Newsletter April 2013

“EKal Vidyalaya Foundation” Celebrates 25 years of Unique Rural Literacy & Development Projects

This year, 2013, marks 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, the revered ‘spiritual master of modern age', who more than a century ago, initiated the concept of ‘oneness’ of global humanity. Noting the vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy in India, Swamiji had emphasized, “If the poor child cannot go to Education, then the Education must go to the child”. "Ekal Vidyalaya Movement", following this vision as guiding light to eradicate illiteracy, has turned Swami Vivekananda’s dream into a profound reality in the last quarter century. This year marks 25th year of "Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation" which has been dispensing functional literacy, health care training and Integrated Development in tribal, rural areas of India, while transpiring localized empowerment never seen before. To highlight this achievement of attaining the landmark ‘Silver Jubilee Year', “Ekal Vidyalaya Movement, USA”, a duly registered non-profit, tax-exempt Organization, launched a whirlwind series of over 40 fund-raising concerts all over USA between February and June, this year. Keeping up with their tradition of bringing the top notch talent of Bollywood, 'Ekal' this year invited ‘SA, RE, GA, MA, PA’ Melody queen ‘Sanjeevani Bhelande’ and popular singer Chirag Panchal to entertain their well-wishers. The details of these concerts are available at < >. There are plans ahead to convene an International meet in Chicago of Pan-Ekal Organizations, as a tribute to Swami Vivekananda whose inspiration has now  made ‘Ekal’ the largest grass-root NGO literacy movement in the world. Ekal schools are spread all over India, including ‘Jammu & Kashmir’. Annually, it takes only $365 to impart basic education and healthcare training to a group of 30-40 youths in one 'Ekal School'.

 According to Ashok Danda, President of Ekal-USA, "As of this moment, Ekal is operating 46,966 Schools educating over 1.33 million children in remote rural areas and Villages where, in many instances, not even basic amenities have reached.” Each year 'Ekal-USA' collects around $4 Millions (40 Lakhs Dollars or 20 Crodes Rupees) through their fund-raising concerts. In the last few years, "Ekal" has received numerous prestigious Awards and Grants, including 'Best NGO', for its transparency of operation and outstanding administration. To the amazement of proud Indians, ‘Pinki Karmakar’, a 17 year old girl from the remote tea-estates of Assam, who carried the relay-torch in London Olympics last year, was an ‘Ekal alumni’. She now symbolizes the new dawn of a vibrant future the rural folks can aspire to, with the advent of "Ekal". This is the very reason why Mr. Rodney Clark, V.P. of Microsoft, recently spent extensive time in 'Ekal' territories to explore how ‘Ekal’ is changing the face of rural development by utilizing local resources, creating awareness in personal hygiene and making Women self-reliant. With the kind of momentum 'Ekal' has garnered in recent years, and over 4,000 selfless volunteers joining hands, the future of establishing 100,000 schools in remote rural areas of India is definitely not a distant dream.


Ekal Global Learning-2013

EGL is being organized every year under the aegis of Ekal Abhiyan with the purpose of having experience Ekal at the ‘Heartland of Activities’. The participants get an opportunity to know the Ekal’s motive through various interactive sessions at the grass root level, the merits of the project, its social impact. They come to know the hardships & challenges faced by the workers who are determined to make the Ekal Movement a success to bring a remarkable change in the life style and thinking of the natives of these areas.
EGL – 2013 to Uttarakhand was organized during   21st to 25th February 2013. There were total nine participants in the team. Sri Nikhil Mehta, President EVFUSA Houston Chapter, Sri Shankar Chellaram and Sri Mehul Dave were from Dubai chapter of EVF.  Sri Vinod Agarwal, General Secretary- BLSP, Sri Ravi Dev Gupta, Secretary, EVFI;  Mrs. Meena Agarwal, Treasurer, Mahila  Samiti, BLSP, Smt. Manjushree,  the co-ordinator of EGL, Smt. Neha Ramani of BLSP and  Mrs.  Prakash Gupta.  Sri Amar Nath Joshi, the President of Nagar Samiti Haldwani, Sri Devi Deen Pal, Shri Khema nand, and Sri Rajneesh were also with the team since the beginning till last.
The team visited Ekal village Bundi Bhood and Ekal Village Bengali Colony, Saptahik Pathshala at Biriya in Nanakmata Sanch on 22nd Feb 2013; Acharya Monthly Training Programme at Maraya Bhattu, Katha Ayojan at Maryabhattu on 23rd Feb 2013; Khel Khud Pratiyogita at Someshwar Sanch on 24th Feb 2013, and Anchal Dakshta Varg on 25th February at Kalyanika Ashram in Anchal Almorah.
The arrangement for comfortable stay of the EGL participants was made at Hotel Lemon Park in Haldwani on 21st Feb; at hotel Arc and hotel Sonia at Ranikhet on 22nd Feb; at Hotel Gautami Heights-Kashipur on 23rd Feb and at Kalyanika Ashram on 24th February 2013. The team had dinner at hotel Lemon Park- Haldwani on 21st February; at hotel Arc-Ranikhet on 22nd February; at Hotel Gautami –Kashipur on 23rd February and at Kalayani Ashram on 24th February 2013.

