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Sustainable Development

One of the objectives that has always made Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham stand out is its dedication to compassion-driven research and to development aimed at helping the poor, the sick and the needy. This is something Amma has insisted upon since the institution’s inception. The people at the base of the pyramid must be strengthened so that the entire edifice of society becomes healthy and strong. With this goal in mind, Amma inaugurated Amrita’s School for Sustainable Development in 2019. The programs include undergraduate, master’s, and PhD programs that focus on areas in line with United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The curriculum utilizes the E4LIFE framework—Experience, Embrace, Empower, and Engage with communities. In 2020, the United Nations awarded Amrita the UNESCO Chair for Experiential Learning for Sustainable Innovation & Development. The activities include developing a comprehensive framework to build sustainable communities in rural India based upon the students collaborating with the villagers, not simply designing for them. This enables the academic community to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values necessary to implement solutions among vulnerable and rural communities.

It also empowers the villagers by giving them a voice to share the challenges they face in their daily lives. The majority of projects—be they in the fields of clean water, village-outreach, toilet-construction, healthcare, or education—involve the beneficiaries as active participants. In this way, they gain the skills needed to achieve self-reliance as individuals, families, and communities.

Major Initiatives

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Amrita SeRVe (Self-Reliant Villages)

Amrita SeRVe connects with 101 villages across rural India to aid them in becoming self-reliant. Most of the communities are in remote, sometimes isolated, areas, and many of the people are classified as living under the international poverty line. Amma’s vision is to teach them the skills they need to ultimately live in villages that are prosperous and independent. It is a return to the vibrant cultures rooted in India’s traditional wisdom. Amrita SeRVe supports this through humanitarian work in seven focus areas: health, water & sanitation, education, agriculture, income generation, eco-friendly infrastructure, and self-empowerment.

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Live-in-Labs

Live-in-Labs gives students first-hand experience of the problems faced by rural communities in India. Amrita students and faculty, in conjunction with students and faculty from international universities, form multidisciplinary teams that spend two weeks to six months in Indian villages. The participants collaborate with villagers to address their real-world problems and find concrete, innovative solutions. Focus is on areas in line with the SDGs, and the result is dynamically integrating social, economic, and cultural aspects of sustainable development.

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The Jivamritam Purified Clean Drinking Water Initiative

Jivamritam aims to install drinking water filtration systems in 5,000 villages and provide clean drinking water to more than 10 million people throughout India. The project utilizes a community cost-sharing model for the operation and sustainable management of the systems. It includes applied research in the geographical distribution of water contaminants, filtration techniques & processes, awareness programs, and community empowerment strategies.

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Food Programs

Food programs across India feed more than 10 million poor people every year in both urban and rural areas. The Ashram also regularly distributes rice, milk, and other uncooked staple foods to remote tribal communities who do not receive aid from any other organization. In countries throughout North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Oceania, hot meals and food supplies reach more than 150,000 people each year. Some groups also collect and distribute clothing, household items, and children’s toys.

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Amrita Kuteeram Housing Project

Amrita Kuteeram has constructed more than 47,000 homes in 75 communities. With an average of six people living in each house, about a quarter of a million people have moved from the streets or inadequate shelters into the safety and comfort of their own homes. More than constructing houses, the Ashram works to build entire communities, complete with town halls, roads, electricity, wells, sewage systems, and clean drinking water. As part of our response to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, homes were also constructed in Sri Lanka and the Andaman Islands.

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Amrita Niketanam Orphanage

Amrita Niketanam is a facility for 500 children Amma has been running in Paripally, Kerala for more than 30 years. With the nourishing food and loving care and encouragement they receive from dedicated staff, the children gain the confidence and strength to move forward in life. Most of them are from a nearby tribal area where many families suffer under severe domestic violence and alcoholism. In 1989, the Ashram adopted running the orphanage when the administrators came to beg for Amma’s help. They were out of money and would otherwise have to shut the doors and turn the children out onto the street. Hearing their plight, Amma took the money that had been set aside to build the ashram’s first prayer hall and used it to assume care of the orphans, quickly bringing about a complete transformation in the facilities, the standard of care, and the children themselves.

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Amrita Watoto Boma Children’s Home

Amrita Watoto Boma is a center in Nairobi, Kenya that cares for 160 children by providing food, an English-medium education, and healthcare on a daily basis and in a loving environment. Spread across 11 acres on the banks of the Athi River, the children are also taught creative arts, sewing, and permaculture. The home is run with the assistance of four teachers, two cooks, a gardener, and volunteers. The children are selected from the neighboring villages after site visits to identify whose parents or guardians cannot afford to provide for their basic needs.

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Slum Rehabilitations

The Ashram provides homes for the urban poor, who daily face a shortage of clean water, no sewage or waste- disposal facilities, pollution, room-crowding, and unsanitary living conditions. Amma started in 1999 in the city of Hyderabad when the government approached her for help after a fire had destroyed one of its slums. By 2002, 20 blocks of flats were complete and provided homes for 900 families. In 2004, the government in Maharashtra approached Amma for help in a slum on the outskirts of Pune. The Ashram began construction of 11 new blocks and in the end, 700 families had new homes in five-story apartments. Amma also provided free weekly medical camps so the residents could restore their health, learn self-care, and eventually value themselves as citizens of the community.

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