Newsletter June 2013

EVFUSA selected for Harvard Pilgrim Community Spirit Mini-Grant

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has selected Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation out of all charities organizations in New England for their Community Award (Harvard Pilgrim Community Spirit 9/11 Mini-Grant).  They recognized our great job to eradicate illiteracy. The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation gives this Mini-Grant to support and enhance community program. A check for $500 will be given.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care created this Award to commemorate the first anniversary of September 11, 2001 through a special contribution to its Foundation.  The Foundation administers this special fund and distributes the Mini-Grants to non-profit organizations that Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Health Plans Inc. and Dell Perot employees nominate.  Since 2002, hundreds of Harvard Pilgrim, Health Plans Inc.  and  Dell  Perot  employees  have had their Mini-Grants approved -- benefiting schools, social service,  and  cultural  and  other community-based organizations where our employees live and work.


Swar Sanjeevani moves hearts and minds of Ekal supporters in USA

Ekal Vidyalya's annual fundraiser at Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash Road Stafford, TX, featuring noted playback singer Sanjeevani Bhelande on May 3, 2013 drew more than 1,100 people. The Houston event is part of the nationwide concert tour, under the theme "Swar Sanjeevani", scheduled in 44 places across the U.S.

The entertainment program was a first class concert of Bollywood music - mostly old classics sung in superb style by two very accomplished singers - Sanjeevani Bhelande and Chirag Panchal. Sanjeevani, the first winner of the Sa Re Ga Ma competition, started with the title song of the movie Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram. Chirag Pachal opened with "Man tarpat Hari darshan ko" from the movie Baiju Bawra. 
Panchal, who sang beautifully, could easily modify his voice to sound almost exactly like Mukesh, Mohammad Rafi or Manna De and even Rahat Fateh Ali. She sang two of Shamshad Begum's most well-known songs - "Saiyyan dil mein aana re" and "Jawan hai mohabat." But her best came in the form of a fast medley of nine songs by Lata Mangeshkar in the movie Barsaat. Sanjeevani has a very mellifluous, sweet voice as does Chirag. Sanjeevani and Chirag were ably accompanied on the tabla and dholak by Amit Mehta, Mohit Shastry on the flute and keyboard and Rupesh Rane on octopad.

Even as the enthusiastic audience enjoyed the soulful music, they contributed to the cause, with funds for at least 900 Ekal schools in remote parts of India. Sri Gopal Savjani and Sri Pankaj Maheshwari were recognized as 'Donors of the decade' for their contribution of more than 300 schools. Ekal Vidyalaya USA Houston chapter president Sri Nikhil Mehta recalled his visit to an Ekal school in Uttaranchal state where he said he could see the dreamy eyes of the eager learners. "Those eyes challenge us to part with just a small percentage of our earnings" to help them in their quest for learning and education," he said.

Sri Ramesh Shah, Co-convener of Ekal Global, narrated his recent experience. Accompanied by his wife Kokilaben, he visited 100 Ekal schools in 12 states from Assam to Kanyakumari. "There are children attending government schools and yet again in the evening they come to Ekal schools because it is the only place where they get true value based education. They were overjoyed to see someone taking efforts to travel from thousands of miles and taking interest in their lives," Shah said. Kokilaben also requested the audience to visit at least one school in their lifetime and experience the simple yet the tough life of the villagers. The amazing dedication of teachers who hailed from same hamlets or neighbourhoods, was inspirational to children, who eagerly attended the schools, Shah said. Money alone is not enough to make a successful school, but dedicated teachers were needed, he said. After 65 years of independence, India's remote villages lacked basic amenities like water and electricity, but now at least they have access to education.
The Ekal Movement's target is to establish at least 100,000 schools in India.


Sevanand Walk for Ekal

Walk is a walk but this was different. It was for Seva (service) plus Anand (pleasure). Adults contributing and collecting money to support Ekal schools in India was wonderful, but children too, in a small way, made and sold craft items and gave the proceedings to the cause. It was a lesson for them that in the walk of life, they who are privileged have to lend a hand to the less lucky ones and help them to walk alongside.

