Amrita Niketan Orphanage, Parippally
The Amrita Niketan orphanage is dedicated to caring for 500 children from the most disadvantaged sections of society, mainly from the tribal villages of Northern Kerala. With nourishing food and loving care, the children gain confidence and make a new start in life.
They receive an excellent education at Amrita Sanskrit Secondary School run by MAM. The school is the largest school in Kerala to teach Sanskrit as the first language, and is one of the best schools in the district.
The children excel in music, sports and dance. Extra curricular activities now include classical dance music, panchavadyam, tabla lessons, and computers. Children receive free coaching in all these areas from experts. One innovation is that they have a group of girls studying panchavadyam. Actually, girls playing panchavadyam is unheard of elsewhere–traditionally, only boys play it. Amma is very keen that girls also get a chance to learn it.
The children continue to win top prizes in many competitions—group song, patriotic song, panchavadyam and light music. A number of graduating students have been able to find jobs in Amma’s institutions.
One of the orphanage student, gained admission into Amrita University’s school of engineering. He lived here eight years, is from a very poor village in the tribal community of Attapadi. He is our first adivasi boy to attend University.
In order to encourage talented but financially poor students to take up higher studies, the Ashram has instituted the Amrita Scholarships. In addition, devotees also created endowments, the interest from which will be utilised for scholarships.
Above all, the children have found in Amma a loving mother. They feel a close bond with her and visit Amritapuri regularly.
The children’s visits to Amritapuri during festive occasions are much more than just a holiday for them. They spend time with Amma every day and take part in the ashram routine. For many of the children, Amma’s presence and the tenderness really does fill in the void they feel from having lost their parents or from leaving their homes.
Now MAM has another orphanage in Kenya called Amrita Watoto Boma.
History of the Orphanage
The original orphanage was established in 1964. By 1989, the institution was sinking under the weight of heavy financial debts. That year, the institution’s headmaster contacted Amma for help.
When MAM took over the orphanage in 1989, the buildings were dilapidated and the living conditions were extremely poor and unsanitary.
There was no medical facility and many of the children’s health problems went untreated. Boys and girls had to take baths outside by the water tank since there were no adequate bathing facilities. There were no functioning latrines for either the boys or the girls. The food was lacking in essential vitamins and minerals and there was no milk for the children.
The teachers in the school had to stand all day long because there were no tables or chairs. The thirty to forty children in each class had to do the best they could with only two or three benches per room. The dining hall was a small, dark room with a dirt floor which was always flooded during the summer months, forcing the children to stand while eating. There was no electricity and water was extremely scarce.There were neither utensils to cook with in the kitchen nor any supplies, not even a grain of rice or salt.
Since the children had been living with no rules or regulation for years, one of the first tasks for the brahmachari’s was to organise and discipline the children. They organised a schedule of systematic group study, prayers and bhajans. A strict timetable was established to provide a sense of regularity. A complaint box was installed for the children to have an alternate way of handling their problems. Each night they held mediation meetings to sort out and discuss the problems that arose from day to day.
The first summer months were extremely difficult. The roofs leaked in several buildings and many of the floors were irreparably damaged by years of flooding. The brahmachari’s began to do construction and repair work to ameliorate these problems.
MAM invested large sums of money in order to extend the dining hall and build school furniture, construct proper accommodation, repair broken toilets and build new ones, install plumbing and pumps, and repair and rewire the electrical system. The situation has drastically improved since then.
When one visits the orphanage now, one is eagerly greeted
by smiling, healthy children, their palms pressed together
in India’s traditional manner of polite salutation.
Now at the Orphanage
All new facilities have been constructed, including proper classrooms, accommodation, playground, a dance hall, medical facilities.
Many programmes have now been introduced at the orphanage, including music and instrumental instruction, daily yoga exercises and physical education, scheduled study periods and tutoring, prayers and bhajans and playtime.
The children are organised into groups that assist in the flower and vegetable gardening as well as the cooking. When one enters the kitchen, one will see small group of young girls or boys, aged twelve to eighteen, stirring huge pots of rice and curries, with another group of younger children chopping vegetables. The children are proud of their cooking and gardening, and they take great delight in showing visitors around the premises.
A doctor visits regularly, and a new medical facility has recently been built on the premises. The school extends up to the 12th standard. Sanskrit is taught to all the children.