Vedic Foundation - Mission




Welcome to the Vedic Foundation blog, here you will get to know about the various social initiatives we are working on.

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Kanakadasa Jayanthi @ IndiraNagar Lower Primary School

Children gathered in the school at around 8 AM, there was excitement on their faces.
I asked them - what is special? You are all so well dressed and happy.
Children: Miss today is holiday.
Me: Really? then why have you come to school.
Children: Miss we will finish pooja and leave....
Me: What pooja is it?
Children: Kanakadasa jayanthi

The head mistress orders the picture of Kanakadasa to be removed from the wall and put on a stool converted into a worship altar. The teachers performed the Pooja and all the children got Arathi and Prasad.



The headmistress gave a short yet very eloquent speech to children about Kanakadasa. Reminding them that in their older textbook there was a poem that Kanakadasa had written. This rang some bell and children said "yes yes miss we remember that one".
She told them that Kanakadasa lived many centuries back but his name and work is still remembered because he contributed to the lives of many and was a great philosopher, poet and saint. He was also from a small village and he studied well and grew up to become a great person.
Later she invited me to interact with children on this day.

I pointed at the picture of Kanakadasa and asked -

what is he holding in his hands?
A squeak from the first row ( 1st standard ): Guitar Miss
A yell from the back row( 4th 5th standard) - Adhu Tamburi ( its a tanpura)

The first standard kid was very puzzled to know that its not a guitar.

There was a wave of giggle that subsided when I asked the next question

Do you see his feet, what is he wearing?

Again from the first row: Miss... hawai chappli but its torn, mine is also torn.
The back row is silent this time



ok...now my final question what is he holding in his other hand?
No answer....

I said, in olden days footwear was made of wood. Even now you can find them but not many wear them.
Clothing was mostly cotton for the common man.
Kanaka dasa was simple in his lifestyle, he wore simple clothes, ate simple food. He had great passion for music and always loved to sing and write poems too. He is holding a Tambura and Jalra in this hands, both instruments are used while singing.
Do you want to listen to a story from Kanakadasa's life?
Children: YES! YES MISS

So I told them about the famous incident at the Udupi temple.
Once Kanakadasa visited Udupi but because of "Jati Bheda" ( caste based discrimination) he was not allowed inside the temple.
Kanakadasa did not argue or become angry. He was humble and he prayed from outside the temple, he sang songs to God from outside and his Bhakti ( devotion) was so moving that the legend says the Idol turned towards Kanakadasa and he could see the Idol through a window. Such is the power of pure heart and pure intention.

































Source: http://www.kelvi.net/books/comics/

I told them that I have been to Udupi and seen the Kanakana Kindi and have deeply thought about the ecstasy ( ananda) that Kanakadasa might have felt at that miraculous moment.



I continued, you know such a great man who was divine and full of Bhakti also wrote a very nice story about Ragi. Do you want to listen to it?
There was more enthusiasm this time and the children came closer, straightened their spine and even pushed each other a bit to get closer to me.



I told them a story called Ramadhanya Charite ( the story of Ramadhanya)
Once Rice and Ragi caught a fight on who is a better grain and their quarrel became a big argument and they were taken to the court of Lord Rama. Lord Rama ordered both to be put in the prison. After a few months Rice had rotted away but Ragi survived, Lord Rama blessed Ragi which was primarily poor mans food then and thus Ragi is called "Ramadhanya".

Do you all eat Raagi?
Children: Yes miss
there was a great excitement in them to know that ragi is special in this story.

Don't you think we should eat Ragi and Rice both?
there is giggle again...

Do you see, though Kanakadasa was a great saint and divine he also thought about the society and people. His thinking was very high and his behavior was very humble that even God turned towards him.
Do you know what kind of thoughts he had?

"Is sweetness in sugar or sugar in sweetness, or is it like both sugar and sweetness are in the tongue"

If you could not taste and know what is sweet can you say if it is sugar or salt?

Can you think of more such examples where it is difficult to know something as simple as this...
When you go home today try to think...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Notebooks Drive 2014 - 15 - A tale of two boys


The children studying in Govt. Lower Primary Schools of Bangarpet Taluk, Karnataka, come from very poor backgrounds. One of the main challenges faced by these children in their learning process is the access to learning materials, especially notebooks and stationeries.

