Ekal Fundraising event at Tampa, USA
We are just getting over a successful music program. The highlights of the program are- 900 plus people in audience. Total in pledges and collection $194,000. Two groups committed to support 100 schools each for five years. The artists performed for over 3 hours and sang 40 plus songs. Tampa audience was absolutely raving with the experience. We sold about 50 CDs of the artists.
In my opinion, our ability to attract large audience was due to Co Sponsorship of Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay and history of our performance over the years. We had the entire programme with dinner free to Gujarati Samaj of Tampa Bay. Samaj usually contributes some money from their funds.
The collection of pledges for support had many factors in addition to the theme of Ekal. This includes personal contacts of volunteer team, targeting of high network donors by personal meeting by team of volunteers, history of Tampa bay teams performance, encouragement and cheer leading by community leaders and high net worth donors to others, good entertainment value of the current event.
Shankar Chellaram from Dubai narrates his experience of EGL 2012
Ekal Global Learning (EGL) is an annual programme specially designed for NRI volunteers of Ekal Movement to help them personally experience ground realities of Ekal work on the field. Many of our urban volunteers from the metro cities also joined the trip. The 6th EGL was organized from 13th Feb. to 16th Feb. 2012 in Chhattisgarh State.
Shankar Chellarm from Dubai participated in Ekal Global Learning (EGL) 2012. His report is as follows:
1. It was my privilege and honor to be part of this rich and rare event. It was an extraordinary and enriching ‘learning experience’. Many questions on ‘Ekal activities’ were clarified by Dr Satheesh, Mrs Manjushree and other senior members.
2.The EGL FEBRURARY 2012 program was very well structured and organized to give the participants maximum exposure of activities at the field level – within a short period of time.
3. What we saw and experienced on the field is summarized hereunder:-
(a) Vidyalaya visit to Emlipara – the ‘Ekal School’ in operation, the teacher conducting the class, the discipline of the students and their participation was special.
(b) Questions were very well answered by the teacher, the students and others.
(c) All along, the EGL members were welcomed in the traditional Indian way – tilak, garlands, water sprinkling – we felt special with a lot of warmth.
(d) There was lot of music, dance and drum beat by the villagers – who seem to be overjoyed to receive the guests.
(e) We got the opportunity to experience the living in a village.
(f) We saw the pits being used for ‘Vermi Compost’ and also how the grain was intelligently stored.
(g) It seemed as if there was participation of all the villagers. They were very happy with the ‘Ekal movement’ and its positive social impact.
(h) The children and adults were wearing colorful and clean attires and one could get the feeling that the villagers displayed a very high sense of hygiene and cleanliness.
(i) The ‘lunch in the village’ was indeed delicious with ample variety – it was a rare feast and the love and affection of the hosts was clearly evident.
(j) ‘Saptahik Pathshala’ at Ramphal village was a unique arrangement to organize a ‘bhajan program’ followed by the presentation of ‘Bio Gas’ by an acharya- it was inspiring to see the villagers including children ‘silent’, listening in rapt attention.
(k) Training of teachers program ‘ Acharya Abhyas Varga’ - a ten day campus session was on at village ‘Lamdaguda’– it was being conducted in a very professional academic way – the program is structured scientifically.
(l) Upasanch Sports Competition at ‘Sadgud’ village was a pleasant surprise – students from 25 villages had gathered at one place – there were about 600 students. And to boost the morale, the parents were witnessing the various sports activities – village games including ‘Kabbadi, ‘Murgi fight’, 100 meters, 200 meters race etc. The winners were given prizes and there was lot of enthusiasm, energy and sportsmanlike spirit.
(m) A short visit to the ‘waterfalls’ at Chitrakood was the part of the program – a refreshing change.
(n) Presentation by Dr Bhavna on ‘Gramothan’ was highly educative and an excellent strategy to enhance skills level in villages to reduce poverty. The activities included amongst others – Organic Farming, women and youth development, Science Lab on wheel, Multi-skill & Entrepreneurship Training and Market linkages.
