A project of the Auroville Village Action Group
under the Mohanam-Svaram Trust
(established June 2006)
“Thamarai” is the name given to the learning and cultural centre in Edayanchavady Village – a gateway village into the township of Auroville . Thamarai is the Tamil word for lotus and this is a symbol inspiring the work to foster the emergence of the women, children and families of this village.
ORIGINS OF THE PROJECT:
The idea to start a project to build bridges of understanding and relationship between Auroville and Edayanchavady came from the residents of neighboring Adventure community in the beginning of 2006. Very quickly, from this seed idea, the inspiration grew and resources flowed. Our team expanded to include a few women who grew up in the village and were now in Auroville and before we could precisely think about what we wanted to do, we had a house – a beautiful traditional Tamil house (130 years old) available to us to rent and a donor, prepared to give the costs for the full renovations and help with rent. We launched in, trusting these “signs” that this seed wanted to grow and the details would unfold. Renovations began in June 2006.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROJECT:
During the time when the renovations were taking place, we began our work to come into deeper contact with the village. Initially our main interest was to work with women and we made contact with the leaders and then many of the members of the self help women's group in the village (Government savings scheme groups of which there are about 400 participating women). We shared the idea of creating a place for collaborative learning and culture in the village and began to exchange ideas. We also conducted a number of experiential workshops with the women to get to know them better and to start to build a sense of trust and confidence.
The ideas that grew out of these exploratory sessions included to start a crèche and to have a tuition program for children - the women were very concerned for the quality of education for their children. They were also very concerned with primary health care and sanitation in the village and this led to the idea to include classes on environmental awareness, food safety in the home and personal health care.
At a certain point in our visioning phase, a few youth from the village begun to approach us and we soon realized that here was another group, highly motivated, with a strong wish to “help the village” as well as develop themselves. Meetings with an increasing number of these youth led us to expand our concept to include education programs for youth including programs for improving English and developing the body.
By the time we were ready to open in November, we had conceived of a program for the coming months that included:
- A daily crèche (we preferred to call it a play group)
- Daily classes addressing the interests of women and youth to include health awareness, skills training such as kneedlework, conversational English, and yoga and martial arts training
- A “night school” which was intended as a place for school children to receive extra help with their homework and coaching in studies from voluntary staff after school
- Special programs for children
- A library and quiet room open to all.
THAMARAI IS INAUGURATED SUNDAY 12 TH NOVEMBER
Monsoon may not have turned out to be the most auspicious time to open, yet we managed to find a sunny enough Sunday to open after renovations were completed on the 12 th November 2006.
About 300 villagers, Aurovilians and guests packed into the house for the afternoon opening program which included song and dance offered by Auroville women's groups, Life Education Centre, Mohanam Cultural Centre and villagers. Meenakshi graciously hosted the events and the atmosphere was celebratory and joyful. We were off to a festive start!
THAMARAI BEGINS FUNCTIONING
The day after opening we began running programs. The play group was immediately full and our teacher was assisted by mothers in helping the 16 new children settle in to the new environment. We have been thankful to receive donations of toys and equipment and the inputs of people trained in early childhood care to develop this program
The night school also began with over 100 children attending each night in the first weeks. This was way beyond what was expected however it was manageable (well just!) with the help of regular volunteers – youth from the village who came every night to help the children as well as visitors to Auroville who were also wanting to give service to the village. We have recently included a weekly session for training and development of all volunteers.
Women, children and youth have also participated by invitation, in programs in Auroville with the Collaboration women's group (Kolam design), and Tamil cultural events such as the Sangamam festival.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
We have regular meetings with our volunteer team of youth and the leaders of the women's groups to envision together the development of programs to continue to address the needs and aspirations of the village. Out of these meetings, many seeds are sprouting! Helgard, a newcomer and volunteer from Germany , offers an experientially based course to women in learning and creative self expression as a prelude to co-creating a program for young children.
Some of the village youth offer classes in karate, theatre and conversational English and Tamil. Other volunteers from Auroville offer classes in non-violent communication skills, English, art and music. Tiago, a long term volunteer from Portugal is regularly offering classes in Capoeira and wants to co-ordinate a project in the garden including agriculture, eco-literacy and spaces for play and recreation. Thamarai has become a place for intercultural experience and learning. In the process of sharing, learning and exchanging skills in this open environment, respect, understanding, generosity of spirit and tolerance can grow. This was one of the central premises on which Thamarai was founded and in which Auroville is rooted.
At the heart of Thamarai is the wish to cultivate an atmosphere where our inner beings can find a safe and fertile place to open and be. We emphasise co-operating, service, sharing and joy of learning in our programs. We believe it is no so important where we have come from, as it is to look to the future to what we might become and that with support and helpful conditions, we are all like the lotus, which wants to blossom in the sun.
We have been truly blessed to discover many people in the village as well as visitors to Auroville and other Aurovilians who naturally resonate with this vision, and in a spirit of self giving, share what they can for the well being and progress of the village.
We try to welcome and include all offerings, of which there are so many! We can receive short term or long term volunteers. Recently we had the pleasure of receiving a group of students from the USA Living Routes study abroad program who conducted a service project in Thamarai. Within 1 week, a group of 6 students transformed a shady part of the garden into a beautiful children's play area. Medicinal and flowering plants were planted and a large sand pit for the children to play in was established.
BECOME A FRIEND OF THAMARAI
In our short lifetime, we have been delighted to receive an immense flow of practical support and positive energy from many unexpected places. As a project run with donations and almost entirely with volunteers, our network of friends and supporters around the world are essential to our ongoing work.
A friend can give support in many ways;
- You can wish us well and follow our progress through reading our newsletters and sharing your reflections
- Money is always welcome to help cover our monthly running expenses and help towards purchase of equipment, running programs and developing infrastructure ( we need approx 7,000rs/month = approx 100 Euro/month)
- Volunteers can help in countless ways from coaching the children in their studies to organizing workshops such as a recent training program offered by healers from Canada to the women in hands on energy healing.
If you would like to be a friend of Thamarai, please let us know.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our donors around the world who have contributed with money, books, toys, furniture and hours of service. We feel confident that Thamarai will continue to open more of it's petals revealing stronger bridges of collaboration and understanding between Edayanchavady and Auroville and appreciate you for sharing in this vision.
The Thamarai Team: Bridget, Kathy, Raji, Thulsi