Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama Narainpur

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I left Jagdalpur by bus at 12.30pm to reach Narainpur by 4.30pm. Drive from Kondagaon is thru dense forests. Hitched a motorcycle ride from the bus stand to the Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama. Met Swami Maharaj, checked into my room. Went to main temple, that you see, where students gathered to say the evening prayer. After prayer they meditate for a few minutes.

Hall where students praying. Mission was set up in 1985. It is involved in Education, Health Care, Integrated Rural Development Program, Vishwas (a sister institution) and runs an ITI. It also has its own flour mill, agricultural farm, bakery, printing press, dairy and saw mill. Mission motto is SELFLESS SERVICE.

Children playing musical instruments and praying. This is the main hall inside the temple. Ashram is spread over a 50 acre campus. Special focus of Sewa is the Abhujhmarh jungles where a primitive tribe, the Hill Marias stay. Abujhmarh consists of two of two words, one Hindi Abujh means unknown and the Gondi word Marh meaning highlands.

Main building Ramakrishna Mission Vivekanand Vidyapeet (from 1st to 12th class) is being run on public school pattern exclusively for tribal students giving them max facilities all free with valued education to ensure all round development, make them strong and mentally agile, culturally enriched and imbibe them with a spirit of pride and independence. School has 1,000 students.

At 8.30am went to Prathikshala say small kids assembly i.e. what you see in the picture. Note the profile of children. After the assembly saw some students take to the mike, speak about themselves briefly. Nice way to make the child overcome fear of speaking to an audience, gives child confidence.

When I passed by a little later saw these kids calling out numbers 1 to 100 whilst others were listening. Again liked the way nos were taught. Extreme left child on first row looks really sweet. All students are provided special training facilities. Every Oct a Sports Meet is organised. Mission has its own Sports Complex. The School Band is adjudged as the best in the State and has taken part in the Republic Day Parade.

In the adjoining building bigger students had completed the assembly, were saying their morning prayer as you can see. Children are neat and clean. The Ashrama is always struggling for FUNDS. If you like to contribute email me for details at suryacon@gmail.com or Swami Maharaj rkm.narainpur@gmail.com. They have 80G and FCRA approval to receive donations from abroad. U can deposit cheque with local State Bank of India branch or transfer money electronically. For details please mail.

A attentive class of students. Took me back to my school days. We had similar classrooms. Note there are separate hostels for boys and girls. Ashrama guides students who want to pursue higher studies sometimes send them to their sister institutions in other states.

This is Madhyamik Niwas. U see dining hall for students up to 8th standard. Every child is given a plate, spoon and glass. He has to wash it himself before and after using. Food is served by fellow students. Every student gets to serve others once in a quarter. Very nice practice.

I walked into the room where children stay. Clean and functional dormitory. All facilities including blankets provided by Mission. Under construction is a residential Model Higher Secondary School for 11and 12th standard students, a first in the district. (as of Dec 2012). Shall accommodate 340 students.

Slightly ahead is the hostel where 11/12th students stay. U see them studying in the evening about 8pm. Note there was no teacher supervising them. They put their heads down and study. Sensed a strong desire to study and improve their future. Each hostel room has 4 beds/study table unlike the dorms for younger children that you saw earlier. Musical instruments in front of pic show students being trained in Music also.

Outside the Ashrama gate is the newly made Swami Vivekananda Educational Complex. An overview of the building. Special coaching classes for 1900 students. It starts at 6.45am and ends at 9.15am. U see children walking out after the bell. Children given free transport, uniforms, breakfast, sweater, books and stationery.

Walked thru various classrooms. Here the lady is teaching computers. There is a white screen on the wall at which she is looking and talking. Very impressive. Before starting classes Swamiji who looks after school takes a quote from Swami Vivekanand''s Call to the Nation and then gives a small talk on that.

A class of young girls. Was so happy to see so many girl students. Swami Vivekananda said ''If you teach a boy, you reach only one individual; whereas by teaching a girl you teach a whole family''. More power to the women of India. Amongst Abhujmarh tribes women is considered as a partner in economic endeavor. So once educated, girls can bring about the much-needed social change rather speedily.

All children get breakfast. That day these cute kinds were given milk, kurmura, dates etc. So happy to see kids form a line, take their plates, clean it and then wait to be served. Admire the spirit of SEWA in those who work there - so much of love.

Another class of young girls with their books open. In the rainy season children given raincoats and in the winters sweater.

