Nearly 1000 students from all Amrita campuses volunteered to help manage the Vidyamritam Sangamam celebrations that saw 10,000 scholarship recipients from all over Kerala come together at Amritapuri for three days, September 25-27, 2009.
Most children who traveled with their family members stayed in the colossal building that is shared by the Amrita Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering. Student volunteers greeted them upon arrival, helped them complete the registration process, took them to their rooms, and basically stayed with them almost the entire time they were at Amritapuri. “Be like elder brothers and sisters to the children,” Pro-Chancellor Br. Abhayamrita Chaitanya had told them. They sincerely tried.
From waking up the children in the morning to taking them for food (the students and their families were served free food on all three days) to seating them at the venue and helping orient them to their new surroundings, the students sacrificed their own sleep and comfort, in order to ensure that their wards faced no difficulty. “I am amazed to see the students’ volunteer service,” shared little Mahumathi, who studies in the 7th Standard at Amrita Vidyalayam in Ettimadai. “I am inspired by the students’ dedication and team spirit.” Indeed, young or old, the students’ selfless service was noted by all.
Two Amrita student volunteers were assigned to a group of 25 Vidyamritam scholarship recipients. Amrita students also manned the accommodation counters, helped distribute sets of new clothes that had been stitched for the Vidyamritam children, helped chop vegetables and wash plates and served food and water to all. After the 2004 tsunami, a big camp for children had been organized at the ashram. This time, the Vidyamritam camp for children was organized primarily on the premises of the institution campus and Amrita students took the lead in making all the arrangements.
The camp was a unique experience for the 10,000 children, many of whom had traveled for the first time outside of their villages. They had an opportunity to interact with several eminent people, including popular actor Mohanlal. Amma spoke to them on the evening of the 26th, and in her characteristically simple style, told them to respect nature, preserve water and not waste food. “I could understand the cruelty we are doing to Mother Earth,” shared little Jithulal, a scholarship recipient who studies in the 7th Standard at AUPS, Chiraamangalam. “We are unable to understand the fact that She is protecting us. Still we are giving her endless difficulties and destroying her.”
Added Remya, another scholarship recipient studying in the 11th Standard at the Kayankulam Girls Higher Secondary School, “I am happy to come here and take part in the activities here. I was so inspired by Amma’s speech, I completely understood the need to preserve Mother Nature.” Amma also spoke to the children about the benefits of eating vegetarian food and the need to respect the elder generation. She gave darshan to all camp participants and family members. “An education for life, that is what the children are receiving through their participation in camps such as these,” noted Dr. Zeena Pillai of Amritapuri campus, one of the hundreds of faculty and staff members, who volunteered alongside the students.
Amma says, “There is education for a living, and there is education for life. Along with the education needed to make a living, students should also be given education on how to live life.” The Vidyamritam scholarships ensure that students receive an education that will later enable them to make a living. So that the children also receive an education for life, mega-events such as Vidyamritam Sangamam 2009 are organized for them. But its not just these children who benefit. Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham students, faculty and staff who volunteered whole-heartedly, also benefitted. As Remya Madhu, a newly enrolled student at the Amrita School of Biotecnology noted, “I have been with this institution for about 2 months. I will say that this is the perfect place where one can get value-based education.”
September 30, 2009