News & Notes 656:Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG) Update
Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG) Update
As you may know AVAG has been working, for the past 33 years within a 20km radius of Auroville, with all sections of society irrespective of caste, class, race & gender with a shared dream of a sustainable future for all. AVAG’s mission is to foster participatory village transformation with rural communities in the bio-region through:
- Community development
- Economic development,
- Capacity building,
- Psychosocial support
The emphasis of our work is co-development through a network of over 337 village level self-help groups (SHGs) of 5,000 women and men in 78 settlements and 34 Panchayat villages benefiting 1,00,000 people living in the bio-region of Auroville with special attention to the immediate villages surrounding Auroville. The following are some highlights of our work over the past two months.
Should you be interested in supporting our work you can do 1) in kind volunteering some time for the organisation by contacting Anbu or Bridget at avagoffice (at) auroville.org.in or 2) through financial contributions - small regular contributions are especially welcome to account:
# 0226 Auroville Village Action Group.
Some Recent Highlights
AVVAI Summer Camp
May and June was a busy time in AVAG with the atmosphere heightened by the happy sounds of many young ladies engaged in extracurricular activities during the AVAG summer camp which was 1) a six-week program for 14-16 year old girls, primarily with Government school education, who were awaiting results of their 10th or 12th grade exams and 2) a one-week program for college girls. These girls are at a crucial juncture where choices have to be made that will help define their life’s path in a societal system that often compels them to select limited fields of study.
The summer camp aims to support the girls to improve their current capacity while opening them to a wider lens on life choice and possibility. The girls are provided with classes in essential skills that they need to pursue a higher education such as improved English speaking, reading and writing skills, maths and Tamil, computer skills, leadership and team building, drama and public speaking etc. They also had seminars on health including nutrition, personal and menstruation hygiene, female health and basic siddha medicine. They were exposed to a wide range of professions and life possibilities through excursions to Auroville and career guidance seminars on campus, in Pondicherry and at the Life Education Centre. This was backed up by administration support from AVAG staff in acquiring correct information and in processing college applications. The field trips to Auroville highlighted female entrepreneurs and sustainable life practices as well as a comprehensive introduction to Auroville.
The summer camp is part of the AVVAI program launched in 2015 by AVAG after having received a grant for girls’ education from Motherson Sumi Systems Limited (MSSL) under their Corporate Social Responsibility funding. Last year the scheme has enabled 457 girls, selected by AVAG Self Help Group network from marginalised families, to continue their primary education or pursue higher education at a college or university. Without this support, many families would have been forced to get loans from the money lenders at exorbitant rates of interest and some would have stop pursuing studies. Many girls expressed that this is also the first time that they had paid their full fees on time without the need to undergo criticism and the stigma for late payment. Though we were not able to support all who came forward , since the actual need was to the tune of Rs.2,00,00,000, this grant has undoubtedly shone the light on the lives of many marginalised girls.
The summer camp offered a valuable support to the girls to broaden their education in a stress free, creative environment, giving them extra support with their on-going curriculum and opportunity to experiment with topics that gave an integral viewpoint on life and would otherwise not be available to them. It also gave the girls valuable support in choosing careers that suited them and our AVAG team a very rewarding opportunity to serve. We look forward to continuing and expanding this program.
Drinking water for Kottakarai
The motor for the drinking water outlet had been broken for some time in Kottakarai village; a request for help from the Panchayat saw AVAG joining forces with the village to repair the unit together through donations from both sides with the support of the village self-help group.
Exposure trip for Paalam members to model Panchayat
“Paalam” (meaning “Bridge” in Tamil) is a bio-regional youth leadership training programme that emerged from collaboration between AVAG, Youth Link and the Auroville Bio-region Action Group. The aim of this project is to establish links with the youth from the villages surrounding Auroville in order to foster relationship and co creation and in particular 1) to identify the most urgent needs for the future, 2) offer training in sustainable village development and 3) initiate projects together that will benefit the whole bio-region. AVAG is just completing a 6 months training program with this group with an exposure trip to Coimbatore district that has won the Panchayat Puraskar Award 2015 for best practices in solar power, bio gas, solid and liquid waste management, drainage, bio-methanation plant, hi-tech dairy farming and tree planting. It is hoped that this trip will inspire the youth to initiate projects in this area with the help of Auroville technical expertise and Government funding.
Sports Development in the Bio-region surrounding
Building on the success of the recent bio-regional sports event that had 722 participants from Auroville and 20 surrounding villages compete for events in volleyball and athletic activities, (see table at the end of this report on prize distribution), Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG), Auroville Sports Resource Centre (AVSRC), Dehashakti and Paalam (bio-regional youth network) are joining forces for a concentrated development of sports in the bio-region of Auroville.. We wish to form a bio-regional sports federation that will foster unity and skill development through a program of local sports facilities development and coaching that will lead to regular competitions on local, district and regional level. It is also hoped that this project can be a bridge to creating career opportunities for local youth in sports with linkages to scholarships and sports colleges.
We propose to register the Auroville Bio Regional Sports Federation with the government and in each village we will form a sports club, (at the moment there are 5-15 groups in each village, we wish to form these into one body) involving all young men and women interested in varying sports activities. The village sports club will be a member of the association and will nominate members to represent them to attend meetings and seminars. Approximate, 30 settlements in 20 villages will be members of the association with Auroville and we expect at least 1,000 members from these 20 villages.
The objectives of this association are:
- To form an association of sport between Auroville and the bio-region
- To structure the current casual, ad-hoc sports network into a cohesive body
- To develop the current level of skills
- To develop the role of women in sports
- To open up opportunities to young people that are available but largely unknown to them such as sports scholarships and careers in sports.
- To work for further village development through this network such as infrastructural projects
- To foster champions of change - youth who committed to health and social development rather than anti-social activities
- To create a culture where the measure of admiration and success is perseverance, achievement and skills rather than the current cultural normative of caste and class
Results of the Bio-regional June sports event: [see tables]
Annual Women’s Event
Plans are in progress for the annual women’s event where 5,000 men and women come together to celebrate and honour women. This will be held over a series of four preparatory Sundays in August where dance, drama and public skills will be refined to culminate in the celebration day in September. We will keep you posted!
For further details of Auroville Village Actions work please contact:
- avagoffice (at) auroville.org.in
Auroville Village Action Team