This time it is a classroom full of boys. My school classroom was similar with a blackboard. Found children to be extremely well behaved and cultured, shows impact of training received.

Another class of young boys slightly distracted by my taking their pictures. For classes 8,9,10 coaching is provided in subjects of English, Maths, Science and Computers. Average % of students in 10th class is 87.33%.

A test going on for these elderly girls. Classrooms designed to allow sunlight and air to come in freely. There is a huge corridor outside the class that enables free movement. Washrooms have quality fittings and are well maintained. Maximum teachers are local.

At 9.15am class is over, you see children running towards bus. Students come from within a radius of 15-20 kms. Those who stay close up come by cycle. The buses leave as early as as 5.45am so as to bring the children in by 6.45am when school starts.

Saw 1900 students leave the school in a most orderly manner. U see two buses ready to leave. I was really touched with this facility. A lovely concept to provide extra coaching to students who also go to a day school. Memories of this school shall remain forever. School has a 35KW solar system, two panels at far end of pic.

Next went to the Agriculture Training and Demonstration Centre. At one end of the centre was a water body. Mission made check dam to prevent water from flowing away. Now water is used by adivasi ladies for washing and by the Mission as well. To protect farmers farms from stray cattle, a wire-fencing with pre-cast concrete poles to the extent of 28215 mts were made in 2009-10 in the villages of Sargipal, Pusagaon and Palki.

Centre is a 52 acre plot where tribal youth learn modern techniques in preparing land, sowing and manuring. It also conducts demonstrations in the farmer''s fields to enrich their knowledge. To provide adivasi villagers with fertilisers, seeds, spawn etc asn Agro-base Fair Price Shop and Service has been started on the campus.

Tribal youths learn training in dairy farming, poultry, duckery, horticulture, bee-keeping etc. U see one such group. A new building is being completed that also has residential facility for those who come for training. Every year a Kisan Mela is organised in the Ashrama campus to promote integrated agriculture & to encourage farmers. It is attended by 15-20k people and companies from agri sector/govt depts who display their products and give talks.

Land is cultivated at Centre. Mission uses local labour app 100 people employed. State Govt outsources implementation of schemes like Rashtriya Krishi Vilas Yojna to and funds Exposure visits to Agricultural Universities with the help of the Mission. NAIP financed by I.C.A.R have taken up 2 villages where main aim is to increase production of small millets and value chain products + use of low cost technology by farmers.

After visiting farm drove through village roads for about an hour to meet this Gond tribe farmer. Largish house with 3 big rooms fenced on all sides. Each room has a purpose. The one you see behind was where they sleep. Another on the side was to cook and where grains were stored. He was very happy about a Solar Water Pump that was to get installed. Under a State Govt scheme villagers get a solar water pump if they contribute 25k. Since the farmer was facing cash flow issues the Mission chipped in on the premise that he would repay when harvest is done.

Most houses in villages have a TV dish although there was no power that day so could not see TV. Richer people went for Tata Sky instead of a DD DISH. Also nearly all adivasi houses I saw had Tulsi plant in their aangan as u see in pic. Whilst driving noticed that every house has proper bamboo fencing round home. Local Swamiji said it was to keep animals away.

This is the third room where TV kept, has table chair bed. Note the painting design at bottom. Farmer was happy since road was being laid that would connect village to Narainpur means he has better access to markets. By travelling to interior areas the Mission also identifies adivasi needs and then works with local administration to make things happen.

Within the complex is Vivekananda Arogya Dham (hospital). It is a 30 bed well equipped hospital with a OPD, labor room, x ray facilities, operation theatre, dental unit etc. It is quite a big building whose entrance you see. Mission also has a Mobile Medical Unit to nearby 100 villages. Most of the beneficiaries are adivasis.

View of the beds. U see some school children undergoing treatment. Since I went in the winters the nos of patients were lower than usual. Summers and Monsoons see large number of patients. Mission also organises eye camps. A blood bank facility was added in March 2010. Impressive facility more so in a remote area.

At the entrance of Mission is a bust of Swami Vivekananda. His quotes on the granite make for inspiring reading. Inspite of his short life Swamiji inspired so much of good. Wonder what would his impact on India been had he lived for another say 25 years.

Close to Swamiji''s image is a garden specially meant for small children to play. The entire ashrama is very well maintained with flowers and trees all around. Truly appreciate the effort.

