Handing over the keys to the next 89 houses

25 June 2005

The Honourable Chief Minister of Kerala, Sri. Oomen Chandy will be handing over the keys to another 89 houses built for people of Arattupuzha Panchayat, Alappuzha District who had lost their homes in the tsunami. The ashram delegates will first present the keys to the Honourable Chief Minister. With this the total number of houses handed over to the beneficiaries by the Ashram will be 122.

The function will be held at Mata Amritanandamayi Math, Amritapuri on 26 June 2005 at 3.30 pm. Sri. K C Venugopal, Hon. Minister for Tourism will preside over the function.

In Tamil Nadu, where concreting for 30 houses is complete, the Math is the only organization to have started construction of replacement homes for the tsunami affected.

Ashram is a role model in tsunami relief work

18 June 2005 — Varavila, Klappana Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala
oommen chandy receiving key from Amritakripananda puri

“I don’t know how to thank Amma for her offer of unconditional aid and the plethora of services she has rendered,” said the Honourable Chief Minister, Sri. Oommen Chandy, during the inaugural address. “The government has not been able to keep its promise of rehabilitating all the victims before the monsoon. The relief work done by Amma and the Ashram is an example for others to emulate,” he added.

Swami Amritakripananda Puri handed over the keys to the 16 houses at a function held at Varavila in the Klappana Panchayat to the Chief Minister, who in turn, handed over the keys to the District Collector B. Srinivas.

The houses are constructed at Klappana Panchayat. Each house, with an area of 430 sq. feet, consists of two bed rooms, a toilet, a kitchen, a living room and a verandah. The houses have proper electrical wiring and plumbing; overhead water tanks have been provided and septic tanks constructed. The construction of these houses was started on May 11 and finished in about a month’s time.

Honourable Labour Minister Sri. Babu Divakaran distributed the driving licenses to the first batch of 60 youth of Alappad who had been given driving lessons at the Ashram’s driving school. More than 1,000 youth have registered to learn.

In his address the labour minister said, “The government is indebted to the Ashram for finishing the work in record time, understanding the suffering of the people. Those who have been working on the construction of these houses are role-models for others and they are to be applauded.”

About 80 people will be able to move out of the temporary shelters and live in their own houses.

The Ashram is the first NGO in India to have finished building houses based on the government plans for tsunami victims.

–Kannadi

Ashram finishes its first 100 houses in Kerala

16 June 2005 — Alappuzha, Ernakulam & Kollam Districts, Kerala

The Ashram has finished building a total of 100 houses in Kerala as part of its the tsunami relief efforts. The government of Kerala has entrusted the Ashram with building 1,600 houses. The Ashram is the first NGO in India to finish building houses based on the government plans for the tsunami victims.

The first 100 houses completed by the Ashram in Kerala include 18 in Ernakulam District, 66 in Alappuzha District and 16 in Kollam District.

The 16 houses in Kollam are in the village of Kulasekharapuram (Klappana Panchayat, three km from Amritapuri). These houses were built for people who formally lived right on the beach. In case of future tidal flooding, the houses were rebuilt three kilometres inland.

These houses will be officially handed over to the Government on 18 June 2005.

The 66 houses that the Ashram built in Valiya Azhikkal, Alappuzha District are on individual private land holdings [pictured below]. It has a remaining 84 houses to builed in Alappuzha District.

Each of these 100 houses, occupying 430 sq. feet, consists of two bedrooms, two toilets, a kitchen, a living room and a veranda. The electrical, plumbing and painting in these houses are also complete.

These house were built according to one of two plans: the ordinary houses and the tsunami-resistant houses. The families selected the plan according to their preference. The tsunami-resistant house is a two-storey structure built on concrete piles that extend seven metres underground and which extend upward in a column to the top of the superstructure.

These houses have been built in strict compliance with government plans. Government officials have been inspecting each stage of the construction work, before granting approval to the Ashram to proceed to the next stage of construction.

In Kollam District, construction of houses began on 11 May 2005, with the laying of the foundation stone. As of date, the piling work of almost 300 houses is finished, and 50 others have already been concreted as well.

In Ernakulam District, the Ashram was permitted to build 50 houses, but land for only 18 houses was originally allotted. Those 18 houses were completed on 11 April 2005. On 10 June, the Ashram started constructing the remaing 32 houses, following the government’s release of more land.

The Ashram plans to finish building as many houses as possible before the monsoon gets heavier.

— Sakshi

Housing for psychologically challenged

13 May 2005 — Trivandrum, Kerala

On the first night of Amma’s Trivandrum Brahmasthanam Festival, Amma handed once again handed over keys to houses. But these keys were given not given to the poor, but to the government. The 10 homes were constructed to serve as much-needed halfway houses for patients of the Mental Hospital of Trivandrum.

