News

building site

Electric Aid Ireland Grant for Thamarai

Grant aid from Electric aid Ireland for stage 1 of Thamarai Learning Centre

On Saturday March 28th, the construction team, for our new learning centre, held a celebration prior to the cement being poured for the ground floor ceiling as part of the beautiful Indian tradition held at the major stages in projects where flowers, incense, fire and prayers are offered and sweets disbursed to support success. And it was just in time as the first floor of the centre was complete by the time quarantine was announced and the site was closed until further notice but at least we have our walls in place and a roof over our head !

The new centre will host a ground plus two classroom buildings with a sports ground. Blessings arrived a few days later with the confirmation of a grant of 8lakh (10,000euro), from Electric Aid Ireland which will help us to complete the first phase of the project, (2 classrooms, kitchen and an outdoor learning space) that we hope to have open just after the summer holidays.

Our children are excited and often point to it saying “new Thamarai, new Thamarai”. As children are an intrinsic part of everything we do, they have already designed the sports ground and chosen the designated games to be assigned courts.
Post Covid 19 lockdown they will be involved in the interior design and they have already come up with outdoor micro project ideas they want to work on such as water saving technology, tree house building, tree planting, garden and small children’s play area.

building site

We hope for a successful quarantine period so that we can all resume the activities we love. In the meantime, our construction team is on paid leave, the children are in their homes and everyone is safe and well.

building site
Covid 19 learning pods

Moving through Covid 19 by designing differently

* above picture : Vignesh communicating with the children online

While there had been a build up of information on the situation on Corona virus which gave us in Thamarai time to run a number of health awareness programs on the subject, the lock down came very fast. In the villages we work in, people are staying home and there is sufficient food, Children are finding it hard though, as homes are small, not equipped with the modern conveniences such as computers that children have in urban areas and the lockdown conditions allow people to leave home for food and medicines only until 1pm. The coloured pencils, activity sheets, books and games that we gave the children before we closed are being well used. The Thamarai team is endeavouring to find novel ways to continue our children’s learning. On March 30th, we launched a children’s writing and drawing competition “my ideal world” for several age categories that will award a prize to everyone.

Novel Ways to Continue our Children’s Learning

We were concerned about our children, how they were coping and how we could support the  continuation of their education so on April 6th we created daily learning pods connecting 3 children, each in their home,  with 1 youth facilitator over the telephone. Our youth facilitators are all university graduates and many were children in Thamarai when we started in 2006. The daily learning pods give the children and facilitators a means to connect together to nourish their hearts and minds in a structured call designed to give children time to express their feelings, motivate one another, learn something new each day and plan for home learning activities.  Having completed the first week our facilitators are reporting that the children are eagerly learning, very engaged and attentive. It is stretching our team in new challenges as they are reliant only on voice to communicate ideas without being able to see each other or reference material, so they plan well and use a variety of curriculum material with songs, riddles, interesting facts, stories and activity challenges to create an enabling environment for learning through the phone. 60 children are engaged daily on these calls and their feedback is very positive, Sunil told us  that “ I learnt about my interests in activities. Learning like this with friends is very fun and interesting .I learn facts from my friends when I and they start sharing”. In Thamarai the children lead the way so we look forward to the journey that will unfold together of learning together.

Going Forward Despite the Material Limitations

We have become very aware of the profound questions that this time throws up about equity and fairness as we see how limited local technology is with all homes without computers and many without android phones. We are also finding that many families have not a credit balance in their phones so all calls are barred and we are unable, at the moment, to reach those children. Another thing that is arising is the number of daily labourers  who are unregistered and thus outside the system unable to receive government relief aid. Going forward we, in Thamarai, are committed to increasing our attention on digital literacy and rights based education so that people know their entitlements and have connectivity so they can self educate and register for schemes.
For now it is a joy to serve our children in our daily learning calls that will go on until we are back to normal and being able to gather in person for after school and weekend activities.

build learning center globalgiving campaign

Build a Learning Center with us in Southern India

Summary

Enabling Futures 2020! We at Thamarai stand for the values of full potential and well being of all. After 13 years of providing educational services in temporary or rented spaces, we are building a learning centre and sports ground on land offered by Auroville to us for village well-being activities. Thamarai is the Tamil word for lotus flower and supports a daily playgroup for 36 children, two after-schools for 100 children and natural health care educations and services for all.

 

Challenge

The immediate challenge is that we lack a permanent facility for our after-school and education programs. We want to ensure the longterm sustainability of the project for the people of Annai Nagar and surrounding villages. Also, there is a lack of access to quality after school education and many have challenging home lives with alcoholism and unemployment. We want to support this generation of children to unfold their greatness and have the opportunities they dream about in their lives.

