Approximately 65% of India’s 1.3 bilion population lives in villages. India’s endemic problems of poverty, caste-ism, illiteracy, lack of sanitation and corruption are extensively prevalent in rural areas. It is imperative to build holistic,sustainable solutions for rural India that support education, healthcare, sanitation and livelihood opportunities. Amrita University, guided by the vision of its Chancellor and world-renowned humanitarian, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, reaches out to villages through its projects of education, awareness-building, sanitation and health, using research and technology and the power of inspired faculty and students to address rural needs.
A sustainable bridge that ensures rural development cannot be built unless local communities are strengthened and empowered. Amrita University supports communities to achieve self-reliance, rather than make them dependant on handouts given by NGO’s and other government organizations.
Amrita University’s faculty and students are the driving force behind the success of its rural programs. Inspired by Amma’s ideal of selfless service, and her vision that education should provide external knowledge for earning a living as well as internal self-regulating life skills to live one’s life, a series of rural development and awareness building programs are ongoing in rural regions around the country. The hands-on live-in experience also serves to reacquaint students with India’s ancient culture of nurturing and living in harmony with nature.
Amrita University is fundamentally committed to providing its students with an exemplary education built on the firm foundation of inspired citizenry and values. The university offers innovative student-centric experiential programs devised to broaden student perspective about everyday life and problems in rural India. The scope of the program covers sustainable projects in education, awareness, health, sanitation, power and infrastructure.
The program impact is on two levels:
|Amala Bharatam(Clean India)||Scchool Students in ESD||41 Villages in 21 States|
|Green Friends(Planting Trees)||Awareness Campaigns||Holistic Education|
“In today’s world, people experience two types of poverty: the poverty caused by lack of food, clothing and shelter, and the poverty caused by lack of love and compassion. Of these two, the second type needs to be considered first—because, if we have love and compassion in our hearts, then we will wholeheartedly serve those who suffer from lack of food, clothing and shelter.” Chancellor Amma, Amrita University.
The world’s SDG problems can be solved once people truly understand their root cause. Amrita provides ample opportunities to experience and learn. Through annual internship programs during their summer vacation, aptly named Live-in-Labs, student groups accompanied by faculty stay in village communities for up to two weeks, influencing and being influenced by all aspects of rural life. “We had gone to change them, but found ourselves changed instead,” says Guru, an Engineering student who stayed in the remote village of Ransai in Maharashtra state for two weeks last summer. “Even though the living conditions are difficult, my friends and I want to go back there again this summer to continue our work there.”
Students are given training and learn to work in schools and afterschool education centers run by Amrita University project AmritaRITE.
Students gain an understanding of the hardships with poverty and lack of resources, and through this experience, develop life skills such as empathy, interpersonal relationship skills. Developing solutions to these problems helps not only the beneficiaries but challenges students to develop critical and creative thinking. The university students and village children build a relationship with each other and often stay in touch even after graduating. Through the program students understand that it is possible to create transformative change in communities.
The program empowers rural communities by making them self-reliant and inclusive development aided by ICT4D. AmritaRITE uses mobile learning at 41 villages in 21 states with a strong component in values,gender equality, health, and composting, growing organic vegetables for nutrition and respect for Mother Nature. Rural children show increased self-awareness with yoga and life-skills training, problem solving, and learn to cope with emotions and stress.
Rural school students are mentored as ambassadors for preventing peers from substance abuse. Adolescent high-school girls, mentored as ambassadors to promote gender equality, develop self-confidence and self-esteem while spreading awareness to reduce child marriage, human trafficking awareness and encourage more girls to attend secondary school.
Modifying and using local customs and traditions to support education and environment is another innovative approach adopted by the university as was exemplified by gifting saplings during festive celebrations, along with other items. Adopting eco-friendly practices ensures economic savings for community members and rural villagers who were trained on growing organic vegetables and creating income generating products from waste. Students too exhibit a wholesome change in attitude to Mother Nature, learning to appreciate the value of organic produce, clean air and water. Waste management and knowledge of solid waste handling provides avenues for income and job opportunities.
Students in live-in-lab internships support holistic education for children in poverty in rural and remote villages using modules on tablets for literacy, health, science labs, respect for Mother Nature, values, environment,
substance-abuse and human trafficking. This has effectively boosted gender equality and motivated more girls in villages to continue to high school. The Ambassador Program for high school boys to avoid substance abuse and for high school girls to promote gender equality continues this even after they have gone back.
For many city students, this interaction with remote and rural India is an eye-opener to the difficulties faced by those in poverty. It develops compassion in the hearts of students that participate and a desire to help make a difference. Even after graduating, they continue to find ways to contribute.
For village communities, their heartfelt interest and tangible presence provides empowerment with improved skills, knowledge of government-sanctioned rights to disadvantages communities, and improved self-esteem and confidence.