Sevalaya - The journey of Karma Yoga

CSR Times: Kindly brief us about your organization’s Vision, Mission and Objectives as well as organization’s legacy.

 

VISION

      Uplift of Poor; Unbounded Cheer

MISSION

  • For children, poor and needy - life coping, character building and

Elevating education

  • For residents - sound body, sound mind and sustaining food for the Intellect and the spirit
  • For the rural folk – healthy and happy living with capacity enhancement for a self-supporting livelihood.   

 

OBJECTIVE

  • To provide love and affection in addition to food, clothing and shelter to children till they are able to stand on their own legs.
  •  To provide them value based education that should ultimately teach them to live happily and peacefully.
  •  To take care of the health and hygiene of the children.
  • To support the aged destitute old people and the given-up animals.
  • To take care of the uplift of the rural areas surrounding Sevalaya in the matters of literacy, education, health care, civic awareness, gender equality, attitude building etc.,
  • Environmental protection and organic farming
  • Inducting right type of workers, training and motivating them for a service oriented lifetime career for the organization.
  • Bringing in the concept of professional management to ensure maximum utilization of human and material resources.
  • To achieve total self-reliance.

 

Organization’s legacy

 

The founder and Managing Trustee Mr.V.Muralidharan,, even during his school days was inspired by the life and teachings of Mahakavi Subramania Bharathiyar , Swami Vivekananda  and Mahatma Gandhi. Main thrust of their messages that caught his imagination was the poor and down trodden should be served, freeing people from hunger and ignorance. Bharathi’s message was “educate the poor.” Gandhiji’s prescription was to go to villages! Vivekananda considered feeding the hungry as even better than worship of three Crore and odd gods!

 

 Sevalaya seeks to address itself to the following major issues.

1. Giving food, shelter and loving care to the destitute and deprived and make them useful citizens of society. Similar care to be extended to helpless seniors, and old animals.

2. Giving academic, value based life-coping education to the poor village people, particularly girls, who have hitherto been deprived of education as if it were a “luxury” to be enjoyed by the rich few.

3. Uplift the rural masses by educating them on skills, social awareness etc

 

CSR Times: Being a Social Service Professional, according to you, what should be the social trends in India and what are the most urgent ethical issues in the India Community?

 

Globalization and opening up of economy has created an illusion that everyone can get a highly paid job. With the opening up of many engineering colleges, anyone and everyone who can just manage to pass the school final, if he has some money to spare, can get into an engineering college. The student dreams of getting a job in a tier I Software Company and ultimately fly off to USA. However in many cases this does not happen and we end up with many unemployed or under employed engineers. This has resulted in less number of people opting to become teachers. The one who are getting into teaching profession now-a-days are not there out of their choice. We have created a society with lot of bad engineers and worst teachers. This has an impact on the quality of education both at school level and college level. The problem is more for organizations like Sevalaya where are run a free school for destitute, orphan and poor children, completely free of any charges, getting good committed teachers is almost impossible now.  Also many NGOs are also run like business; it is becoming very rare to see people who really want to serve the needy. NGO managers, staff and in some cases even the founder are all paid staff and there are only very few who take this up as a charitable work.

 

The concept of “Dhan” and willingly doing voluntary service was very strong in our society. This has slowly reduced. Urgent need is to revive this spirit of giving, both money and time.

 

CSR Times: Please tell us about the major Social Projects being run under the flagship of your organization.

 

Sevalaya has organized its work in to three groups-Bharathi, Vivekananda and Gandhi.

Bharathi Team consists of Mahakavi Bharathiyar Higher Secondary School (Tamil Medium-recognized-but unaided by the Government of Tamilnadu.). A Tamil Medium Montessori school (a unique feature) and Swami Vivekananda Free library.

The school educates children from Sevalaya Homes, and children from 33 surrounding villages. The education is totally free of any charges. Besides this text books, note books, educational tools, and two sets of uniforms are given free. The services of the school, as any other services of Sevalaya are totally free and without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed or religion.

The school imparts, besides, government regulated syllabus, training in crafts. A special   innovative curriculum”BGV”-on the basis of lives and teachings of Bharathi, Gandhi, and Vivekananda has been introduced in the school. Competitions on Bharathiyar, Gandhiji and Vivekananda and open-book examinations on the trinity are conducted for students all across the State and prizes awarded.