The lunch was arranged at Shri Naresh Jain’s residence, Delhi on 21st Feb (Courtesy Shri Naresh Jain); at Hotel Jagdamba - Khatima on 22nd February (Courtsey Shri Gupta); at Maryahattu (courtesy Mr. Ajit Singh, Grand nephew of Shaheed Bhagat Singh on 23rd February; at hotel Parvati in Ranikhet on 24th February; and at Haldwani (courtesy Sri  Amarnath Joshi at his residence) on 25th Feb 2013.

The EGL 2013 was well planned, co-ordinated, organized and managed by Smt. Manjushree, Dr. Satish and Sri Madhvendra Singh and all the concerned Poornakalik Karyakartas and other members of Nagar Samitis and SVOs.

The villagers welcomed the EGL participants by putting Tilak with Roli-chawal and offering garlands. The all natives of the village was excited to meet the visitors and were in festive mood. At Bengali Colony, the shankh dhwani was produced and the ladies made the specific sound by rolling their tongue. 
The villages were found neat and clean and were beautifully decorated to give the warm welcome to the visitors. In almost all the places, colourful Rangolies were made. Slogans pertaining to Ekal movement were written on the walls. The participants freely interacted with the children in both the Ekal Vidyalayas and their parents, the samiti representatives and had photographs with them. In almost all the places, they expressed pleasure and requested to visit the places again.
At both the places viz. in Acharya Abhayas Varg and Anchal Dakshta Varg, the EGL participants interacted with the Acharyas, motivated and appreciated them for doing the remarkable work for the improvement of their own people and had the discussions for further betterment. Shri Nikhil Mehta of Huston and Smt. Meena Agarwal sang a song in the honour of Acharyas- signifying the importance of work done by Acharyas                      
                                                    Jagat Bhar Ki Roshni Ke liye,
    Karoron ki Jindagi Ke Liye-
    Sooraj re Tu Jalte Rehna
Sri Nikhil Mehta, Sri Mehul Dave and Mrs. Neha Ramani played Kabbaddi with the children at Khel Kud Pratiyogita in Someshwar. The welcome song presented in the honour of visitors was really touchy one. Sri Shankar Chelaram interacted with the children and acharyas, appreciated them for their work and always motivated them by citing various examples.  

The EGL participants would like to convey their sincere thanks for all the efforts put in to make the event a memorable one by making the journey & stay most comfortable and arrangement for homely meals at most of the places.


Prachar-Prasar organized by FTS

Friends of Tribals Society, Surat organized Prachar-Prasar (promotion) programme for spreading Ekal’s noble work to every people of India. This programme was held in the series of Silver Jubilee Year 2013 celebration of Ekal Movement. The event was successfully held in the campus of Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology (SVNIT), Surat on March 30, 2013.
Around 50 members of FTS Surat were present on the occasion. They distributed CDs, Brochures and literature of Ekal Movement to around 200 visitors and provided information about Ekal Movement to them. They appealed to the visitors to join Ekal Movement.


The Right Path to Success

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” I found this insight to hold true during my visits to Ekal Vidyalaya schools on a recent trip to Bharat.
My connection with the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation chapters in the United States had always been through lending a hand during annual Ekal fundraising programmes. I was inspired by my mother, Prajna Khisty's, relentless dedication to Ekal work despite her load of professional and personal responsibilities. The tasks of setting up the halls, serving food, collecting pledges, making announcements, and singing the Ekal song were all a pleasure to do in the company of other individuals who were passionate about helping their homeland reach new heights. As I volunteered for more programmes, I was exposed to the images, sounds, and statistics of Ekal work in the target communities of tribal villages. The smiling faces of children, the sounds of their voices rose in unison reciting songs, and the growing numbers of Ekal schools and success stories were all positive reinforcements for continuing to volunteer for such a wonderful and effective organization. However, thoughts always lurked in the back of my mind about actually setting foot in an Ekal Vidyalaya school and seeing the village, the children, and the teachers working together to help the community progress. In addition, while watching the Ekal Vidyalaya videos and interviews, I found myself yearning to ask questions to the children and their neighborhoods about their feelings and thoughts about the Ekal Vidyalaya experience. The only solution for my impatient mind was to stop thinking and just go to Bharat to confer with the other half of the Ekal family.