The walk was wonderfully organized by Sevanand Team members at Phoenix, USA. Those who wished to walk the entire trail, which was about 4 miles, started early at 7 am.  The 2 miles group started at 8 am. Instructions were available at the starting point by the organisers who also provided a bottle of water. The walk along the sandy stone path was a pleasure. The entire route was lined with a variety of cacti. Old timers gave instructions as to which cacti were not particularly harmful and those that had to be given a wide berth to. Small and big holes all along indicated the presence of small animals or reptiles but none were spotted.

"Horseshoe Trail" was the shorter trail which those who did the 2 mile walk took. There were boards all along giving proper instructions so that even if you wished to lose your way in the desert, you could not. At the end of 1.5 hours, everyone gathered near the starting point and what awaited was as delightful as the walk - samosas, fantastic puff pastries made by one of the members, granola bars and laddoos (Indian Sweets).

After doing full justice to the snacks, and a group photo, we were informed to everyone's delight, that the target was more than met. We learnt that we would be supporting more than 3 schools for a year. Well, that's what we say - "walk the talk"!



The committee meeting of Ekal Educational & Charitable Society, Kottayam held on Friday, 1st March 2013 decided to hold a congregation of the Acharyas of Peerumade, Munnar, Marayoor & Wayanad. This will enable them to meet each other, plan their future activities exchange ideas and know the vast magnitude of this people's movement. The programme dates were decided May 4th & 5th and N. Ventrita Krishnan Porty was nominated as the convenor of the programme. On Prof. P.V. Viswanathan Namboodiri's suggestion, it was named "Vaijayantham 2013".

The Committee visited Guruvayoor and found it an ideal place for the assembly since it was centrally located between the various Anchals of Kerala. Malaysian Tower Tourist Home, having 3 storey and 4 blocks, was found good enough to facilitate accommodation for more than 450 persons. It was decided to put Acharyas, full time volunteers and Sankul Samiti members here. Barely 600 meters away was Gokulam Sabari Hotel having an auditorium that could capacitate nearly 500 people. Also it had sufficient rooms for the stay of FTS and EECS members. Both were booked.

KSRTC authorities were approached and buses were arranged for the transportation of Acharyas, Karyakarthas and local Samity members. It was also decided to distribute jute shoulder bag, umbrella and bedsheet. A 30 member group from Attappadi, Palakad was the first to arrive at Malaysian Tower by 12.30 a.m. on Saturday worning. By 4 p.m. 9 more buses came. Altogether 258 Acharyas, 39 Karyakarthas, 54 Samithy members and 54 guests checked in. Registration of participants started at 6.30 a.m. Sute bag, umbrella and bedsheet were distributed along with registration.
The inaugural ceremony of Vaijayantham started as per schedule at 3.00 p.m. at Gokulam Sabari. Sri Shyam Sunder Damani, FTS south Zone Chairman, Sri S. Muralidharan, President EECS, Sri Srinivas Panda, Ekal Kendriya Prashikshan Marg Darshak, Sri Shyam Sunder Agarwal, President FTS Kochi, N. Venkata Krishnan Potty, Convener and adv. Sathya Sree Priya, FTS Mahila  Vibhag Pramukh jointly lighted the holy lamp N. Venkita Krishnan Potty welcomed the gathering of Acharyas, Karyakarthas, Samithy members and honourable guests Sri. S. Muralidharan gave the presidential address and Sri S.S. Damani gave the key note address. Sri Srinivas Panda and Adv. Sathya Sree Priya showered felicitations on the meeting. Then Ach. Pratheesh Viswanath, who had organised the work of Ekal Movement in Kerala. Sri K.N. Venkiteswaran dealt on the Acharya concept in Ekal. Sri K.K. Vasudeva Menon, Secretary, EECS expressed thanks to one and all.

In the evening, cultural programmes started with a beautiful bhajan by Munnar Sankul. This was followed by group dances by Sultan Bathery Sankul, Mananthavady Sankul & Kalpetta Sankul. Smt. Sujatha and Smt. Kavitha of Munnar Sankul recited poems based on Ekal theme. Smt. Subhadra Devi of Munar Sankul presented a solo folk dnace. All the programmes maintained decent quality and was well enjoyed and applauded by the audience.

