A tale of success in Valaramkunnu
August 2016, Kerala, India
The little known tribal hamlet of Valaramkunnu, in Kerala, India, is host to 75 families. For decades, its 300 residents had been living without electricity, pipe water and medication. To make matters worse, many of the village women had been handling the difficult tasks of daily life without any help from their spouses, as most of the village men are alcoholics.
Things began to change when our volunteers adopted the village under our own Amrita University’s ambitious self-reliant village initiative. Initially, we erected six clusters of solar panels, through which 60 families could power three light bulbs each.
Then we focused on the village’s water issues. Our volunteers dug wells and drew pipelines to provide drinking water from nearby streams. “Earlier, the women and children used to walk miles to fetch water from the stream. After we laid pipelines they started getting drinking water at their homes. Many of them were relieved as it was an ordeal for them,” said Akshayamrita Swami, who is overseeing the project.
Open defecation was another big problem in Valaramkunnu. Our volunteers constructed four new toilets and made them publicly available.
Education became a central focus too, as the majority of Valaramkunnu’s population is illiterate, despite two government schools in the neighborhood. Village children are sent to the schools at an early age, but they typically drop out after a few years to help their parents support the family. To ensure that every child in the village attends school, the volunteers keep a tab for them, provide essentials like food, books and clothes, and offer additional classes that 30 children regularly attend. Nineteen of these attendees are receiving a scholarship.
Recently, students and faculty of Amrita University visited the village for two weeks, presenting lectures, dramas and skits at schools and local homes to teach about alcohol abuse. “The men of the house go to the valleys and work as laborers. At the end of the day’s work, they spent all their money to buy alcohol and tobacco products and return home empty handed,” said one villager.
The women, children and the elders survive on the rice provided by the Government ration shops, so they are chronically malnourished. For them, a day with three square meals is almost unimaginable. Sometimes, the women and children take up odd jobs just to get their next meal. So, we introduced classes on tailoring, in an effort to empower the women with a more lucrative and stable trade.
In addition, we conduct medical camps every two weeks. Dr. Sanjeev Vasudev and Dr. Ajitha of our own Amrita Hospital give medical exams to local villagers. Occasionally, students from Amrita University assist the doctors as well.
Thanks to our volunteers involved in this initiative, the quality of life in the village of Valaramkunnu is improving.