Luckily, at the Ekal Vidyalaya National Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the fall of 2012, I met a very intelligent and benevolent person, Dr. Satheesh Kumar, who offered his help in connecting me to a real Ekal Vidyalaya school environment.
Dr Sateesh had come all the way from Bharat to link with Ekal members in the U.S. and share his experience and insight. He immediately came to our aide and through him, we were able to meet up with two local Ekal volunteers, Ms Sangeetha and Ms Savita-tai Kamathe. We set aside a Saturday and began a four-hour journey to some Ekal Vidyalaya schools near the Junnar District in Maharashtra. Our goal was to visit two villages, Ghangaldhare and Damsewadi.

Ms Sangeetha is a native of Ghangaldhare and had at one point been an Ekal Vidyalaya teacher. As her experience and expertise grew, she took on the responsibility of a managerial and guidance position, overlooking many schools, helping training new teachers, and setting a powerful example of immersing oneself in sewa.  Ms Savita-tai also has a long history working for Ekal as a volunteer in the Pune area, along with her other life as an independent entrepreneur running her own business. It was really empowering to travel with such accomplished yet humble women, both strong and dedicated to serving others.

The beautiful scenery of budding farms and the clean, fresh rural air comforted us as we reached our destination in what seemed like the blink of an eye. The small village of Ghangaldhare greeted us with open arms, warm smiles, and a tika ceremony where the local women each blessed their guests. We were ushered into a small temple, the substitute location for the Ekal Vidyalaya lessons that day. As we stepped inside, bright, curious eyes and shy bursts of laughter welcomed us. A group of about 40 children, ranging from ages 4-14, sat neatly in rows according to their class year. The room was buzzing with their giggles and whispers but as soon as the teacher gave a command, the children demonstrated utmost discipline and quieted down. The next hour was a beautiful montage of songs, poems, multiplication table recitations, spiritual hymns, and joyful enthusiasm. Although initially shy, each child was eager to participate in solo and group demonstrations of their musical, history, and mathematics skills. Without batting an eye, each volunteer confidently stood up and belted out either melodious songs, answers to questions, or rapid recitations of multiplication tables of up to 25! We were extremely impressed that these children had memorized every word and every number of their lessons. Even the little ones joined their voices to the group as poised and self-confident students. When we got a chance to speak with the children, we were pleasantly taken aback by the eloquent responses of self-proclaimed future engineers, teachers and doctors. I was nervous when it was my turn to speak.  What would I be able to say or ask as a total stranger to such a bright group of students! I opted for an analogy and as I handed out chocolates to each child, I simply reminded them that although material things like chocolates are here and gone in an instant, knowledge is a real treat that would stay with you forever.
We headed off to Damsewadi. It was also a small farming village, with a close-knit population of families. We walked into another classroom with about 50 students inside, this time sitting in rows according their grade and gender. Several mothers and grandmothers also joined the class and observed all from the back. As the lessons began, we were again electrified by the powerful voices and confident stances of each child. Students practically fought over who got to go to the board to solve math problems or write new vocabulary. Their zest and eagerness for new challenges created a wonderful energy in the room. They sang a song about the harvest seasons in their village and later, one little boy explained that he wanted to grow up to be a farmer to help his family. When we asked each child about their future aspirations, 80 percent of the class enthusiastically proclaimed that they wanted to be engineers. It was especially rewarding to see that most of these future engineers were female students, undaunted by stigmas of male dominance in certain fields. Other kids also gave unique answers such as becoming educators; farmers, doctors and one bold little girl even proclaimed that she intended to be the next Sonia Gandhi! It was incredibly inspiring to see how the Ekal Vidyalaya atmosphere had inculcated a passion and hope in these young minds about their own capabilities.

Exposure to agricultural skills as well as literacy and mathematics skills had created a unique fusion of knowledge in the children of Ghangaldhare and Damsewadi. I cannot wait to find out where their dreams and experiences will take them, but I know that Ekal Vidyalaya has already set them on the right path to success. It was a stirring and almost spiritual experience visiting the Ekal schools and ever since, all I need to do is reach into my memory to gain new bursts of energy, hope, and passion. The untapped resources of bright children are a wasted resource and I hope to continue working for the Ekal Vidyalaya movement until Bharat can proudly have a 100 percent literacy rate.


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