4. The travelling, boarding and lodging arrangements made for us were very comfortable. All along, the time schedule was well maintained and credit goes to Dr Sateesh, the volunteers as well as the participants. Right from the reception to the closing ceremony was well conducted and it was a fine gesture by FTS Raipur to give a memento to all participants of EGL.
5. EGL participants were all along showered with petals of affection, special care, an ambience full of education, learning, culture , heritage and spirituality.
6. To summarize, we could feel the social impact of the ‘Ekal movement’ visible in the form of the following:-
(a) Children exposed to basic education made them comfortable and confident.
(b) Parents feel good that their children are studying and behaving well at home – their time is well spent.
(c) Culture, Heritage and spirituality were very much appreciated.
(d) Sports, games activities ensured that they had a good balance of theory and practice.
(e) Hygiene standards were pretty good.
7. The EGL was indeed a great extraordinary and enriching experience – perspectives become clear when we see ‘ground reality’ – also felt inspired - that I must go back and work with renewed efforts and enthusiasm to contribute more and more for this noble cause.
Sanch Sammelan celebrated at Coonoor
Sanch Sammelan of Coonoor Sanch (Ooty Anchal, Tamilnadu) was held on Sunday, the 22nd January 2012 at Vinayagar Temple, Coonoor. The celebration started with educational awareness rally by Ekal students inaugurated by Sri L.N.S. Sekar at around 10 a.m. More than 400 children, general public, Coonoor Vivekananda youth group and members from 14 villages participated in the rally. It started from Vinayagar Kovil, went through main bus stand, TTK road and reached the venue.
The main programme started by lightning of lamp by Sri Krishna Moorthyji. After that Sri Kamarajji delivered the welcome address. Following to that Smt. Chitra Devi, Coonoor Anchal Shiksha Prashikshaan Pramukh gave a brief talk about Ekal Vidyalaya and its presence in Nilgiris. After that Sri Krishna Moorthyji, Sri Gurumoorthyji, Sri Thiyagarajanji also expressed their views. Sri Devarajan gave the presidential address.
Deepa Pooja was held from 12.15 to 1.00 pm, lead by Smt Poonkudi, Anchal Abhiyan Pramukh. More than 250 women actively participated with lot of interest. It was possible to bring together so many women from different villages through this Thiruvilakku Pooja. After that lunch was served to all the participants.
The attractive part of the programme was vibrant dance performance by Ekal Children. There were about 14 dances on patriotic songs, devotional songs and folk songs. The children also acted Thiruvilayadal drama, sang patriotic songs, oratorical with confidence and participated enthusiastically.
The prizes were distributed to Senior Acharyas G.Devika, G.Selvendra Kumari (Keel Bharathi Nagar), M.Vardhammal (Tiger Hills), D.saroja (Ambedhkar Nagar), M.Aathi Liakshmi (Bellatimattam).
Best Ekal Vidyalayas prizes were given to Kum. Nalini for Sakthinagar village, Kum. P.Rajeswari for Manja Kombai village, P.Yoganayaki for Vasuki Nagar village.
Sri B.Parthiban of Maniyada village was selected as the best Acharya in Coonoor Sanch of Ooty Anchal.
Appreciation for regularity of schools and for special performances, the following Acharyas were selected: Ramya (Kaikatti), Revathi (Manavarai), Mariappan (Periyar colony), Yoga Lakshmi (Kundada (MGRnagar), Deepika (Kundada pirivu), Pushpa latha (Baghya Nagar), Ramakili (Mullai nagar).
Special prizes for the cultural events were also given to the students. All the prizes were jointly distributed by Sri Sitaram ji, Sri C.Devaraj ji, Sri Thiyagarajan ji.
Many of the urban people were stunned to know the strength and importance of Ekal Vidyalayas in the villages through the performance of Ekal students and attendance by the village people at this Sanch Sammelan under the Ekal vidyalaya movement. It also gave motivation to all students, Teachers, Karyakartas (field workers) & Samiti (Committee) members.
Finally vote of thanks was given by Smt Vanaja. The program concluded with Santhi Manthram.
