|Mahatma Gandhi Album|
Visit to a Sèväshram
by Jyotsna Kamat
The concept of Sevashram (sae-vaa-shram : community service center) was started by Mahatma Gandhiji as a focal point of his epic endeavors against elimination of social evils such as un-touchability and poverty. I have considered it my privilege to have been educated in the Gandhian way and to have come across many social workers during my services with the Indian Government. I hence readily agreed to address an assembly of girls at the Sumangli Sevashram near Bangalore on the invitation of The Gandhi Peace Foundation. It turned out to be a moving experience.
The Sumangali Sevashram (whose address is provided later on, if you wish to contribute to Gandhian way of social reform), is spear-headed by Mrs. S.G. Susheelamma who gave up her public sector job (BEML) to devote herself for women's causes. It started as a home for destitute women and has grown into a full-fledged sevashram, including primary school for rural children, a home for the aged, spinning and weaving center, offering classes in tailoring and knitting, a diary farm providing nutritious mid-day meals for 60 primary care centers. All the management work I saw was being performed by able women.
The entire surroundings of the ashram are too good to be true. The cleanliness, dedication, busy girls and children moving about, I truly felt that Gandhiji's ashrams must have been just like this- bubbling with energy and enthusiasm, not forgetting the beauty of simplicity. Having started my career in Vanita Seva Samaj in Dharwad (1958), I have seen much of an ashram's activities, but to maintain the essence of Gandhiji's teachings and apply them so well in these days of mechanization and consumerism was a revelation.
I was initially asked to speak on Gandhiji and Women, but was later asked to include the children. There were substantial number of men in the audience as well. I recollected my GBTC (Gandhi's Basic Education) days where I had to teach kids to make broom-sticks out of natural fiber, and earned the title 'The Broom-Stick Teacher' ! The kids got a laugh out of that. I spoke about Gandhiji's concept of dignity of labor and how we have adopted it in my own family. I narrated anecdotes from Gandhiji's life and the program appeared to be lively, because there were claps from the children again and again.
This Sevashram is situated in Cholanayakanahalli, across Hebbal. The nearby villages do not have schools, and the small children walk all the way to the Primary school in the Ashram. Smt. Susheelamma is an extraordinary lady and is greatly loved and respected in the ashram. The organizers were so impressed by this 'Broom-Stick Lady', that she has been made an honorary member for Central Committee for Reforms of Rural Development! Anyway, it was a good exposure for my Gandhian way of training (GBTC).
If you wish to contribute to the Ashram, for the education of poor children, please
send contributions to:
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