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White C(r)ane for school children in Kenya

On April 11th, 2015, seventy blind children and youth from Thika Primary School of the visually impaired received white canes as part of AYUDHs ‘White C(r)ane Project’. Initiated by blind AYUDH member Matthias, from Germany, youth across Europe had spent the past eight months raising funds to sponsor the project. As a representative of Embracing the World, Br. Shubamrita handed over the 70 canes during a special ceremony at the school, as the first phase of the Project. Speaking words of encouragement to the students, Shubamrita reminded the children that with an inspired inner vision and proper understanding of life, the children can reach the heights of success and happiness in life. He asked the children to pursue their dreams and ambitions, despite their physical challenges.

To advance the next phase of the project, Embracing the World volunteers will travel to the remaining schools for the blind in all of Kenya to look into the needs of children there and expand the project accordingly.

For days prior to the ceremony the blind children were composing and practicing a song, expressing their gratitude and appreciation towards Amma, founder and leader of the Embracing the World movement, as well as to the youth in Europe who showed their solidarity by raising the funds for the White C(r)ane Project. The song brought tears in the eyes of everybody present in the function.
– Dass

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Aiding the visually impaired in Kenya

The fourth time Embracing the World teamed up with “Stop Blindness” and “Vision without Borders” to prevent blindness in Kenya. Led by Isabel Maria Signes Soler from Spain conducted 154 surgeries at the Busia Public Hospital between 10th to the 19th April 2015.

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Busia County is a rural area of Kenya, near to the border with Uganda. The prescreening had been done by local ophthalmic doctors who selected the patients with cataracts and other ambulatory procedures. It was The patients were extremely grateful to have received this free and comprehensive treatment.

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Most of the surgeries were to remove cataract, while some other eye problems were also treated, such as Pterigium and Conjunctival Melanoma. Young patients aged 9, 12 and 13 were also operated of traumatic cataracts. It was found that one of the widely spread conditions was uncorrected presbyopia, for which reading glasses were given to the patients free of charge.

One old woman told the doctors that she had two children but they both died. Now she was living alone and had nobody to help her. It was proving to be very difficult for her as she could not see. Her vision was less than 10% in both eyes. The team performed cataract surgery in both eyes. After the second surgery, she started dancing in joy right in the operation theater.

Another woman was suffering from leprosy and could hardly walk. She was operated in both eyes and was very happy having regained her vision.

Hon. Sospeter Odeke Ojaamong, the governor of Busia County, met with the doctors and expressed his heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for their hard work and dedication. The hearts of the beneficiaries were also filled with gratitude towards Amma and the medical team for the help they were receiving.

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– Dass

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Please come to show us your smile again

This past February, 63 Japanese students from IVUSA returned to the same small village in Chandrapuri, Uttarakhand where they had helped build homes last year as part of flood relief project.

This year, the relief efforts extended to building a new school. Since the flood, students have been studying in a small, dark prefabricated hut. The energetic Japanese students were more than happy for this wonderful opportunity to serve.
The students worked on two simultaneous projects:
– demolishing the old school buildings and clearing the area.
– carrying building materials such as sand, bricks and metal to the site to make concrete

Throughout their two week stay, the students were fully energized, taking care of each other, working together as a group, and at the same time, enjoying every moment. It was beautiful to see their happiness. Everyone had the same single intention – to make people smile and happy through their service.

Each student had worked part-time jobs during the year to cover their airfare and travel expenses. Coming from a country that is full of comforts and the latest electronic products to the foot of the Himalaya Mountains where there is no hot water or electricity, the students took full advantage of this rare opportunity to get something more precious – joy and happiness – which cannot be bought.

During their stay, the students enjoyed celebrating Holi (the festival of colors), bathing in the icy cold water of the Mandakini River, eating vegetarian curry every day, and experiencing yoga in the cold on the roof with a view of the snow covered Himalayas. The students also got to see the Ganga Arathi at Har-ki-Pauri Ghat in Hardwar. The experience was beyond their imagination. Their time spent in India provided them with unforgettable memories for the rest of their lives.

One local village lady said that the Japanese students were very inspiring and very hard working. She really appreciated their coming to her village. “We are so happy to see you all!”