The Vidhya Sagar Global School, Chengalpattu, a suburb of Chennai Metro, collected Rs.2,35,833/- for Ekal Schools, with the active participation of 785 parents and students. The collection was made under the School Raffle Scheme, which proved a huge success. It became possible with the wholehearted support of Sri Vikas Surana, Correspondent, Sri B.G. Acharya, Director and Sri Govindarajan, Principal.
The work done by FTS in the remote villages of Tamil Nadu was well appreciated and acknowledged by all. Ekal remains indebted to the school students and their parents for their noble contribution.
Preston Smith from Portland, Oregon visits Ekal in Varanasi
I first encountered Ekal Vidyalaya at an Indian festival at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square in August 2011. There I encountered Sreedhar Nair, a volunteer with Ekal, and I just mentioned to him that I plan to visit India soon. Mr. Nair suggested that I plan a day visiting an Ekal school during my stay in India. As my plan progressed as motivated by the Ekal volunteer, the visit day was set for 1st February 2012, when I was to be in Varanasi, a city with many Ekal schools nearby.
As the visit day approached, I was put in contact with Dr. N.P. Singh, an Ekal volunteer who oversees 270 Ekal schools in the Varanasi area. I was picked up from the Hotel by him and in the vehicle there were three more volunteers (plus Driver) with two more volunteers being picked on our way out of the city. I could sense that the day is going to be a bigger one than I had imagined as I was told that they had scheduled to visit two schools, not just one. I was carrying a batch of pens as gifts for the students.
When we arrived at the first village, the village elders and many of the other village folk were present for my welcome Dr. Singh was undoubtedly the ranking visitor, but I was clearly the honoured guest of the day. A thought ran in my mind which I share with you here: Ekal designs its program to integrate the school with village life.
Immediately, there was a welcome ceremony. All of us were greeted with a red tilak on our foreheads and then a beautiful garland of orange flowers around our necks. Then I was asked to hand out the pens individually to each student. This was a formal process starting with a namaste (hands in prayer position). Then I gave the pen to each student, and the students touched my feet, a sign of respect in India towards the elders. It was interesting to see what happened with the pens next. Some of the older boys—budding engineers, apparently—disassembled their pens to see how the retraction mechanism worked.
After the pens were dispensed, the students demonstrated their academic skills for us. Some recited stories (reading), which was done in a beautiful chant. Others wrote in English, which, for them, is both a foreign language and a foreign alphabet. Finally, some did math problems, such as long division, on a chalkboard at the front of the “classroom.” This “classroom” didn’t conform to my image of one. There were no walls - it was in an open ground in the centre of the village. The ground is covered with a mat for the students to sit on, as there are no chairs or other furniture available. Without a chair, apparently, the teacher also stands or squats all day.
To beat the heat and cold, it was all under a huge tree and its shade provided the comfort. Here in the country, often there are fields or livestock adjacent to the class area. The classroom area does have a rather small chalkboard (perhaps 2½ by 3 feet or 75 by 90 cm), several educational charts, such as the English alphabet and some English Vocabulary, and finally, a picture of Saraswati, the goddess of education; however, because there are often no walls nearby, finding a place for these boards and charts is problematic.
The students range in age from 5 to 12 years old. With this range, the educational approach seems to be that the younger ones learn by watching the older ones complete their lessons.
Ekal supplies a slate and chalk, as well as workbooks, for each student, and each class receives a chalkboard, educational charts, and the Saraswati picture. The workbooks are in Hindi or whatever the local language is. Although primary education is the core of the Ekal program, four other pieces integrate with it to complete the village education package:
• Health education (potable water, tooth brushing, hygiene, etc.)
• Development education (community enterprises, for example, turning cow dung into organic fertilizer or making organic pesticides from bovine urine)
• Empowerment education (advocating effectively for desired community changes)
• Sanskar (Indian traditions and rituals) although the primary education is for the kids, these other four pieces involve the adults in the village too. For instance, tooth brushing probably wouldn’t happen unless parents understood its value.
Our visit ended with a snack of fresh fruit. Then we drove to the second school.