Many times when people are released from such hospitals, they do not have anywhere to go, especially when family members are no longer interested in supporting them. These houses, which are for all purposes an additional ward of the hospital, provide both homes and a community for people who no longer need the 24-hour-a-day monitoring of a psychiatric ward, but still are taking medication. The houses have been built in two blocks, five houses for men and five houses for women.

Amma handed the symbolic key over to the Health Minister of Kerala, Sri. K.K. Ramachandran Master, who then handed it to Dr. Jayram, the Superintendent of the Mental Health Centre of Trivandrum. Also on the dais were Sri. K. Mohan Kumar, MLA and President of the District Congress Committee; Dr. B. Mahila Mony, the Director of the District Health Department, and social worker Sri. P. Govinda Pillai.

Sri. Govinda Pillai is a well-known political thinker and for years has been a key spokesman of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). “I do not follow any religious rituals and beliefs,” he said. “But what Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi does for society, I find worth appreciating. The mental patients are not given adequate care under the government machinery. I came here to express my heartfelt support to Amma for her acts of compassion and kindness.”

Construction started in Alappad panchayat

Ashram Lays Foundation Stone for Tsunami Housing Project

11 May 2005 — Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala

The foundation stone for the houses Mata Amritanandamayi Math is building for tsunami-affected people in Alappad Panchayat was laid today at 8:00 a.m by the district collector of Kollam, Sri. B. Srinivas.

The Kerala government has allotted 1,200 houses to the Ashram for reconstruction in Alappad Panchayat [this number is continuing to increase as time goes on and the government continues to allot more and more houses to the Ashram]. This is in addition to the 200 houses allotted to the Ashram for reconstruction in the districts of Ernakulam and Alappuzha. The Ashram has already completed rebuilding the houses in Ernakulam, having handed them over to the district administration on 11 April. The construction of the houses in Alappuzha is in progress.

After brahmacharis of the Math performed a foundation-stone puja, the vice chairman of the Math, Swami Amritaswarupananda, welcomed the gathering.

Sri. Vijayakumar, the deputy collector; Mrs. Maniamma, Tehsildar of the Karunagappally taluk; Mrs. Leelabhai, president of Alappad Panchayat; Mrs. Kasturi and Sri. M.V. Shaji, members of Alappad Panchayat; and various office-bearers of the karayogam were also present.

–KaliCharan

Amma is a role model for the world

9 April 2005 — Trissur Ashram

Tomorrow Amma will install and consecrate the murti for Her 18th Brahmasthanam Temple. But tonight She handed house keys over to 10 of the Trissur District’s poor. The keys are representative of 100 houses the Ashram is constructing here as part of its Amrita Kuteeram project to build 100,000 free houses for the poor across the country. For Amma building houses for the poor and building temples for God are equally sacred. As Sri. Therambil Ramakrishnan, the honourable speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Kerala put it, “Amma has proved that manava seva is Madhava seva-“serving mankind is serving God.'”

Sri. Ramakrishnan, who handed over the keys blessed by Amma to the poor, was speaking as part of the Trissur Brahmasthanam Festival’s inauguration. In his speech, he said that Amma is the spiritual ambassador of the eternal culture of Bharat. “Amma is a living legend of motherly love,” he said. “Amma’s humanitarian activities are a model for the world to follow. In reaching out to the tsunami victims—helping them and consoling them—in an area where the government has failed, Amma has been successful. What no government has been able to do, Amma is doing.”

“In this dark world someone has lit a candle,” Sri. Ramakrishnan concluded, “Instead of complaining about the darkness, follow the light.”

-Sakshi

A different kind of party

Japanese College Students Build Houses for Tsunami victims

13 March 2005 — Edavanakkad, Ernakulam District, Kerala

Ask your average college student what he or she intends to do on their vacation and most likely the response is going to involve some combination of the words “beach,” “dance” and “partying.” But about 100 students from Japan decided to get respite from their studies in another way: travelling to India to unload cement blocks and dig foundations for Amma’s tsunami-relief free-housing project.

The students are part of IVUSA (International Volunteer University Student Association), which has established a relationship with Amma’s Ashram, in that almost every year since 1998 some of its members have come to participate in the Amrita Kuteeram free-housing programme—helping in places from Kerala to Gujarat. (news)

With the tsunami laying waste to thousands of homes throughout South India, this year the students set up camp in Kerala’s Ernakulam District, focusing on the village of Edavanakkad, where the Ashram is building 50 homes.

“They worked so hard,” says Vivek, an ashramite from Japan who has helped coordinate the IVUSA students for several years now. “They have fun, but they find the fun in working. They are so enthusiastic. They would start work around 8:00 in the morning and then go on to sundown. After that, we would sing bhajans. One time Swami Poornamritananda came and played his flute. It was like a flute-meditation for them.”