Solution

The new learning center will enable us to have a solid base for our educational programs, reach a wider population, and expand the programs we offer.

Long-Term Impact

We aim for an increase in literacy, education levels and in health and wellbeing for residents of Annai Nagar and surrounding villages. We also want to foster leadership and capacity development through Stewardship and Sports Programs so that the future generation see themselves as change-makers for their communities and being part of change for the wider world.

thamarai after school edayanchavadi

Embarking a new chapter- After-school in Edayanchavadi

thamarai after school edayanchavadi

Thamarai, when founded, established its first centre in Edayanchavadi – the nearest village to Auroville as a playgroup, after-school and healing centre for 11 years. In 2017 due to issues with the premises, the programmes relocated to other premises and another village which was in urgent need.

Many of the youth, who were once the children of Thamarai after-school from this village joined the team to facilitate the programmes. This participation showed how the changes that Thamarai wished to establish through their programmes were quite evidently accomplished – making the youth self-sufficient, educated and responsible to take in-charge. 

Last year, when Bridget and Muthu were approached by one of the alumni of Thamarai from this village that he has been tutoring children in his village, the need to go back to the village with an after-school programme seemed necessary, and equally inspiring.

thamarai joy of impermanence

 Before Thamarai, I have been part of the Joy of Impermanence – Anitya, an Auroville community based out of this village. The land, a small hut, (initially planned to be a kitchen), and the location that was close for the children to come after their school hours were a perfect fit, to begin with our new journey. 

This after-school will be run under Thamarai projects, led by two of our ‘then students and now facilitators’ with the help of Anitya community volunteers from 6:30 to 8:30 during the weekdays. From the beginning of project, children have been a huge part of building the centre. During the summer camp, we organised a masonry workshop where children were taught Mandala flooring – which then became the floor to the place they will study. The after-school began it’s functioning from July 29th. More extra-curricular programmes and activities will soon be initiated to support the children’s development and full potential.

The first inauguration of the school held in April where the children from Annai Nagar, Edaiyanchavadi after-school and the team of Thamarai and the Anitya community members came together to co-create a collaborative afternoon. The afternoon was filled with co-operative games, art, music, and the children also learned to make seed balls.

Followed by that, as part of the Thamarai summer camp we also organized a masonry workshop where children and youth from the village came together to learn and make a Mandala flooring in the spirit of Do it yourself  which turned out to be a beautiful piece of art and helped the children to understand the sense of place and getting involve in creating their own learning space.

Oliyin Vitai

Oliyin Vitai

On March 16th, Thamarai in association with Yatra Arts Media organised a film screening event in Annai Nagar village, where we have one of our after-school centres. Yatra Arts Media for 6 months taught Thamarai after-school children how to film, write scripts and let them explore this field of creativity (Click here to read more about this program). The event was conducted to mark the end of this beautiful program, and showcase of what our children learnt over these months. On this occasion, all members of the village and guests were present to encourage the children’s work.

ideal village

In the afternoon, we had activities like collective art, painting the village that the children dream to see, Palmera leaf craft, Wellpaper creations, an activity where they expressed what they would like to be on an old CD, silambam class for other children and guests, ending the activity session with a drum concert.

Our children had set up the after-school and designed the ground to welcome artists, guests and students from Reunion Island, who also gave a presentation on their country to our children. In the evening, parents and guests joined our event to appreciate the movies children made. Each one had prepared a speech in English and Tamil and gave front of all the them.

thamarai joy of impermanence

A huge thanks to Srini Anna and his team who guided our children during the 6-month movie programme. This helped our children to believe in their abilities and realise their love for drama, care for their environment and curiosity towards direction.

To the artists and intervenant who came to provide creative work and generous activity to our children: Krupa and her art kart, Mathilde and her wonderful fresque, Melina and her magical argile village; Manoj and his traditional palmera leaf treasure, Wellpaper team and their upcycled paper activities, Gajemdiran, father of one of the children and potter of the village, Reunion Island who brought wonderful toys and gifts for our children and our amazing Thamarai team.

-Ines

portrait jagadeshwari

Portrait Series, Episode 1

Thamarai Educational Projects work towards empowering children, youth and women of villages surrounding Auroville. Through the Portrait Series, we will be featuring the youth that have been working in Thamarai, who’ll narrate their stories and experiences about their life, work and passion towards what they do for their communities.

Jagdeshwari is a full-time employee of Thamarai, working on administration duties and as a facilitator in the after-school program in her village, Annai Nagar.

Being one of the important pillars of the after-school program, Jagdeshwari shares about her journey in the first episode of Portrait series.

Shot and Edited by Ines Dahmani, Thamarai Volunteer