litter-free.

As they made their ways down the side aisles, the participants showed what it is they do: using sticks with grabbers on the end, they picked up (mostly imaginary) litter all along the route, and then ranged themselves across the stage where they sang three songs about caring for Mother earth.

One of the songs, composed by one of the satsang members, sounds like a good candidate for a work song for litter-picker-uppers all over the world. The tune is catchy, and the words say tell how to avoid making litter, and how to help when someone else has dropped it:

Picking up litter it’s easy to do
It’s up to me and it’s up to you
Picking up litter can be a lot of fun
Let’s go outside and get the job done.

Plastic bags are floating in the steams
Picking them up is not as hard as it seems
Grab a friend and go for a walk
Picking up litter while you talk.

One target for litter collectors is cigarette butts. The group earned $2250.00 for the future Pacific Northwest Amma Center by picking up cigarette butts in several parks in the Seattle area in projects sponsored by the United Health Foundation and the King County Tobacco Prevention Program. Cigarette butts are poisonous (one cigarette butt filter, with or without tobacco remnants, smoked or not smoked, in one liter of water will kill 50% of the fish living in it) and take a very long time to biodegrade as they are made of cellulose (thus they present a threat to wildlife: cigarette filters have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales and other marine creatures who mistake them for food).

The Pacific Northwest Litter Project started not quite a year ago with only 24 members. The group now comprises 258 participants, most from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia (Canada).

 

Children clean up Nature reserve in Swiss

Inspired by Amma’s ABC activities in India, children of the “Swiss Bala Kendra” started a waste collection in the area. This year’s motto of the children’s group has been “Humans and Nature in Harmony”. The drive was intended to put words into deeds.

The children and their parents went to collect the dispersed and sometimes well-hidden waste on paths, in the reeds, at the bank of the river Rhine and in the forest. They mostly found aluminium and plastic cans and bottles. The children were surprised by the huge amount of garbage they collected in a very short time.

Children who took part in the nature reserve

The local forest ranger was very excited, as he had never seen anybody doing a similar initiative in his 20 years of service in the area. Even the local newspaper wrote an article on this.

Earlier in February the children had a similar drive. For June, another clean-up drive is planned.

Clean up along the Suva sea beach

29 Jan 2012, Fiji

The first of Amma Fiji’s Green Friends initiative in 2012 was a beach clean up along the Suva Sea Wall. Over 30 participants, including expats and locals of all ages participated. Everybody worked cheerfully and even few people passing by joined in the cleaning work.

The group picked up hundreds of plastic bags and bottles, pieces of foam, and even some tires. Some of the rubbish had been there a long time as it was a real struggle to dig it out.

In the end, around 60 bags of garbage was picked up, and they managed to clean two beaches in two hours.

Inspired by Amma’s words, “It is our Dharma to take care of Nature”, Amma Fiji is planning to do other Green Friends activities throughout the year, such as holding workshops on composting and recycling waste.

Cleaning Manila Paco Market

27 Oct 2011, Manila

The Manila satsang group visited the Estero de Paco Manila & Segregation Bin Making, Activity Center, Paco Market.

The banks of the newly rehabilitated estero of Pasig is home to hundreds of families living in slums around downtown Manila, next to the Paco Market.

The satsang group was guided by the community leaders in building structures to hold the recycling bins. They proudly finished the new recycling bins to be distributed amongst the city residents to help keep their surroundings clean and green.

‘You may recollect what this river used to be like,’ said Mayor Lim, standing next to a bleak reminder of what the estero looked like, engulfed with garbage before the clean up. The cleanup drive was spearheaded by ABS CBN Foundation’s Pasig River Cleanup Project.