Govt schemes implemented in the schools here helps children with uniforms, mid-day meals, textbooks and several teaching aids. The schemes as yet do not include notebooks for all school children.
Despite all the support they get, due to either economic factors or negligence and lack of awareness of parents these children end up struggling to get notebooks to schools.
We have been conducting notebooks drive for the past 4 years.  Every year we have tried best to reach out to as many children as we can. This year also we have distributed more than 5000 notebooks to around 1300 children in more than 30 Govt schools here in Bangarpet. This is more than 10 times the number of children when we started this drive four years ago.
 
Notebooks Drive 2014-15
This year’s notebooks drive was very special. Dhanush and Mahimay studying in 5th Standard from the Lower Primary School, Indranagar came to me and said “Miss, we want to help you in the notebooks drive this year".I said " thats a very nice idea, how do you want to help me"

Dhanush said " its four years now miss, we have seen you distribute books in the past years. You first bring all the books and keep them in the store room of our school, then all teachers come and give you a list and then you take the books out and give it to them, they take it to their schools. We will help you in this work".

I said “very good, this work will involve lots of mathematics, you need to count, sort, add and subtract etc. I am sure it will be a nice exercise to brush your arithmetic skills"

A wave of giggles ran through the two boys, the kind of waves that come to us when we feel sweetly fooled. Mahimay pitched in “Miss, you do the maths please, we are grown up boys now, very strong boys, and we will help you in bundling, moving and carrying the books. What do you think?"

I said “Ok this sounds fine too, let’s get started".
I saw that sigh of relief the two boys breathed. We entered the store room and the boys immediately got to work, they cleared a patch of books for us to set up our work desk. They rushed and got my handbag, laptop and file with the list of schools etc, they set everything up for me to begin the work.

I told them that I understand that they are not interested in the mathematics part but they are strong boys who will help me move the books and bundle them etc. But I just want them to understand the process once.
So I took out a list of schools with the details of individual schools in a cluster with total number of children in each school divided class wise. I told them that each such paper is the detail of one school; we need to see the name of the school and then write the name in a post-it card. Later count the number of students and then bundle 5 books for each student.

I started doing the calculations and asking them to bundle the books and stick the post-it note on the bundle for identification.When the teachers came we handed the bundles to the teachers.

The next day, I fell ill and could not go to the school. The HM of the school called me up and asked me if I wish to cancel the distribution for the day.
I wondered what to do because we had already informed 10 teachers to come and collect the books.
I asked if Dhanush and Mahimay have come to school, she said they have come and instinctively understood that I wanted to speak to them. I spoke to Dhanush over the phone and asked him if he will really help me today...I told him I very unwell and teachers are on their way.
The bundles are not yet ready.
He immediately said, "yes miss, we will do it". I said "but what about the maths part? Should I ask HM to help there?" He fell silent. I told the HM to assist in today's distribution.

I went to the store room the same day in the late evening just to make sure that things are in place and the doors are locked properly, with a bit of rains in the last month I did not want the books to get wet.
I reached the school and what I saw there was so heart warming.
Dhanush and Mahimay had tried their addition and multiplication on many bits of papers that were scattered on the floor, some were right some were wrong. There were many more post-its lying on the floor too with incorrect spellings of the school names. Then my eyes moved to the bundle of books. 

The children had bundled all the remaining 4000 books! They had sorted, counted, bundled and arranged them so neatly. "Must be the HM's work" I thought to myself and called her up to thank here for the extra effort.
Before I could even say hello to her, she said “Madam, I saw a great transformation today, Dhanush and mahimay did not allow me to help them at all, they did all the distribution work on their own, and the only thing I did was a final verification and a bit of help in multiplication. They insisted to stay back after school and covered all the books, I also sat with them just to make sure they go home safe. Do you remember Dhanush was so short tempered and impatient boy in all your classes and my classes? I was so happy yet so surprised to see him do so much of work in such responsible way”.

I was dumbfounded and deeply absorbing what she was saying, and then I said, “I am at the school store room; I just came to check things. I thanked her and told her I am happy to see this and more happy that boys did it”.

