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Dec 6, 2018

Celebrating the 'ATMA Gurukulam Day'

Expressing talents, learning teamwork...
Expressing talents, learning teamwork...

It was time to introduce our children to the challenges and intricacies of event management.

As part of the Leadership Development Programme for the children of ATMA Gurukulam, it was decided to conduct ‘ATMA Gurukulam Day’ on 7th October 2018. The children’s committee had a special meeting in late August, to discuss the nature of the event. Through a series of discussions and brainstorming sessions, and with occasional inputs from ATMA Volunteers, the children developed a programme – where each of them got an opportunity to express their talents or talk about themselves – their achievements, dreams and aspirations. They took the initiative in inviting their friends, teachers, relatives and neighbours. They formed themselves into task groups, with each group taking up responsibility for one particular aspect of the event – programme, reception, food, etc.

On the previous evening, a beautiful Pandal (marquee) went up in front of ATMA Gurukulam, with a small stage. The children, with bubbling enthusiasm and magnificent creativity, decorated the premises with the help of ATMA Volunteers. The ‘stage rehearsal’ of the programme went on late into the evening. C K Suresh, ATMA Foundation Director, patiently guided the young performers, giving suggestions for improvements, helping them to relax, boosting their confidence, enabling them to bring out their best on stage. By the time the rehearsals were over, all the nervousness and performance anxiety was gone, to be replaced by a cheerful excitement.

The ‘ATMA Gurukulam Day’ dawned bright and sunny, in spite of an ‘orange alert’ for severe rainfall that had given some anxiety to the people of our recently flood-hit state. The Gurukulam was abuzz with activity, the children going about their assigned ‘duties’, dressing up, helping others dress, redoing decorations, taking last minute rehearsals... As the fear of rain was dispelled by the bright morning sun, the guests started arriving, and the first ATMA Gurukulam Day was inaugurated by lighting the traditional lamp.

Over 200 people attended the programme. The children donned the organiser role with great joy. The reception team welcomed the guests, gave them a welcome drink, talked to them and showed them around the Gurukulam. The programme management team arranged the venue and coordinated the stage programmes according to the previously prepared schedule. One of the senior girls was the MC. The food committee coordinated the lunch arrangements – they managed the queues in the serving and washing areas and ensured that everyone was properly seated and served well. The children also gave their stage presentations with sincerity and confidence. 3 children gave performances – in Music, Mono-act and Yoga. The others each talked about a particular aspect of ATMA Gurukulam which had created maximum impact in them, what they had learnt, and how they were changing.

Friends, teachers and relatives, when invited to offer felicitations, expressed their immense appreciation for the children of ATMA Gurukulam – their health, their elegance, their friendliness, their readiness to help, their initiative, their confidence, their diligence, their intelligence – the list was indeed long!

For the children, it was a day of joy, and a golden opportunity to showcase their abilities, challenge their limits, and learn some new lessons in management. As for the ATMA team, we revelled in the glory of their achievement – another ‘proud parent’ moment that our children so often surprise us with! It was also a moment of reflection – even as we felt proud of our work with the children, we were humbled by the speed and quality of their transformation!

Every volunteer who was part of the ‘ATMA Gurukulam Day’ went home with renewed commitment to this beautiful work.

Concluding the celebrations with a homely lunch
Concluding the celebrations with a homely lunch
Nov 13, 2018

Lending Support to Flood-Hit Kerala

Free Mobility Equipments to Flood Victims
Free Mobility Equipments to Flood Victims

“We are not able to get through to my parents. They are aged, ailing and alone. Can someone please find out?” The distress call was from a worried son in the US about his aged parents living in Thrissur, on the morning of 16th August 2018, as Kerala woke up to an unprecedented disaster.

Our central Kerala district of Thrissur had been so far spared, but the night of 15th August saw torrential rains, leading to all the major dams being opened, and the flood, in its most devastating phase, hit us.

ATMA Foundation Director C K Suresh had arrived early at the office on 16th August, when he got the call. He set out with a team of ATMA volunteers to the nearby densely populated neighbourhood, where the water in its full fury, had knocked out compound walls, submerged cars, and was reaching up to the first floors of houses. The elderly couple were safely rescued, as were so many others. The rest of the day was a flurry of activity - responding to calls, passing information, comforting worried relatives - amidst an erratic power supply and unending rain.

Since then, the ATMA Foundation flood relief project has been in full swing – Relief, Rehabilitation & Reconstruction efforts in a community that has never known, in living memory, a calamity of this scale.

Mobilising Volunteers

In the initial days of the deluge, ATMA Volunteers were actively involved in rescue and relief efforts in their areas. Later, for the different relief activities, ATMA was able to mobilise more than 116 volunteers, putting in over 2700 man hours. A large number of local volunteers were also mobilised in each area where we worked.

Mobilising Resources

ATMA mobilised urgently required relief materials for people in relief camps, and for people going back to their homes in the later stage. Till date, over 36 lakhs worth of relief material has already been distributed, reaching out to more than 22,000 families in 30 villages. This includes –

  • 90,000 L of drinking water distributed to 17,800 families, worth over INR 9 Lakhs
  • Water purification kits given to1000 families to provide pure drinking water for 3 months
  • Relief materials such as grocery items, utensils, beds, tarpaulins, floor mats, bed sheets & school bags worth over INR 8.3 lakhs distributed to more than 1100 families
  • New clothes given to all children of the LP school in Parakkadavu, a place where people suffered heavy material loss.
  • Hygiene kits, cleaning materials, mosquito nets, etc worth over INR 12.7 Lakhs distributed to more than 1065 families in worst affected areas like Thottippal, Kodassery, Vynthala, Kuzhur, Injamudi, etc. 