Next went to the Ashrama''s in-house farm. It is spread over 20 acres and grows a variety of vegetables and fruits. You see chiku trees. The Ashrama manages a Fair Price Shop at Narainpur with 5 branches. It is a boon for those in Abujhmarh area since during rainy season they remain cut off from the rest of the world for almost half a year.

You see papaya trees. The Vivek Rath Video on Wheels has been educating tribal folks by showing films on Indian science and culture in the villages around Narainpur. Also grow peru, bel, kaju and litchi.

Picture of the Ashrama Office. As you see it is quite a modern office with lots of computers. Has internet connectivity too. The Mission organises an annual function popularly known as Anand Mela for students of Abujhmarh (interior centres) and Narainpur Schools to encourage, sustain, enrich and develop their local culture and traditions.

Just outside the ashrama main gate is ITI (Indian Technical Institute). Aim is to provide vocational training to locals so as to increase employability. It was inaugurated by President Mukherji in November 2012.

A classroom session for boys being trained as plumbers. Once trained they can gets jobs with local government offices, freelance in village or work in big towns. There is a great shortage of plumbers in bigger cities.

Boys being trained as draughtsman.

A classroom session for boys being trained as Masons if I remember correctly.

A classroom session for boys being trained as tractor mechanics. The tractor in the background is used to impart real life practical training. Must say well thought through.

Next trip was to a school in the most interior area of Abujhmarh. It is a 18 kms drive from Narainpur thru dense forests. A path no road, at times drove thru small streams. Was told that during the monsoons can reach only in a tractor or truck. U see the Vivekanand Vidyamandir Kundla. Girl students were playing in their hostel, going for their P.T. class when Swamiji requested them to come for pic. Children full of life and looked happy.

It is app 20 acre campus with a couple of huge playgrounds (envy them). Some playing cricket, others football or just running around. U see them with hostel building in the background. It is a residential school. School has 206 students that include 31 girls. School up to 8th standard after which the students get admitted in the Vivekanand Vidyapith Narainpur i.e. within the Ashrama campus.

A typical classroom. The Missions runs 5 free residential schools - Vivekananda Mandirs as you saw (2 Middle and 3 Primary Schools) at Akabeda, Kutul, Kachchapal, Irakbhatti and Kundla villages of whom 85% are from the Maria Community - a Primitive Tribal Group.

Typical hostel room. Functional and clean.

U see Anganwadi at Kundla. The Missions runs 181 Anganwadis and Mini-Anganwadies covering more than 5,000 children below six years of age for 200 villages in Abujhmarh. Every anganwadi has one lady and assistant. Provide breakfast and lunch. It is a form of informal education using pictures etc. When child three years joins Anganwadi, when 5.5 years joins school in Ashrama. The day I went met with more than 20 ladies who run the Anganwadis, had come for monthly reporting. Came across as a committed and smiling lot.

In collaboration with UNICEF the Missions runs a Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre. Under nourished children between 6 months to 5 years are admitted here. Stay for 15 days during which given feed every two hours. U see a adivasi mother with child who had come for treatment. UNICEF and Mission have 6 centres.

Inside Centre. Every centre has one 2 councilors, a nurse, 2 cooks, 1 medical person. Vaccinations for hepatitis and measles etc given. Delivery cases referred to the Mission hospital at Narainpur for which vehicle is called.

From Kundla went to the Mrignaini a govt centre for cane furniture. U see some products. Unfortunately reached late so could not see how products are made. Liked the products.

Inside the Ashrama there are numerous solar cookers that you see. Used for cooking. Every day 3 quintals of rice and 50 kgs of dal is cooked.

Was curious to see the kitchen. U see rice cookers. Every day 5 quintals of veggies and 280 litres of milk is consumed. 4 quintals come from the in-house farm and milk from Goushala.

Cleaning vegetables in the kitchen. Sensed the spirit of SEWA with which work was being done. Have no words to describe the good work. Key challenges for Mission are two. One is funds to meet current expenses and expand services. Two, how to educate and enlighten adivasis whilst retaining their culture, socials customs and traditions.

An overview of the Temple. Swami Maharaj said villagers do not have proper drinking water facilities, work in 200 villages not happened in 3 years. If you like to contribute to the Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama Narainpur Mission''s activities do mail me at suryacon@gmail.com or Swami Maharaj at rkm.narainpur@gmail.com and we can provide details of how to remit money. The Trust has 80G Income-tax and FCRA approval to receive donations from abroad. Mission site is http://www.rkmnarainpur.org/

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