A student responded, “What else can we do to serve you? What more can we do next time?”

She replied, “Just please come to show us your smile again, nothing else more we want. Buhud Dhaniyavad (Thank you very much)”

-Vivek

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Sanitation project in Uttarakhand

The inaugural batch of Ammachi Labs “Women’s Empowerment: Sanitation Project in Uttarakhand” has been launched in Nala village just outside of Guptakashi.

Rather than building free toilets for a few needy families, we are teaching local women the construction skills to build toilets for their entire community. Using a combination of tablet based education and hands on training Ammachi Labs will:
1) Promote health and hygene awareness.
2) Greatly improve the sanitation of the entire village.
3) Teach valuable skills which will give women a source of continuing income.
4) Instill a feeling of self respect and self reliance.

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Yamuna, an Embracing the World volunteer from France, is Ammachi Labs Coordinator for Uttarakhand. She is equally at home with hands on instruction and the tablet based content which makes this program unique.

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Normally these women would only carry the materials while men do all the skilled work. Today they eagerly tried their hand at new skills like measuring a site, mixing mortar, laying brick, using a plumb boband water level. Stopping only for darkness, they had built the foundation of their first toilet in just one day.
– Das

Jharkhand team 2015

I will take the light to dispel the darkness

“When I return to my village I will teach how one becomes physically dependent on alcohol and how difficult it is to stop drinking once you start,” said Pankaj Kumar, age twenty-two. “I will explain how inhaling smoke from indoor stoves is bad for health, and how chimneys can easily be installed.”

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Pankaj, from the flood devastated state of Uttarakhand, was one of twenty one men and women who just completed a one month Health Worker Training Course in Amritapuri as a part of Amrita SeRVe’s 101 Self Reliant Villages undertaking. The group was invited from villages in Bihar, Chattisgarh, Rajastan and Uttarakhand. During the course, they learned skills that will help educate their rural communities on health related issues.

Hemalata Bist, a twenty-eight year old mother of two from Uttrakhand, enjoyed the classes, which included a two-week program at AIMS – Amma’s hospital in Cochin. There, they learned to recognize the symptoms of diseases and the importance of hygiene.

“We can educate people to get medical help early to prevent illness,” Hemalata said. “I will spread awareness on how disease can be prevented by cleanliness.”

Participants attended workshops ranging from first aid, basic hygiene, and early detection of diseases, to waste management, compost making, recycling and re-using plastic, building smokeless stoves, and making natural water filters. Participants also learned about pesticides, organic farming and how to start a vegetable garden. Daily yoga classes were also given.

P. Ganga Reddy, from Chattisgharh, was surprised to learn that washing one’s hands is an important disease preventative. “I will tell everyone in my village that by washing their hands regularly they can avoid many serious illnesses,” she said with an excited smile.

Shyamlal Poyam, twenty-two, also from Chattisgharh, said his village uses a lot of pesticides for farming. He is eager to share what he learned in the course about organic farming and natural fertilizers. “We can shift from using pesticides to natural farming. This will protect our health for the future.”

“There is a lack of clean water in my village,” Shyamlal added. “People and animals bath in the same river and there are many skin diseases. The AmritaServe teachers showed us how to make water filters from materials found in nature. I am happy to bring this knowledge to my village and show them how easy it is to make these.”

Ramavathar Meena, age twenty-six, from Rajastan agreed, “We learned that water filters purify the water and this will help stop the problem of diarrhea in our villages. I will share all of what I have learned here. I will also explain to people that smoking causes cancer  and I will encourage people to stop smoking.”

“I will tell how standing water is a breeding ground for malaria carrying mosquitoes,” noted Ramavathar, who is also anxious to inform his village about the toxicity of pesticides and smoke from indoor stoves. He is excited to share the solutions that were offered in the class; building stove chimneys, and using organic fertilizer. He did not stop there, “I will inform everyone about how inhaling smoke from burning plastic causes lung diseases. I will encourage people to use cloth bags at the market and not plastic!”

