Health and Wellbeing
AAA- Awareness Ambassador Program
The Amrita Awareness Ambassador (AAA) Program was born out of Amma’s vision to keep children from losing their way by teaching them about the evils of substance abuse, human trafficking and mobile and internet misuse. Today, the program also uses the medium of the ambassadors to educate children and adolescents on the gender equality and adolescent health.
Awareness ambassadors are selected from the village and are trained to teach their peers and juniors through activities and presentations. Not only does it raise the self esteem of the ambassadors, the efficacy of the program also lies in the fact that children are more open to learning from their peers and the seniors that they look up to.
Human trafficking is a rampant problem in India, with young children being sold for their organs, illegal labour or into the sex trade. It is estimated that more than 100,000 children go missing every year in India, many of whom are sold into this modern slavery.
On Dec 2, 2014, Amma joined Pope Francis and 10 other world religious leaders in Vatican City, Rome in a ceremonial signing of a declaration against human trafficking and slavery.
Since then, Amrita CREATE launched a software game to give awareness about trafficking. Named “Smart Decisions”, the game creates virtual scenarios of trafficking situations, giving the user choices, and showing them the consequences of the decisions they choose to make in specific situations.
Workshops to disseminate awareness against trafficking are given by RITE personnel. AAA members from our villages spread this awareness among their peers at their schools. The software combined with the workshops empowers the children to make the right choices when confronted by a real life situation.
In our work with the villages, it was observed that most villages had a problem with alcohol and other substance abuse like local drugs, betel and tobacco chewing . In many cases, tobacco chewing starts at a young age, in low income homes, with parents giving it to their children to suppress hunger. The problem of alcohol, tobacco and drug consumption and abuse starts usually at adolescence, when children look for independence from parents and seek close ties with peers and friends.
Through presentations, discussions and activities enabled by facilitators from CREATE, the student ambassadors actively bring awareness to the larger school community at consistent intervals against the abuse of substances such as alcohol, drugs, ganja, and tobacco. They also act as a support network and discourage students from falling into the habit of substance abuse
Ill effects of substance abuse are taught to the children using storytelling, drama, mime, videos, etc. Children learn through high-impact activities about how one cannot see properly while intoxicated, the repercussions of drinking, and how smoking affects the respiratory system.
Health & Wellbeing
Healthcare is the most important index in the measure of progress of any nation. Good health is a precursor for sustainable development. Sadly, while a privileged few are able to afford high-end healthcare facilities, most of the people living in semi-urban and rural areas are complete strangers to even basic health care practices.
Villagers do not understand a range of health issues including the importance of immunization and growth monitoring, techniques of low cost nutritious food preparation, methods of birth control and spacing of children, the importance of using sanitary and the preparation of safe drinking water and preventive healthcare measures like maintenance of personal hygiene.
This results in the deterioration of health, the increase of superstition and incorrect treatment leading to a high incidence of maternal mortality, child mortality, morbidity, dehydration and malnutrition. The incidence of infectious diseases is also relatively high.
In the 101 villages adoped by the M.A. Math through the Amrita SeRVe Project, Amma wishes to foster value based learning that includes health and social awareness. To this end, the audio-visual potential of the tablet enables the youngsters to learn, through cartoons and audio stories, the importance of safe drinking water, cleanliness, hygiene, proper nutrition and other components of a healthy life.
Nutrition and De-worming
Malnutrition is a grim reality in Indian villages. UNICEF maintains that malnutrition is more common in India than in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to its data, one in every three malnourished children in the world lives in India.
In order to tackle malnutrition, health checks are done and the BMI of the students are maintained. Where necessary, nutritional supplements are provided. In some places, a full meal is given to the students.
WHO recommends periodic treatment with de-worming medicines, without previous individual diagnosis to all at-risk people living in endemic areas. The at-risk section of the population is preschool and school-aged children. De-worming of children together with improvement of water and sanitation and health education can reduce the transmission of soil-transmitted infections which result in anemia, internal bleeding, diarrhea and loss of appetite.
To make nutrition sustainable, students and parents are given awareness on its importance. Kitchen gardens and child-grown vegetable patches are actively promoted through our Amrita Education Centers. On the second Sunday of every month, children and teachers in all our education centers get together and work on the kitchen gardens they have started and that they maintain regularly.
Amma has also suggested the consumption of ragi and other forms of millets. These require less water to grow than paddy or wheat and provide more nutrition. While millets were a regular part of our diet only a few decades ago, now not many people cultivate these crops.