Students in Odisha rush to the aid of their fellow villagers after Cyclone Fani
May 16, 2019 - Odisha, India
Cyclone Fani, which had wind speeds between 175-200 km/hr, made landfall in the state of Odisha, India on May 3rd. The storm hit the village of Janla which is home to an Amrita-PMKVY Skills Training Center, and the center was severely damaged. Despite the aftermath, the 47 students who study there are determined to both help their communities recover and complete their studies in June as scheduled.
Amrita-PMKVY is a partnership between Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham (Amrita University) and the Government of India’s Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojan (PMKVY). The purpose is to give students from underserved communities in remote locations access to state-of-the-art skill training in critical, industry-relevant areas. The newly inaugurated centre in Janla includes courses such as automotive service technician, general plumbing and self-employed tailor.
Teams from AMMACHI Labs immediately went to affected areas to survey the damage and mobilize humanitarian efforts. Several structures and homes were hit, but thankfully there were no severe injuries to report. In fact, the Amrita-PMKVY students were quickly on-the-ground to come to the aid of their family and neighbours.
"We visited several houses of the students the day after the cyclone. It was incredible to witness their spirit--not only of the students but even the family members--in encouraging their classmates to get back to their classes, despite the immensity of destruction caused to most of the houses,” explained Prema Pillai, AMMACHI Labs Central Coordinator.
During one visit, the teams found a plumbing student busy at work performing repairs on broken fixtures in his village. At another house, they met a proud father of another plumbing student praising his daughter's motivation and success in participating in the Amrita-PMKVY courses, especially when her skills enabled her to come to the aid of others. For him, his daughter’s enrollment in the training program is also a way to secure her future.
As the team continued, they saw that it was apparent that no cyclone or disaster could stop the motivation and resilience of the Amrita-PMKVY community. Many places still lacked electricity, water and proper infrastructure, but even so, the students persisted in helping and were also eager to get back to their education.
"True to their words and commitment, the students bounced back to attend classes regularly just two days after the calamity,” said Pillai. “They collectively mustered up the strength to defeat all odds, rebuild and move forward in life. These incredible dimensions may serve as a great lesson and motivation for many in the future."
Srividya Sheshadri is a PhD Researcher with AMMACHI Labs. She added, “I have never seen this kind of resilience and motivation. These people have lost so much, yet they are highly motivated to finish their coursework. It’s very inspiring.”
AMMACHI Labs teams continue in-depth surveys and rehabilitation outreach for villages affected by the storm. They are coordinating with local people so the villagers can access potential government grants and rehabilitation funding. To facilitate this process, the teams have begun conversations with government officials and meetings with District Collectors to discuss what is available.
Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham (Amrita University) has been running village empowerment programs in Odisha since 2013. The work is part of its Amrita SeRVe initiative to foster development of 101 villages across India. The communities in Odisha now include Guptapada, Binjagiri, Barapitta and Hariram Mad.