Counselling

Group Counselling and personal counselling for flood victims were conducted in 8 places, benefitting over 1200 people. Free counselling continued at the ATMA office.

MedicalCamps

Primary Health Care Rural Camps were conducted in 18 remote villages in Thrissur & Ernakulam districts, benefitting over 1700 people. Medicines worth over INR 2 Lakhs were distributed free of cost.

Free Mobility Aids—Assessment & Distribution

Assessment Camp & Free Distribution of Mobility Equipments for flood victims was organised on 22nd& 23rd September, 2018 in association with Mobility India, with a follow up programme from November 1st – 3rd. Over 45 people with disabilities were provided with wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, walking sticks, rollators, etc. worth INR 3.35 Lakhs.   Brief training sessions were also given to them and their caretakers by expert physiotherapists, enabling them to make the best use of the received device for maximum mobility.  

Livelihood

Sewing machines were distributed to 4 families in Ernakulam district, costing over INR 40,000.

Mobilising Funds

Fund raising projects were set up in online platforms including GlobalGiving, and donation requests were sent out to friends and well- wishers. The response has been overwhelming. Now that the relief phase is over, the remaining funds will be utilised for a long-term reconstruction project.

ATMA RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT

ATMA is gearing up for a long term reconstruction project, by adopting a flood-submerged village in the Kuzhoor Grama Panchayath. We are sourcing expert help to develop a suitable plan, and involve local volunteers to rebuild. In the true spirit of ‘Building Back better’, ATMA is committed to the long-term holistic development of the village, and shall play an active role in improving health, education and psychosocial aspects of village life. The project involves a range of initiatives from River management and sustainable energy to economic betterment through effective harnessing of community resources.

Phase 1: Research & Planning

ATMA volunteers have visited different areas in the Panchayath, interacting with different stakeholders. With the active involvement of the local leadership, a volunteer group is being formed there from within the community to support rebuilding and reconstruction efforts.

As part of the planning process, the ATMA team had an interaction with Smt. Sandhya Suresh – a professional with over 20 years’ experience in the development sector, including Tsunami relief. Sharing her experiences and insights, she gave the team a practical and realistic outlook into the possibilities and challenges of a long-term rehabilitation project.

The ATMA Research team is now preparing for an exhaustive field survey, the results of which will form the basis for Project Planning and Implementation. A preliminary data base is being compiled, with data available from agencies like Kerala Institute of Local Development and the Flood Relief wing of the District Collector’s Office.  

Health Camp & Free Medicines to Flood Victims
Health Camp & Free Medicines to Flood Victims
Primary Health Care Camps
Primary Health Care Camps
Free Mobility Aids Given to Flood Victims
Free Mobility Aids Given to Flood Victims
Sep 7, 2018

A New Step into the World of Reading

To fall in love with reading...
To fall in love with reading...

 

“How do we improve their English?” We, the tutors and mentors at ATMA, have asked this question among ourselves so many times.

English is a challenge for all the girls at ATMA Gurukulam. Hailing from difficult backgrounds, the girls have received very little academic support in their early years. With parental neglect and poor physical health, even their brain development is affected, leading to situations like learning difficulties and scholastic backwardness.

At ATMA Gurukulam, we have a comprehensive academic support plan – we start from the beginning, and tutor every child individually, allowing her to learn and grow at her own pace. Our special educator, Ms Sreedevi Haridas, spends time with each child, patiently guiding her through the nuances of the three R’s.

Most of our girls follow Malayalam medium in school till tenth or twelfth standards. But for higher education, English fluency is a must.

This year, when school reopened in June, we decided to give special focus to English. We were blessed with the support of two very good English teachers - Smt Raji P and Smt Sakhi. Both of them now come once a week, and give personal and group training sessions in essential English. It was an added joy when Ms Abhirami, post graduate student of the renowned English & Foreign Languages University Hyderabad, volunteered with us for a month, giving daily lessons to all children.

Then came the books!

Inner Wheel Club of Trichur organised a poster-making event for the Gurukulam children on August 15th, Independence Day. With a piece of white paper and a set of poster colours, creativity bloomed!

At the end of 2 fun hours of painting and slogan making, every child was given a gift – a beautiful book to read and cherish!

The books had been carefully chosen by Ms Vidya Sanjay, with inputs from our team, according to the reading levels and capacities of each child. They were colourful, simple, and came in all shapes and sizes! And of course, they were all in English. The book distribution became a real festival! The children were excited, and suddenly, to their joyful hearts, English seemed a little friendlier. Their cheer has inspired Ms Vidya, a Chartered Accountant by profession, and an avid book lover, to volunteer for a weekly reading session.

And now, slowly, our children are learning to fall in love with reading. True, Gurukulam is a little untidy these days – you can see books scattered on the tables, on the beds – you might even catch one on a kitchen shelf! But we have learnt not to notice. Because we know that, soon, a young mind will return to it, eager to complete the half-read story, ready to take off into a different world - all the while, unknowingly learning.

Learning a language is an uphill task. Magic will not happen in a day. We know. But, slowly, consistently, when our children tread the path into the world of reading, one day, THEY WILL.

 

A Gift Forever!
A Gift Forever!
 
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