I turned and picked the lock of the room and was about to leave when I noticed something on the desk. It was a note, a note to me. Words written by dusty hands had made the paper look like scrap, I picked it - “finisht miss" and their names written in Kannada "Dhanush and Mahimay"
I quickly put it into my purse. This is precious :)
 
Dhanush and Mahimay at the door of the store room, LPS, Indranagar, Bangarpet
As I conclude this post I am humbled by a string of thoughts…

Two boys whom I know for the past 4 years, I have seen them grow in the school
Dhanush is very aggressive, naughty, impatient, and irregular to school. While Mahimay lives in an orphanage and belongs to the northeast, so had a tough time adjusting and learning the new language. He is very attentive, responsive and good at studies.
The two of them come together.
Is it their friendship that is shaping Dhanush?
Is it the opportunity that brought out what was in Dhanush?
Is it the trust we displayed that let their confidence go up and they tried so hard to get their spellings right
Is it the extra mile the HM went to encourage and support them?
Is it their understanding of the drive that the notebooks will reach many more like them and then they were inspired to do the maths they did not want to do at all.

I don't know what combinations worked and what strings weaved this incident. Later when I gave Dhanush his share of recognition and reward by telling the whole class about his hard work and volunteering spirit, I could see in his eyes that he was feeling good about himself.









Saturday, March 15, 2014

One Year of BalaVidya at Coimbatore - Experiences of the team members

“ When I visited Coimbatore, I met a bunch of individuals who shared with me a collective intent of taking children closer to self-discovery. Right when BalaVidya was unfolding its wings, I was fortunate to meet people who aligned with the philosophy that education is not filling a vessel but lighting a flame and all of them willing to light lamps with their inner fire.

 When I expressed the desire to bring BalaVidya to children in Coimbatore, I was overwhelmed to see so many come forward to share their time, effort and knowledge with children. I always feel that self driven people who share a common intent can take the essence of BalaVidya to many children. This way BalaVidya remains a movement of the spirit touching more and more individual spirits and does not get confined  by place, time or money.

Good intention is like a divine being that has many hands, the many hands willing to work towards BalaVidya movement were revealed to me. As they work with children they will also be working towards their inner self was my intuition.”


Pavithra Suryakiran ( Founder, Vedic Foundation)


Here are some of the excerpts from the experiences shared by the BalaVidya team members towards the end of the program. 

I was sitting on the fence – should I go behind my purpose in my life or to be bound by my duties. Both were important.I had a perfect milieu for the latter yet life purpose was looming large. Just then I got a call  for this project.
Even before I could wink I grabbed the chance and I am grateful I did. I was fully prepared and waited for the first day at the school. On my visit I saw my assumptions of a government school coming down like a sand castle. 

The children were warm, receptive and unassuming. Their enthusiasm, energy and sincerity are so irresistible and compelling that it propelled my earnestness & diligence in my work. Every week I looked forward to visiting the school as much as the children looked forward for us to come.
It was pure joy, singing, playing and laughing all the way. In core lesson classes their sincere attention, solemn effort and insightful questions kept me on my toes. The unmatched love that they gave me is an earned treasure that I will cherish forever.
Lesson learnt: you receive much more than what you give!
I am so happy that Balavidya reached out this far and wish that they extend this competent project in all those needed schools.

 – Rema K. Giridhar 

*************************************************************************************

It was a fabulous team to work with Geetha, Arul, Rema, Jayashree, all were wonderful with their own style and connect with the kids. I was a bit worried on how to teach the kids without knowing their language – Tamil. My anxiety was at the peak when we started off at the Sundapalayam school and observing Rema’s classes was a learning for me. She took classes in English and the children understood her very well and her body movement sequences supportively followed the spoken language. Something clicked inside me after this.
I
 started to use my body to speak too. And I’ve felt that people understood me and resonated better with me, supportive movement language expressions helps the listener.

The whole year, I was able to experience children. Wow! that itself is a huge experience and  
learning  – seeing their spontaneity, their intimacy, the way they are always watch, understand and relate with whatever happens in the moment, now, here!
Watching them and understanding their nature was a big learning for me. Overall, lots of learning, intimate moments with the children, the team and with the teachers.
 


Anbayirukanum (compassionate with love), Ottrumayarikanum (together and united) were two of our themes given as affirmations during Yoga and Meditation and today they are not just words any more in Sundapalayam school.  I have felt that children have integrated it in their lives, they are following it and I have seen those words playing their role and come up live.
Prasad Naveen

*************************************************************************************
Children would get excited to read the books I used to distribute. What enthusiasm! Initially, I used to find it difficult to calm them down. Slowly I started appreciating good behaviors and ignoring when anyone was disrupting the classes. Soon some children, who were used to getting attention for being naughty started to behave well.

