What started with an initial investment of 0.75 paise, has come a long way to become the Sri Sarada Ashram (SSA) of today that supports over 1500 students and 1000 women annually. They are given schooling, vocational training and job-oriented career coaching. Located at Uludurpet, on the Chennai Trichy Highway in Tamilnadu, the Ashram also houses 45 Sanyasin Sisters and services the remotest villages in and around the place.
Swami Anantananda a University First Rank holder had started the school with 3 students in a rented dilapidated building. At the same time Yat.Ramakrishnapriya Amba with 3 more sisters joined to work for the noble aim. She played various roles – from matron to manager and from cook to headmistress. With their combined efforts they brought SSA to the level it is now.
SSA works both on upstream & downstream on the ways to eradicate miseries & poverty. In the upstream, SSA’s spiritually oriented services & preaching makes human more humane & know it’s real nature. In the downstream, they do services in fields of rural women employment, education for poor village girls, medical aid, professional training and village development (Irrigation, farming etc ). They have earned good respect and cooperation in the surrounding villages and the communities living there, because of their service to those people over 25 years in times of distress and need.
Swami Vivekananda said “Education for village girls will change the face of whole nation.”In the early days of SSA, Swami Anantananda Mahara, the founder of this organization, himself used to pedal a cycle rickshaw, unable to afford a paid driver, to bring the students to the school and take them back home. The dedication bore fruit and the school has turned out one of the best residential school in Tamilnadu “Sri Ramakrishna Vidyalaya Gurukulam” in Ulundurpet.
SSA started SRI SARADA SEVALAYA – free home for 150 poor village girls. From the drudgery of menial labour the village poor girls are housed in Sevalaya with free food, clothing and shelter, training in yoga, & culture and vocational training to facilitate their independent living.
VIDYARTHI RAKSHA YOJANA – free night class for poor boys – where free coaching and a wholesome food are provided.
KASTURBA GANDHI BALIKA VIDYALAYA – is the school for Drop outs & the children never enrolled in schools. 100 girls are accommodated in this special school with boarding facilities.
Outside the campus, The Ashram expanded its activities in the field of education by establishing a Higher Secondary School in Ulundurpet with 4,000 students.
A College of Education for 100 students and an Arts & Science College for women- Sri Sarada Mahavidyalayam are being run. The examination results of students under the wings of the Ashram are among the best in the district.
Low-income levels and the lack of adequate medical services are the two most important factors affecting rural people’s health. In response to this situation, SSA started a free mobile dispensary in the year 1997 and a free dispensary in the year 2002 which upgraded into Sri Sarada Charitable Hospital. The Hospital gives out free consultation & medicines, provides nutritious malt & herbal juices to drink, conducts awareness programmes through Preventive Health Care Unit and gives treatment to the poor in remote villages through the mobile unit. Over the years, regular medical camps have been conducted throughout the district. Clinical Lab test, ECG, Physiotherapy, Vision Care Unit and Dental Unit are the few facilities being given by Charitable Hospital.
In the domain of Family Welfare, SRI SARADA VIRUDDHA MAHILA KENDRA – a free home for deprived aged women- 30 support less aged mothers are being taken care.
The social welfare activities undertaken by SSA are the followings:
- Dress & sweet distribution to the rural poor
- Nylon mats & blankets distribution to the families in the villages
- Scholarships, Uniforms, Stationary & education items supply to the needy students
The ashram formed village based Self Help Women groups having homogenous social and economic backgrounds, to save regular small sums of money, mutually agreeing to contribute to a common fund and to meet their emergency needs on the basis of mutual help. SSA has taken initiative in forming 500 SHGs in 150 villages with 10,000 women members. Villipuram being an agrarian district, the ashram started a centre for Sustainable agriculture ”Sri Sarada Krishi Kendra” to impart training in agriculture and other related skills to the rural community.
Rural Training Centre of the ashram trains the people in vocational trainings, Entrepreneur Development Training, Self Help Group management and Finance Management Training etc.
As a future looking institution, it tries to address issues of the coming days. The Rain Water Harvesting centre – ‘Varunalaya’ is a permanent exhibition centre established with the assistance of CAPRAT Hyderabad. Fifty technologies are depicted through working models and panels to explain the importance of water conservation and rain water harvesting. It is established to give exposure to various categories of people like villagers, members of Self-help groups, NGOs, farmers, school and college students.
Owing to the revival of village tanks by SSA, 12 Villages have been benefited. Each of the tanks provides 200 acres irrigation capacity. As water was made available, it boosted agriculture and farmers income. The Ashram takes pride in stopping the flow of urban labourers and farmers are happy being in the village with their family.
EMERGENCY RELIEF PROGRAMMES: The poor people lose their hard earned money and their belongings during the natural calamities like fire and flood. Relief work is being undertaken in so many villages. Food, Dresses, Cooking utensils, Rice and pusles, blankets, mats, water pots are the necessary things given by the ashram as relief to the victims.
Owing to the close coordination between Government and Ashram at the shortest notice, sisters rushed to the areas of distress. The ashram is on a constant alert to respond to emergencies in the quickest possible time.
These sisters leading a simple life sacrificing for the rural poor’s thereby strengthening their service in scale & magnitude. In order to develop the living condition of the needy – they embraced technology in one hand and paid respect to our rich heritage in the other. As a mother nurtures its kids with an all-round focus – this institution – run by 100% women power – have touched thousands of lives of the Villipuram districts in all functions. When such a care & focus is there – the service by Sri Sarada Ashram makes the district a heaven to live by.