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Sunil Mishra, age thirty-seven, from Bihar, said he was very inspired by the Hatha Yoga classes he attended as part of the program in the Ashram. “Practicing yoga is the first step for good health. Yoga is a free medicine. I will go back and teach the youth in my village the Surya Namaskaram!”

When asked how he came to this program, Sunil exclaimed proudly, “Amma adopted my village!” He continued, “I like being in the ashram because everyone is peaceful and smiling! I will do my best to influence the people in my village to live a life with love so we can have compassion towards all living things, foster nonviolence within ourselves, and be truthful to each other.”

Shyamalal enjoyed the diversity in the Ashram and he liked, “to see all the people from different backgrounds and countries.”

Pankaj said, “I feel as if I was born here. Everyone is very loving to us.” Everyone in the course agreed.

Ramavathar added, “The people here in the ashram showed love to us even though they did not know us. That is invaluable.”

Hemalata added, “I never dreamed I would feel comfortable traveling so far from my village, but now I want to stay!”

Harrish, twenty-two from Uttarakhand, nodded his head in agreement, “My life has changed for the better from my stay here. I also wish I could stay but I have parents to take care of.”

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Amma said of the group, “They have come to the ashram with the attitude of asking what they can do for society.”

Amma knows well their hearts. Harish promised to “take the light of what I learned here and bring it with me to my village and to dispel the darkness all around.”

The group was asked, “What is the most important thing you experienced from your stay here that you will share with others?” Hemalata answered without hesitation, “Amma’s darshan! I didn’t know Amma before coming here. I had only seen a photo. But now I can go back and speak about Amma. I will remember Amma in every breath and cell of my body. Amma is in my heart.”

– Sundar

Distributing sarees in Tamil Nadu

Under the leadership of Br. Ajamrita Chaitanya, MAM distributed sarees for the poor people in connection with Amma’s 61st birth days celebrations at Tenkasi, Puliyarai, Ayikudi, Puliyangudi, Pavoor areas of Tirunelveli district; Sattur, Thiruthangal, Dhalavaipuram, chatrapatti and Rajapalayam in Tirunelveli district; Thirupachetti in Sivagana district; Palamedu, Samayanallur, Melur areas of Madurai district; Natham, Ayyampalayam, Chitrarevu areas of Dindigul district; and Cumbum of Theni district of Tamil Nadu. Swami visited their home and thousands of sarees were distributed personally. They were so happy as it was Deepavali season and they considered it as a Deepavali (Diwali) present from Amma.

 

Attappadi medical camp and health awareness class

In commemoration of the Silver Jubilee Celebration of the Tribal Welfare Work at Attappadi, a medical camp led by Dr. Ageesh from the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (Amrita Hospital) – Kochi, consulted 68 tribal patients and they were given medications. 18 glucose tests were administered and the proper medications were given. All medicines were supplied free of cost.

Eswari Resan held an orientation class for the Tribal Health Animators (who are undergoing training at AIMS). The class, which focused on the tribal health and education problems faced in the hamlets, was given through the tablet education project run by CREATE @Amrita.
Yoga counseling was also administered to 21 tribal youngsters.

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White Canes to the blind youth in Kenya

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On behalf of Embracing the World, Mr. Nagesh Karuturi, chairman of MAM Charitable Trust, Kenya, is handing over the first canes to students of Thika school for the visually impaired, Kenya.

On the occasion of Amma’s 61st birthday, Embracing the World and AYUDH Kenya volunteers handed over the first set of  canes to blind youth at Thika school, Kenya.

The visually-impaired school has a mixture of students who have varying degree of vision loss, from albino children with photosensitive eyes to completely blind children. Yet, not a single one of them had owned a cane, which can make life much significantly easier for a blind person.

Upon receiving the canes, the entire children body did a big “thank you” jig by clapping, clicking and stamping the floor in succession. Two girls came forward, and one of them thanked AYUDH and the good work being done by the White C(r)ane project, while the second girl recited a beautiful prayer. AYUDH promised them to be back with more canes in the near future and to make sure that every child who needs a white cane in the school gets it. AYUDH has already collected funds for a total of 300 canes and is currently looking into finding the right sizes and models matching the needs of children and youth in Kenya.