Festivals of different religions are celebrated in the school and leaders of different Faiths are invited to speak to the children.

The school library consists of about 15000 volumes, and includes collected works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vivekananda and Bharathiyar. Free membership is open to villagers around, and students from nearby colleges are making use of Sevalaya’s library.

Vivekananda Team activities essentially consist of Swami Vivekananda Home for Boys.Mother Theresa Home for Girls and Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Home for the Aged.

Children are Human capital for the nation. Enormous human resources go down the drain for the country in the form of abandoned and uncared children. Left uncared, they, likely, either become victims of anti-social elements, or they themselves become as such. It is the society’s responsibility to tend them with love affection and care and provide them shelter food and education. Sevalaya has taken upon itself this responsibility.

The children of these Homes are given life-coping and value-based education through Sevalaya School.  They are encouraged in sports, arts, book-reading etc through various activities. They are taken to places of worship of different religions and are taken on periodic tours to places of educational, spiritual and architectural value. Their daily prayer consists of hymns relating to different religions.

The Old age Home serves that segment of seniors, who have no earning of their own, and either who have nobody to fall back upon, or have been abandoned by kith and kin.  They are provided due medical attention, good recreational facilities and tours to places of importance and to cultural events in the City.

The unique feature of the Homes is that a few children are assigned to selected seniors, so that both of them find comfort and solace in the company of each other.

 

Gandhi Team basically deals with the following activities: Goshala, craft training to village women, organic farming and development activities-in around 33 villages around the campus.

Cows are poems of piety, according to Gandhiji. 40 such cows which have become old and “dry’- and which would otherwise have gone to slaughter house are sheltered by Sevalaya’s Vinobhaji Goshala.

At Sevalaya’s centres at Kasuva, Tiruvallur District, Ayalur, Tiruvallur District and Vadanallur, Kanchipuram district, monthly certificate courses are conducted for village women. Women successfully completing the course are avidly sought after by export garment companies. Some of them work on their own and eke a livelihood.

Sevalaya does organic farming in the land adjoining the school. Besides they educate the farmers on the benefits and methodology for organic farming by regular training courses.

Mahatma Gandhi Medical Centre, caters to the needs of children, students and senior citizens of Sevalaya. Besides, regular medical camps are conducted inviting specialists from different branches of Medicine. Medicines are distributed free; eye surgery, and glasses are also given free. Veterinary camps conducted take care of the Goshala cows and cattle in the neighborhood.

Sevalaya has, besides the Swami Vivekananda Library located at its Kasuva centre, has Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Library at Ayalur centre which caters to the villagers. Mobile library, based at Sevalaya

Kasuva campus, visits the surrounding villages on a weekly basis. This creates interest in reading, and many from the villages turn to the Main library at Sevalaya Campus.

“Kottu Murasu” cultural troupe of Sevalaya visits surrounding villages and conducts programmes on environmental awareness and other social issues.

Sevalaya’s Annual Tournaments for village youth is a popular event. Particularly the Annual Volleyball Tournament to substitute the cruel jallikattu(bull fight) has become very popular.

CSR Times: Please share any motivational or inspiring story in context with the projects being run under your organization. Also share if there are any remarkable Social Impact cases you have experienced, which you suggest for other organizations to practice.

 

When Sevalaya started its work more than two decades ago, there were no takers for the offer of free education. The villagers were reluctant to forego a few pittance earned by the children. It was an arduous task of going from door to door. Now, having seen the impact of education on the children who went to class room-many of them are well placed and the family status has improved- there is a very high demand for admission, and the school has to go for additional blocks from year to year.

Sending girl children to school was a taboo in the earlier years. Now the number of girls coming to school has steadily increased. Almost all the village girls educated by Sevalaya are well employed, and some of them (sponsored by Sevalaya) are engineers which has been unheard of in these parts.

This is not to speak of boys well settled as software engineers etc. (one of them is Sevalaya’s Trustee now.)

