Vidyamritam extended to include HIV/AIDS orphans

21 September 2009 – Amritapuri

On 26 September 2009, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) will provide another 2,000 scholarships to impoverished children. The scholarships are part of the Vidyamritam program {news}, through which 30,000 children throughout India are already receiving such aid.

Vidyamritam was launched by MAM in September 2007 in order to help fight ‘farmer suicide,’ an epidemic plaguing India with increasing frequency, as drought, crop failure and debt become more and more common. Experts say that at least 160,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1997, with 17,500 incidents between 2002 and 2006. Perhaps one of the most shocking statistics is one reported in the Vidarbha Region of Maharashtra, wherein, in 2006, 1,044 suicides were reported in the agricultural community—that is one death every eight hours.

Through Vidyamritam, MAM will ultimately pay for the education of 100,000 children living below the poverty line. The 2,000 scholarships will expand the current number of scholarships to a total of 32,000. The latest batch of beneficiaries not only includes children who have lost parents to farmer suicide, but also children whose parents have HIV/AIDS or have been otherwise orphaned.

The children (ages 10 to 15) receive a quarterly stipend until they finish their education. MAM volunteers regularly verify the children are continuing their educations and that the funds are being used either for school fees or supplies.

Reports show that farmers in India are committing suicide over debts as small as $300 U.S. As such, the Vidyamritam scholarships help keep children in school without adding to their parents’ sense of financial burden. Only if the children of such families receive proper educations will their families be freed from total dependence on agriculture as a source of income.

Vidyamritam is a permanent humanitarian program of MAM, with new students taking over the scholarships of graduates.

Beneficiaries are from the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.

As an extension of this project, MAM is conducting camps and programs for Vidyamritam beneficiaries in order to help inculcate values and a sense of empowerment. One such program—for 10,000 Vidyamritam beneficiaries—will be held at Amritapuri on 26 and 27 September.

Educational scholarships are also offered in Singapore {news} and  Nairobi {news}.