The class teachers remained in the class, which helped in integrating the program. With Rema’s help, the children became familiar with phonetics, so when I gave the 5th Graders books to read, the improvement was obvious. They were eager now to read and not getting intimidated or scared when they came across long words/ sentences.  Some of them are also attempting to read English newspaper or magazine, when they come across one.
Even the “shy” ones readily come up to the front of the class to read from the books using phonetics. I can see the pride in their face now that they can read better.

The children now appreciate one another. The hitting, beating, pushing & pulling has noticeably reduced. The proverb “The soul is healed by being with children” is very true. I don’t know how much English I have taught them, but I feel that us just being there conveys an affirmation that “they are all important” which will help increase their self esteem. This is an experience I will cherish for life.
Dr. K. V. Jayashree

*************************************************************************************

The bonding with the children has so beautifully happened that I also felt the urge to meet them every week, I did not want to miss it and most of the weeks I made it possible to be with them.
Personally I too have grown so much. There is a difference in the way I have opened myself.   Initially I was not much opened.  Not it’s just opened, my heart is fully opened and it sends abundance of love, everything seems to be beautiful and wonderful.
When I expressed my love to them that is what I too received from them. These days they get themselves settled quickly when I enter the class and they are eagerly waiting to learn and explore new things.  And I started the class with relaxation methods so that they can be more attentive and alert.They learn and grasp things quickly and are calm also.
  it gives me a lot of energy and immense pleasure and would like to continue the journey.
- Arulmozhi. K

Memorable Moments
  • When kids are called for yoga they stand in rows with one arm distance and direct the other children who are not standing in line.   First two classes we guided them and after that they do it for sure at their pace and style.
  •  When a child asks a team member – shall I call you appa? ( Father)
  • When children ask – can you please a take a photo of us friends together?
  •  After a sound meditation, when we ask what are the sounds you heard? Some answers include – Your voice, that teacher came – we heard her anklet
  •  First time we clapped to draw their attention and they joined in clapping thinking we are asking them to clap
  • When we do not go for one class, with a shy smile question comes –"ena miss  last Tuesday varalai"?(Why miss you did not come last Tuesday)
  •  When a ‘so-called’ ‘naughty’ kid settles down quickly into a meditation posture when we say it is time for meditation
  • When they learnt to use a few English sentences and when we enter the class a chorus – How are you miss? With that pride and enthusiasm of having spoken in English

One Year of BalaVidya at Coimbatore

About BalaVidya
For the past 4 years we have been working towards the development of children by facilitating their learning process and self-discovery.
BalaVidya is one of our initiatives that aims at bringing mindfulness in children and help them increase their awareness towards their self and surroundings.

Through this program we want to bring about in children:
  • Awareness: paying attention to oneself and the surrounding through observation and reflection.
  • Acceptance: being non-judgmental and positive towards life
  • Stillness: silence in their heart and mind for them to be more alert and receptive

For children to develop these qualities we encourage them to explore ancient methods of yoga and meditation combined with engaging story telling and other activities. The activities involve their physical, mental and spiritual aspects and help them connect deeper with their selves. We also train the teachers in the school during this program so that the effort can later be integrated within their system and be applied and sustained.
Our programs were mostly conducted in few rural schools here in Karnataka and we always feel the need to reach more children.

When we saw the potential to conduct BalaVidya program in Coimbatore too, we wanted to first reach out to rural children there as well. After many school visits we finalized to work with Primary Union Panchayat School @ Sundapalayam, Coimbatore after getting due approval from District Education Officer.

The Program @ Sundapalayam Govt School, Coimbatore

We started working with the school for the academic year 2013-14. The school has a strength of 125 children. We engaged weekly once for about 1 to 2 hours with children and our program with the school consisted of:
  1. Yoga and Meditation for Children through BalaVidya Stories and activities
  2. library program: This is an effort to create a joyful reading space and environment for children, to make books accessible to them. The goal is to run a library program that is completely designed and run by teachers and children.
  3. Spoken English classes

The Team

Geetha: Founder of Ankur, her experience lies in the fields of Learning & Development and Organizational Development.  She is also a teacher of Yoga. Designing and delivering workshops that strike a chord in people and facilitating them to identify who they really are is her mission.She is the co-ordinator for the BalaVidya Program in Coimbatore. She Primarily facilitated the Yoga and Meditation program.

