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

health well being program

Bringing back the traditional remedies

health yoga women group

In today’s time, if we compare our lives to ones we lived a decade ago, we can easily notice tremendous difference, changes that occurred due to the pollution of air, water, food, soil, and so on. Adding to the list, technology has made human’s into an instrument, barely moving, much less exercising. Being part of health programs past 12 years, I noticed the change in living practices and how the traditional remedies once largely used are now completely replaced by medical support from Hospitals and Clinics.
Even though such solutions are practical and effective at present, I felt the need to educate the villages by bringing a system change and educating them on the lost traditions that are actually much healthy and sustainable.

In past years, the programs designed mainly focussed on empowering women and changing their lifestyles for their own betterment. Many women go through many physical complications due to work load and psychological complicarions due to stress at home, like partner’s alcohol addiction, which unfortunately is very commonly seen. To overcome these issues, our program helped women realise the benefits of healthy living and how few minutes of Yoga a day can help them improve their mental and physical health.

For the past year, the health program mainly focussed educating women in Auroville units, and we reached some more through the Mobile Health Program that was conducted for a short duration of time. This coming year, we aim on focussing and designing a program for government school children and some of the Auroville Outreach schools. As conducting these programs last year in few of the government schools helped us realise even better how starting and making this as a habit since an early age can be a huge step towards change.


leadership program cinema children movies

A new world through the eyes of children

The quiet streets of Annai Nagar resound these weeks with the sounds of “Silence, sound, camera, action” as the 6th to 8th standard students take on film production roles and complete the final stage of a six month leadership and film making program which has culminated with each of the children making their own 2 minute film on a societal issue they feel passionate about and a new world they want to create.

This program is a co creation between Thamarai and Yatra Media Arts Foundation. It has been funded through the Auroville 50th fund and has supported children and youth to see themselves as agents of change in their own communities.

This story began in 2012 when Dr. Monica Sharma, former director of leadership and capacity development with the United Nations, started coming to Auroville to offer Stewardship for New Emergence, a leadership and capacity development program that supports participants to get in touch with their innate qualities, what they really care about and how to solve problems with valued based solutions for change. Both the Yatra and Thamarai teams have had continual training with Monica ever since and 6 months ago they shared the program with children who responded enthusiastically to it. The children now embrace what they each stand for and are designing projects such as waste and water management, the development of sports activities, and fostering peace and unity in their village. This was followed by weekly classes on film production, skillfully guided by Srini and the Yatra Arts Foundation team, that started from the history of film, to understanding how films are created and the techniques to script, shoot and record their own films.

The program integrates children of different castes from the three villages Thamarai, Udhayam and Yatra after schools projects operate in. The children have grown in capacity, confidence and skill and now understand that what goes on behind the film screen can be a lengthy and rigorous process. The children have been supported to take the necessary steps for project implementation, to reflect on the experience and to dream about the greatest impact that they can make.

What has changed because of this program ?

The children have learned the skill of film production, values based project design and how to speak up for change. They have grown in confidence and resourcefulness. Caste and gender barriers have been subtly worked on as friendships blossomed. Now the children prepare to present their films in a carnival atmosphere in the village ground in early March so parents and neighbours also become part of this adventure!

new projects Kedge anai nagar

A new year of new projects

new projects Kedge anai nagar

Each Saturday evening six Thamarai children and a number of village youth can be found gathered around a table with maps, drawings and budget sheets eagerly planning for their new sports ground. For many years a big open piece of Auroville land within Annai Nagar village has been used by village youth and children to play on. In 2018, Thamarai applied to Auroville Town development Council for stewardship of this land for the development of a sports ground for the village. Six months later funding has been secured with student partners in Kedge university in France and upgrading the ground has begun with 95 lorry loads of Matrimandir soil filling up the ground and leveling it to the road. The children and youth are now busy getting quotations from the local welder and sports suppliers to make cricket practice wickets, goal posts, badminton and volleyball courts and sourcing options for fencing. The project started with the children’s enthusiasm for sports and a number of children picking up the topic of well being through sports development as a project as part of their leadership training. We hope to have the new ground up and running for both Auroville and Thamarai’s birthdays Feb 28th and March 1st this year and to start a daily program of sports training that will be mentored by village and Auroville youth. For now it’s sleeves rolled up and full steam ahead getting ready….