The second village was similar, except that the class was newer. The class and teacher at the first school had been in place about a year, but the second class had only started a month previously. Consequently, the student recitations weren’t as advanced, and the teacher didn’t appear quite as confident. The visit agenda was the same as the first village: greetings with tilaks and garlands, individually presenting the pens, and some students demonstrating their academic skills. This visit ended with a snack of sweets.
Next we were treated to a marvellous lunch in the second village. It was a traditional meal comprising an aloo (potato) curry, dal (a thick lentil soup), rice, and wonderful fresh baked whole wheat rolls, plus, of course, sweets. Fortunately, I had learned to sit on the floor cross-legged and eat with my fingers, as there wasn’t a chair or a fork in sight.
As a bonus, we next visited a teacher training session at a third location. About 30 teachers were receiving in-service training. Each teacher receives this refresher training for ten days every six months. Rather than fully in the open, this class was held in the portico of a building. In other ways though, it resembled the primary education classes we had seen earlier: the students sat on the floor and the medium of education seemed to be primarily chanting.
There were no instructional aides, such as a chalkboard, in the space, however. Dr. Singh addressed the teachers, telling them how interested he was in their success and he gave them his mobile phone number in case they needed his help with something. (Note that this offer will make further demands on the time he donates to Ekal.)
One Ekal principle to strengthen village life is to, whenever possible, recruit the village’s teacher directly from that village, and they are successful at doing this 95 percent of the time.
Upon returning to Varanasi, I was treated to a guided tour of Banaras Hindu University, one of India’s leading universities. Dr. Singh guided me through its beautiful temple.
In summary, this visit gave me wonderful exposure to village life in India—something the foreign tourist seldom has a chance to see—and to the amazing work Ekal is doing to enhance that village life so that these villagers can be potent partners in the world’s largest democracy.
Dr. Preston Smith
FTS Bhopal organizes Vanyatra
Friends of Tribals Society Bhopal (FTS Bhopal) organized a Vanyatra on Dec.18, 2011 at Sihora and Sarra villages of Raisen Anchal in Chhattisgarh State. 32 visitors participated in the visit. All assembled in Sarthak Hotel. Executives from FTS Bhopal like Sri Suresh Kumar Chauksey, Patron, Sri Kishore Gupta, Vice-President, Sri Ajay Kumar Chhajed, Secretary and Sri Rajesh Gupta, Vanyatra Coordinator welcomed all the guests. After having breakfast the group departed to Raisen at 9.00 AM.
Vanyatra reached Goharganj at 10 AM. Anchal Samiti welcomed all the visitors and organized lunch. Vanyatra reached Sihora through Dense forest. The student of Ekal School and Gram Samiti welcomed all the visitors traditionally by putting Tilak and garland. After that Vanyatri and villagers reached Ekal School where the teacher (Acharya) was teaching the students. After concluding the class, visitors asked questions from the students. They replied satisfactorily. Mahila Samiti distributed sweets and toffees to children. Sri Abhilash Singh, Kshetra Abhian Pramukh, Ekal Vidyalaya introduced all present. After that visitors welcomed Gram Pramukh.
Following this, Vanyatris reached Sarra village. Gram Samiti welcomed the visitors there. We reached Ekal School with playing drums and singing local songs where the teacher (Acharya) conducted the school. The Ekal students performed Hindi and English alphabets, Maths, poems, patriotic songs, stories and Surya Namaskar etc. Vanyatris asked some questions from students which were answered satisfactorily. The visitors distributed sweets and toffees to the students.
Vanyatris were introduced to Gram Samiti. After introduction, Sri Suresh Chaukseyji and Ajay Chhajedji discussed with the villagers and insisted to carry on Ekal Vidyalaya in their village. Sri Ajay Chhajedji told disadvantages of Intoxication to villagers and asked them to take oath to make their village liquor free. Gram Pramukh was welcomed by the visitors. The villagers organized Vanbhoj (Dal baati, Chane ki bhaji and Makke ki roti) which was very delicious. After having Vanbhoj, visiting team departed to Bhopal.
Returning from Vanyatra, the team reached Goharganj where Anchal Samiti arranged tea. The visitors took tea and shared their experience of the visit. All praised this Vanyatra and resolved to give their continuous support to Ekal Movement.