Prasad Naveen: A facilitator at Ankur with great passion to integrate eastern Spiritual practices, Western Psychology, Art, Singing, Dance and Outbound activities like trekking into holistic approach towards life and self discovery.
Prasad conducted yoga and meditation classes and specialized in movement related exercises.

Rema K Giridhar: Rema with her skills in Phonetics and teaching English set the pace and tone of the reading culture.  Her skill in phonetics gave the required break-through to reach the language to the children.


 Dr. K. V. Jayashree, Counsellor & Trainee Psychotherapist (Transactional Analysis) facilitated the library and reading programs. Helped build the reading culture among children by encouraging them to read and comprehend


Arulmozhi K.:Trainee Counsellor (Transactional Analysis) – Facilitated the library and reading programs. Helped build the reading culture among children by encouraging them to read and comprehend.


How has the school benefited 
  • Reading culture has been introduced. Book reading, story telling, role plays and other activities are conducted during their library periods.
  • The school has integrated the practice of BalaVidya Yoga Asanas and simple meditation techniques; these are delivered by the school teachers.
  • Teaching phonetics (English) is now a regular practice in the school.
  • The confidence of the children towards the language English has increased.
  • Children have a lot of enthusiasm to learn yoga and meditation through interesting stories and activities. We see positive shifts in perspectives and attitudes of many children that comes to light in their day to day life events and we feel that introducing mindfulness to them is worth a thing.
  
What teachers say

-        Our school students were very enthusiastic to see the loving approach of the Facilitators.  They expect and wait for them to come.
-        After the Facilitators started coming to school, students have lost their fear towards English and are freely attempting to read.
-        Teaching them phonetics has increased their ability to read.
-        Yoga was taught systematically and it is very useful for us and we practice Balavidya Asanas regularly in school.
-        Children were very interested in drawing/coloring activities.
-        The approach of play and rhymes before starting the class keeps the students interested in the class.
-        We wish that this initiative does not stop with our school.  It will be useful to all if taken to other schools too.
  ( Translated from the feedback documented by the School teachers)

What children feel
( Collected from the conversations with children)
  •  I like everything in yoga class.Suya, 5th std 
  •  I love yoga class. I like to do vajrasana and simhasana. I like opening my mouth wide in Simhasana. I love the frog story. I want to give you chocolate for taking yoga class. Jayashree - 5th std
  • In yoga class i like doing balasana, simhasana, vajrasana - because I do these asanas well..i love the turtle and the way the turtle lifted the island on its back in the story. Saranya - 4th std 
  • I like balasana - it was so nice to do it. I loved the way we colored the frog.  I want to color lion next time. will you bring that picture to color? when is your birthday? my birthday is on may 30th. Bhavya - 3rd std
Most children expressed that they liked the rhymes and songs. They enjoyed the stories and are happy that they can read so much now. Children also felt that we should visit them more often and not just once a week.

Highlights from the Program

We love BalaVidya time! It is fun play and learning

It is a story to read and understand. Learn new words and practice them

Let us touch and feel our body parts and learn their names


Children and Teacher observe keenly in Rema's class
We also share our thoughts and experiences 





A session on Art after a storytelling - The story was about a Green frog that met with his limitations and then worked hard to overcome them. Children were asked to draw and colour frogs. They came up with so many different ways of colouring – There were even frogs with all the colours of a rainbow in their pictures. They had no inhibitions in naming their frogs. Their imagination and creativity travelled in all directions.  Always ready to experiment and express in their ways.

We meditate to relax and reflect
I like the chocolates during a post meditation interview





Children were very excited to do the thumb print activity based on a story read out to them.  The shapes that emerged from the thumb prints were so spontaneous and it was a thrill for the children to see ink mark on their thumbs.





Children learning the butterfly pose
Some Art in the class



The team :)
Bala Vidya will continue to spread its wings and reach out to children.  The consistent commitment of the volunteers provides the platform of BalaVidya to children and brings out their enthusiasm.  Once that enthusiasm is opened their love and affection gushes out like a huge fountain, drenching everyone around.  That love and affection fuels the volunteers to keep coming week after week.  Sustenance and focused effort are the drivers for any initiative to succeed and along with that the love, affection and enthusiasm of the children is what propels Bala Vidya.