Newsletter February 2013

Silver Jubilee of Ekal Movement and 150th Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda celebrated

Rural/ Tribal youth from Ekal School Villages participate in mini marathon in Delhi
New Delhi, Jan.13, 2013 : Thousands of rural folk, including tribals, participated in a marathon organized here on Sunday to spread awareness about education and celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of visionary leader Swami Vivekananda.

Veteran cricketer Kapil Dev, ace wrestler Sushil Kumar ace shooter Vikram Bhatnagar and Indian mountaineer Santosh Yadav flagged off the premiere marathon at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium here.

The event saw the presence of around 3,000 people from rural areas, participating in various sub-events involving a distance run of 5.5 kilometers. The total number of runners including veteran, youth, ladies urban and rural were more than five thousand.

Explaining the cause of the marathon, General Secretary of Ekal Abhiyaan, Praveen Arya, hailed the transformation of initiative that has been turned into a movement.

"This movement was started from one rural school in tribal belt of south Bihar, where functional literacy is being provided but with the passage of time, we realized that more needed to be done in terms of providing value and health education and overall development education of the village. This initiative has been now transformed into Ekal movement, wherein we are making relentless efforts to mainstream tribal villages," he said.

The program was organized by Bharat Lok Shiksha Parishad (BLSP) to mark the beginning of 25th year of Ekal Abhiyaan rendering selfless service through Ekal Vidyalayas based on five tier functional education for the holistic development of Tribal and Rural Bharat. On the occasion of silver jubilee celebration all the partners organizations of Ekal movement such as Friends of Tribal Society, Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of India, Arogya Foundation and SVOs participated in full strength.

"We belong to a rural area and have never come to a big city like this. We have been able to come here through the courtesy of Ekal Vidyalaya, which is doing a good work. I would like to urge all children in need of education to join the institution," said Rajat, one of the participants from Jharkhand.
Ekal Vidyalaya officials along with other dignitaries presented accolades and prize money to the winners.

Kapil Dev on his part spoke on the importance of education. "People should have the motivation to study and our country's children must get the right to education. This is my biggest belief. It is good to combine sports with studies," he said.

Meanwhile, Sonal, National Woman Chairperson of BLSP hailed the event. "Lots of students are here, they have not even seen either Delhi, metro or train. They have come here and running here altogether with everybody. And hence, they are feeling so good," said Sonal Rasiwasia.
On this occasion it was announced that the Ekal movement is now operating in 46,699 villages and educating over 13,28,118 children in rural India.

The formal launching of silver Jubilee year of Ekal Abhiyan was done same day in the evening. It was followed by a grand cultural program.
BLSP Patron Sri Laxmi Goyal welcomed the gathering and the president Sri Naresh Jain thanked everybody for gracing the occasion. Sri Shyamjee Gupta was the key note speaker and Sri Ashok Singhal was the Chief Guest.


Swami Vivekanand’s 150th birth year celebration in Ekal Villages

As the part of Swami Vivekanand’s 150th birth year celebration, our team celebrated the Swami Vivekananda’s 150th Birth year celebration at Alakandiputhur, a Tribal village in Ooty Anchal of Tamilnadu.
We started Rally at Anaikatty village with 67 children, 8 Acharya and 5 fulltime workers. After starting, many villagers also joined the rally. We concluced the rally at Alakandiputhur village where we conducted small games to our Vidyalaya children, Shloka, patriotic songs etc. I gave a small speech about Swami Vivekanand. All the participants enjoyed very well.


Arogya Foundation of India organized medical camps

Arogya Foundation of India organized medical camps at Sultanpur, Sonbhadra and Renukut Anchals in the 3rd Week of January 2013. Around 650 patients suffering from different diseases got the treatment in the camps. Dr. Sarita Mittal from Delhi and many local doctors voluntarily participated in the camp.


Ekal Vanyatra of Canada Rotary Club team

The members of the Rotaray Club of Mississauga Meadowvale of Canada, Sri Leesi and Lesley Barmaniya came to Hydrabad. Sri Uday Khardekar ji Gen.Secretary, Janahitha Andhrapradesh received them. On their request a school visit to Sindhanoor Village school of Ieeja Sanch in Palamuru Anchal was conducted by me.