Next morning all Acharyas and Karyakarthas assembled at Gokulam Sabari at 6.00 a.m. to perform Bharat Mata Pooja (worship). Sri Prathish Viswanath briefly talked emphasizing on the need to sacrifice and work for the welfare of the country. Smt. C.K. Vijayakumari rendered a Geetham and all Acharyas & Karyakarthas offered lighted lamps and prostrated in front of Bharath Matha. After offering flowers, they performed prathasmarana. They also held group wise discussions.

The second day programme of Vaijayantham started at 9.45 a.m.  Sankulwise readers came forward and presented the report on groupwise discussions held in the morning. Each report was full of suggestions on conduction Ekal Vidyalayas in an improved manner, steps to improve the personality of students, measures to ensure the co-operation and development of villagers and positive assurances on best performances as Acharyas. This was followed by a beautiful power-point presentation by Sri S. Muralidharan on "Ekal-Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow." Sri Vinod Namboodiri then gave an excellent motivating Speech "Creating Life" on Acharya's responsibilities, duties and pride. Sri. Rajashekharam from Munnar Sankul secited a partiotic song which was well appreciated and repeated by everyone. Smt. Bhavana Parekh, Kochi FTS, gave a short speech.

The Valedictory function which started at 12.15 was presided over by S. Sankaran, President, FTS Chennai. Smt. Bhagavathiamma, President, Thaikula Sangham, and Sri A.K.G. Murugan, President, Peerumedu Sankul gave an account of their experiences and reservations on Vaijayantham 2013. Arogya Foundation of India All India Co-ordinator Smt. Hema Malini in her address stressed on the dedication to be applied in the Ekal movement by Acharyas and Karyakarthas. FTS Kochi Secretary Sri N. Jayakrishnan proposed the vote of thanks. Vaijayantham 2013 came to an end with shanthigeetham by 1.30 p.m.


My experience of Ekal Vanyatra

Its over 10 years that my husband Sankaran and myself became part of the Ekal family. Prof. Chaturvedi, former Vice Chancellor, Ajmer University came to Kochi to introduce the Ekal Vidyalaya Mission. His presentation was so convincing that my husband immediately decided to visit one Ekal school and see the operations in person. Vanayatra, the trip to the tribal village, which is in the remote areas, mostly in the interior forests, was arranged.   After his visit to Wayanad  he was so overwhelmed with a the transformation that is taking place in the entire  village that he offered to give over 4 hours of his time in a day to volunteer for Ekal  activities.  From that time Vanayatra has become like a pilgrimage for our entire family, as we could see divinity in the smiles of every Ekal child.
VASUDHAIV KUTUMBAKAM.  True to this saying we have now become part of this big family.  I have been very fortunate to visit Ekal schools and villages from Kargil to the tip of Tamil Nadu.  All the Ekal schools have the same structure and syllabus.  The only difference was the language in each area.  We have visited schools near Gulmarg in Kashmir, in Bhopal, in Orissa, Maharashtra, Peepal Koti near Badrinath, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

We have been visiting villages close to the roads where we have to drive a few hundred kilometers from the highways. We have also had the experience of walking a few kilometers through the deep forest or up on mountains. Our full timers accompany or meet us at a particular point and guide us to the village. The elders of the village samithi receive us with traditional welcome of aarti and flowers.    Then they guide us to the spot where the children are assembled, sometimes in the village common hall, or in the temple courtyard, or under a tree, or outside the teacher's house.   After lighting the lamp the children start the day with Omkara and Gayatri Mantra, followed by lessons in language, math and general knowledge, later they sing desh bhakti songs.   As a teacher, I have noticed that the children in the villages are very enthusiastic and street smart, ever keen to display their talents to the guests.  The most amazing thing is that Ekal schools have brought discipline into the villagers and children.  The children are taught to respect elders and our ancient culture.
In Kashmir too, the entire village welcomed us warmly and we had the privilege to address the teachers there in the august presence of by the Pheer Baba, the Head priestess. In Badrinath, high on the mountain, 90 year old was waiting for us and hugged me like my grandmother would with so much love and warmth.  It is an unforgettable experience.

I wish to share with you that volunteering for a social cause like Ekal, has kept us physically fit and mentally happy. You must have read in the Hindu on Friday that volunteering gives us good health and prevents illness.  We have truly experienced this. 
Mrs. Sankaran, Bangalore


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