Of those who completed studies in Sevalaya, from 2005-to 2012;

  • 234 are pursuing higher studies including medicine and engineering.(1- medicine and 36-Engineering.)
  • 201 have completed higher studies including. B.E(14-Engineering)
  • 189 are employed well.
  • School’s pass percentage 100% in Public Examinations in almost all the years
  • Student strength has increased from 465 in 2004-2005 to 1633 in 2012-2013
  • Girl student strength has increased from 200 in 2004-2005 to 720 in 2012-2013
  • The institution generated employment for 112 persons in 2012-2013 as against 32 in 2004-2005.
  • Annually about 60 village women are trained in crafts and are able to stand on their own legs.

 

Feedback from villagers –in the Social Audit Report dated 25th may 2011 –by Social audit network, U.K

  • 100 % of them believe that they are more aware of the importance of sanitation and health due to Sevalaya.
  • 100% of them agree that Sevalaya’s campaign have made them realize the importance of literacy and education.
  • Finally all of them felt that there have been positive changes in their community owing to the programmes conducted by Sevalaya.

 

Due to the sustained work over the years, there has been a total transformation in the area. Child labor is next to nil. Mr. Muralidharan has brought to bear his corporate knowledge, skills and experience to run the organization on strictly professional lines.

 

There is a well laid out design for involving people at all levels in the strategic planning and implementation.

 

In January every year, the process is initiated. Suggestions are invited from staff at all levels and other stake-holders in a specific questionnaire for each category, asking for their suggestions for the goal and activities for the ensuing year (June to May-excepting for financial accounting). Suggestions invited are related to the Vision, Mission and objectives of the organization. The suggestions are studied, and a comprehensive list is prepared for the whole organization, which are then divided unit wise. The strategic planning meeting of all employees discusses all these suggestions and firms them up. Then each unit meets in groups and decides their plans, divides individual activities; divide them month wise. Even micro level planning on a day-to day basis is done. An annual Calendar contains every day’s “To-do” things for all units. This calendar forms the basis of weekly review, Monthly review and staff evaluation.

 Similarly Financial Budget is prepared from the grass root level. Monthly review meeting for each unit and Monthly management committee meetings are held in which the month’s activity and income and expenses vis-à-vis budget are reviewed.

 

CSR Times: What kind of challenges you have faced during the implementation of social projects and what recommendation you want to give to improve the implementation process and also the quality of Social Service practices?

 

  1. Funds: Consistent and constant work without any relent is required to mobilize financial resources. Adequate funds are not coming forth for our ambitious expansion plans. Government should consider organization which have a proven track record and start supporting their running expenses. Corporates  also show interest in supporting capital expenses, like building etc., but there are no takers to support running expenses. Government and corpoartes should look at supporting the running expenses of long running organizations.
  2. Human resources: the absence of dedicated people who are willing to put in sustained work. The concept of “Karma Yoga” has to be imbibed right from the schools.
  3. Administration: Of the expanding-now developing in to a multi-site project is challenging.  A full-fledged administrative set-up is required. Unfortunately, sponsorship is not readily forthcoming for non-project expenses. To run projects, strong administration is required. Tools and machines that support admin, staff to run admin are all required to make the project a success. Donors should understand this and support admin expenses as well.

 

CSR Times: How do you rate Indian Business on the CSR Scale and what recommendations you provide to combat the basic challenges of Indian society and CSR practices?

 

Many Businesses have a policy that they will support the community within few KMs radius. Also many businesses operate within the city.  Hence they all end up supporting the schools and organizations, within the city, where much help may not be needed. I know of corporates which have donated furniture and computers to nearby CBSE schools, which are already charging fee and students are from higher middle class. The corporate can tick off their action item on the CSR sheet, but the purpose is not met. Corporates should take pains in moving to areas where help is actually required, identify and support them. CSR is usually an extra hat worn by HR or such departments and most of the time, CSR is on lower priority compared to their line of business activity. In many cases the CEOs wife leads the CSR activity, who is not an employee of the organization, and there is no full time CSR team. CSR deserves more attention. A full time CSR team can be formed and the expenses can be accounted under the CSR expenses.

 

CSR has to be given same importance like any other line of business activity. It is not that the corporate has made a profit and so they are sharing a percentage with the society, but it is the other way around – it is because the corporate has an image of socially caring organization, it is able to make profit.

 

For More details about this organization - Please visit www.sevalaya.org

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