On 3rd Jan.2013, Smt Sumalatha,  Anchal Mahila Committee Pramukh, Sri Thirumala Rao Gadwal, Sankul Samithi Pramukh and Sri Raghavendra,  Srisailam Bhag Pramukh also participated in the Vanayatra. After seeing various activities (Education, Reading of Up and Down tables, Dance with Educational Songs, - kolatam and Yoga Vyayam) of Ekal school Children, the visitors became very happy. The Village committee warmly welcomed these Rotary Club members. A large number of villagers participated on this occasion.
The visitors Sri Leesi and Lesley Barmaniya awarded a certificate to Kumari Sujatha, teacher of the school for outstanding work with the children of Sindhanoor School. The village school committee and children were very happy after receiving the certificate.
Pyarasani Ramakanth
Central Team Member, Ekal Abhiyan


Providing a beacon of hope in the land traversed by Lord Ram

It was a cloudy, humid and rainy January afternoon day in Rameswaram, the pilgrimage town in Tamil Nadu famous for the starting point of the magnificent Rama Setu rock bridge built by Lord Ram to cross over to Lanka as well as the Jyotir lingam dedicated to Lord Shiva by Lord Ram after his victory over Ravana.  I was waiting along with my father for the representative of Ekal Vidyashram – Ms Nalayini ji to meet us in Rameswaram and take us to the site of one of the Ekal Vidyalayas that I sponsored.
Ms Nalayini finally arrived with another Ekal Vidyalaya volunteer- Ms Renuka at the lodge we were staying at in Rameswaram and we all proceeded to make our journey in the tourist taxi we had rented.  The school was in a village called Sathiya Nagar about 90 minutes away from Rameswaram known in an area called Ahzahan Kulam. I learnt from Nalayini ji that like other Ekal Vidyalaya schools in Tamil Nadu and some other states in India, this was run as an evening school. The kids attending the vidyalaya go to  Government school during the day and get education under the government designated curriculum and also availed of the free mid-day meal provided in the school by the Tamil Nadu government. They then come to the Ekal Vidyalaya schools to cover any gaps in their learning as well as learn indigenous Indian (Bharatiya) sanskars (cultural practices) and values. Moreover since the parents of many of these kids were employed in the fields in the nearby villages or small towns and reaching till evening / night, these vidyalayas also function as a quasi day care for people of much smaller means.
There was heavy rain throughout our journey and it continued on as we reached Sathiya Nagar. I could see a white shed/barn like structure with open doors near the village temple and was told that this is the place where classes were usually held. However since it was raining, today’s class was actually going to be held in the temple itself- a small Mariamman (Durga/Devi) temple built in typical Tamil village temple style. Two other Ekal volunteers including the prant (district) in charge and the achraya (teacher) Ms. Priya also joined us. As the kids came in with vibhuti (sacred ash) on the forehead in traditional style, they probably wondered who the two new people standing with cameras were. The class started with all the kids reciting the most sacred of mantras- the Gayathri Mantra which is an invocation to the supreme to enlighten their minds. The kids then proceeded to show some of their learning. There was recitation of the Tamil alphabet with some coming up to the front of the class and leading others in row based learning. 
We then got a chance to speak to the kids. They varied in age from those in Kindergarten to Year 6 though it was funny to see them all pretending to be older than they were including a 5 year old who said he was in Year 6. The kids then asked me about where I was from and what I did. Being able to speak in Tamil certainly helped as I told the kids about Australia as well as where my family lived in India. As I talked about my hopes and well wishes for them, it was very tough not to be emotional with young eager faces who all felt like my own children. I wished them the best in going on to study and in whatever they did. I appealed to them to do something for their country as well no matter what kind of endeavor they settled in.
I had brought gifts for the kids from Australia and had tried to choose things that they could not get in India. There was a pencil case with an aboriginal Australian design as well as a Whittaker’s chocolate bar (which is actually Kiwi) for each child.  In a display of how Ekal involves the local village community in the single school concept, we were then greeted by the village thalaivar (Headman) who came over to say hi and say thanks for supporting our school. The Ekal volunteers told me how in every village school they involve the local community and make sure the village leaders approve and support the school. It is also noteworthy that the acharya, and all the Ekal volunteers in the district are all women showing how the movement is also progressive and promotes female participation.
The rain had thickened during this time and it was getting dark and time to head back to our lodge in Rameswaram. As we headed out to leave the kids and say bye, I faced them and shouted “Bharat Mata ki Jai”.  There was an overwhelming chorus of “Jai” in response. As I could tell love for the nation and its spiritual heart is there in every village of India and as long as this exists, there will exist people like the Ekal volunteers and the Ekal institution who will carry on the work of building the nation and educating every child so that they have the best chance possible of a better life.  
A long time back in 1897, Swami Vivekananda too had visited Rameswaram and the famous Ramanath Swamy temple. At a subsequent lecture in the town, Swami Vivekananda had said (and this is inscribed on the entrance to the Ramanath Swamy temple):
 He who sees Shiva in the poor, in the weak and in the diseased, really worships Shiva and if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary. He who has served and helped one poor man seeing Shiva in him, without thinking of his caste, creed, race or anything with him Shiva is more pleased than with the man who sees Him only in temples.

 “I went to Rameswaram also to worship Shiva but ended up also worshiping 35 “Shivas” who were there in the form of the children of Ekal Vidyalaya, Sathiya Nagar. Ekal provides  us all an opportunity to move beyond “preliminary” worship and serve the needy children of Bharat Mata and serve Shiva/Buddha/Waheguru/Mahavira much more deeply.
Anand Sundaresan


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