“Their attitude is very in tune with how Amma teaches us to be in our work, as far as willingness to transcend their bodily comforts,” says Gautam, an ashramite from the U.S. who was also involved in coordinating the project. “One of the plots was marked right on top of this muddy bog. I told them that we had to clear it out, and they just jumped right in and spent most of three days shovelling out all the muck. In the end they looked like mud people.”

Other jobs the students participated in included the unloading of some 30 truckloads of cement blocks, digging foundations for 18 homes and general land-clearing duties.

Although the students have paid what many young people would consider “the ultimate sacrifice”—paying to fly to another country to work, for free, on their vacation—the IVUSA students feel that they have received more than they have given.

“When I come here, I see that even the eyes of poor people are shining so brightly,” says Hayato Eto, a young man studying in Tokyo who has come three times now to participate in the Ashram’s project. “I keep asking myself why that is. I believe it is because they are rich in heart. I also learned a lot about adjusting. Construction in Japan is very different; everything is done with machines. Here we are carrying all the bricks by hand. You really learn to adjust.”

Every day the students were shuttled from their lodgings to the construction site. As the last kilometre of road was too narrow for the buses, they would have to get out and walk, and each day more and more of the villagers would come out to greet them as they passed by. “It was really beautiful,” says Gautam. “The last day it was like a procession. They were saying ‘Om Namah Shivaya,’ to everyone and everyone was saying it back—even the Muslim families. It was such an example of Amma’s teaching of how love is the universal language.”

Before the students returned to Japan, they made a short trip down to Amritapuri to have Amma’s darshan. Most people meet Amma and then become inspired by Her example to start serving the world. For these students it was the other way around.

“Darshan was so warm,” says Akina Tomimatsu, a 20-year-old girl from Tokyo. “It was a kind of love I’ve never experienced before. All the people I met here were so warm-hearted. When I go back to Japan, that is what I want to try to take with me—to treat everyone with kindness and love.”

—Tulasi

Build only 50 houses, says the Govt.

2 Feb 2005, Amritapuri

The State Government of Kerala is initially allowing the Ashram to rebuild only 50 houses in Alappad Panchayat. This is in response to the Ashram’s request to rebuild all of the more than 1,000 houses destroyed in the panchayat. The houses must be built to the government’s model, which is stated to be “disaster-resistant” and of a total of 430 square feet. The Ashram proposed to build two-story houses—so that people would not drown should high water come again—but the government’s plan is for single-floor houses.

Employment for youth
Amma today spoke with the 500 applicants for the driver’s training course being offered at the Ashram’s ITC school today. She then answered many of their questions and gave them darshan.

Medical camps
Since 27th Dec, doctors from Amrita Schools of Dentistry posted at the tsunami relief centres are conducting free dental camps. It was found that the prevalence of oral diseases is high among the affected people, mainly because of negligence of the oral hygiene.

From Bhuj to Amritapuri

Amma was there for Them…Now They are Here for Amma

15 January 2005 — Amritapuri
Gujarat people

In 2001 when the earthquake devastated Bhuj, Amma responded much the same way she is now. She immediately sent doctors, ambulances, brahmacharis and devotees to help. A year later, the Ashram had entirely reconstructed three whole villages—a total of 1,200 houses, plus hospitals, community halls, temples and mosques.

So, when the sarpanch [village chief] of Mokhana heard that “Mataji’s” village had been hit by the tsunami, he and nine other villagers boarded the Gandhidham-Nagarcoil Express and came to help.

“When things were bad for us, Mataji came and built villages,” said Lakshmanbhai, the Mokhana sarpanch. “Now things are bad for Mataji’s village, so it is our dharma to help. Amma is Sri Krishna to us. She will do everything.”

Patel, a member of the team said compared to their own losses at home, the Kerala village was more fortunate. “If we could win back our lost hopes, surely these people will also do so and we all are here to help them.”

Before departing for Amritapuri, Lakshmanbhai and the sarpanches of the other two villages rebuilt by the Ashram (Dagara and Modsar) also went door-to-door collecting goods for use in Amma’s relief work. In the end, the families of their villages gave 20 tonnes of grains, blankets and clothing. Unfortunately, the cost of renting a lorry to bring those goods to the Ashram was more than they had. But the sarpanches decided to donate it to the local Collector in Amma’s name for use in tsunami relief.

Amma adopted three villages of Mohana, Modser and Dakara of Bhuj in the wake of the quake and constructed about 2000 homes in these villages for the displaced.

–Sakshi

Temporary shelters are ready

10th January 2005

The temporary shelters built by the Ashram are now finished and have running water and electricity provided through an Ashram generator. These shelters are 2 kilometers away from the Ashram, on the land owned by the ashram.

The shelters have 15 toilets and 15 bathrooms.

With the help of devotee-volunteers and brahmacharis who worked around the clock, the shelters were completed within four days

The Ashram is waiting on government approval to allow the people staying at the mainland relief camps to shift to the shelters.

Ashram lends five acres of land to the government so that they too can build temporary shelters for those rendered homeless.