Amrita Sanjeevani, the Seva Association of the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham Amritapuri Campus was formed to provide an opportunity to students and staff at Amrita University to engage in social service. When the tsunami hit the area on December 26, 2004, students and staff who were present at that time pitched in wholeheartedly to do the needful. Chancellor Amma, seeing their desire to serve, suggested that a seva association be formally launched and Amrita Sanjeevani was born. “Pray with your heart, serve with your hands”, a quote from Amma’s tsunami message became the motto of the organization.
Although active in relief work from the time the tsunami hit, Amrita Sanjeevani commenced its first formal project as an organization on August 6, 2005 at Azhikkal, one of the tsunami hit areas located close to the Amritapuri Ashram. Amrita Sanjeevani volunteers actively participated in the Amrita Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation Project every weekend. In their endeavor to build houses for tsunami victims, the students and staff of Amrita University worked with tremendous energy and enthusiasm. It was a joy to see them work so selflessly. The volunteers forgot themselves and their own needs in their eagerness to build the new homes quickly. Although the days were warm, no one felt tired. On the contrary, while returning to their hostels at the Amritapuri Ashram, the students sang bhajans exuberantly in the bus. They exuded such joy; one would have thought that they were returning from a picnic!
A few students shared their reminiscences with us about that time in their lives:
“Be it providing food, clothing, shelter or emotional strength, Amma made sure that utmost care was given. Every instruction was given considering the comfort of the victims. When clothes were being sorted for distribution, Amma instructed that not a single item should be torn or dull, as it might hurt them to see such a day in their life when they had to wear used and torn clothes. The disaster gave us the opportunity to witness the divine form of compassion and selfless service. Those days taught us that it’s not just about doing some relief work, but when, where, how and with what attitude those works are to are executed,” explained Aswathi P.
Namita K described her experience,“ Along with a large group of other students and university staff, we participated in construction work in Azhikkal, one of the worst hit tsunami areas. Materials like bricks or gravel had to be moved over 500 meters to the site. By placing them in sacks, we passed them along a human chain formed by devotees, ashram residents and students. In those places we saw the real destruction caused by tsunami and we really wanted to be a part of the relief efforts. Thus, we started going to the construction sites whenever we didn't have classes. The immense satisfaction and happiness we got from those days of seva is inexplicable”.
Arati Balan further explained, “The opportunity that we got to serve people affected by the tsunami taught us a very important lesson: to be satisfied and grateful for what we have. Everyone put forward their best efforts to make whatever contribution they could. None had any hesitation, but only a great desire to help those affected. Amma’s instructions were very clear as she took care of every aspect- both physical and emotional, of those people. It could really be taken as a ground for us to learn about selfless service and compassion”.
In the past ten years, Amrita Sanjeevani has been in the forefront of service activities at Amrita University. The list of their activities is varied and fascinating. Whether its Amala Bharatam cleanup in the nearby surroundings, to the now annual massive Sabarimala cleaning, going out in the schools to conduct awareness campaigns, clothing drives for the disadvantage or offering a festive Divali to the Parippally orphanage, Amrita students and staff have been there, finding the deep satisfaction that comes from making others happy and relishing the joy of service in their lives.