By Ravi Raghavan
?IF a poor child cannot come to school, the school must go to him,? said the great Hindu saint, Swami Vivekananda. Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (EVF)??The People'sMovement??is based on none other than Vivekananda'sprinciples.
On September 28, 2005, the Ekal Houston chapter organised its annual meeting with visiting guests from India and Florida. The guests were Shyamji Gupta, Swami Sachidananda and Sangeeta Gupta from India and Braham Aggarwal from Florida. During the meeting, the enthusiasm and optimism was palpable amongst the 60 attendees that included international coordinators, regional advisors and key area volunteers. After a vegetarian dinner, the meeting began with Meera Kapur, the Vice President of EVF'ssouthwest USA region and Ramesh Shah, the National Secretary of EVF, USA, announcing the highlights of the recent national EVF meeting held at San Jose, California.
Shri Shah reminisced that at this national meeting attended by over 80 attendees, the important discussion was on sharing experiences of volunteers who had visited Ekal schools. Another key development was to create more Ekal regions in the USA to promote the cause and create more awareness. The southwest region, for instance, will be split into three regions: Dallas-Oklahoma, Louisiana and South Texas; with the possibility that more regions may be created for better donor relationship.
Shyamji Gupta, Founding Member and National Coordinator of EVF-India, enthralled the Houston audience with a spell-binding presentation on how the Ekal Vidyalaya movement aims to systematically eradicate illiteracy from rural and tribal India by 2011. He described how Ekal is a movement of over 14,000 trained teachers, 2,500 voluntary workers, 20 field organisations (in 20 Indian States), and six support agencies. With this tremendous human force, the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation has created a growing network of ?Ekal Vidyalayas? (meaning ?one-teacher schools?) that is currently educating and empowering over 450,000 children in tribal and rural India. Shyamji underlined that Indians from varied faiths, including Christians and Muslims, were as much part of Ekal movement now as anybody else.
Swami Sachidananda, the Ekal Global Secretary, described the establishment of EVFs in Europe, Australia and Hong Kong with ongoing efforts to harness the support of the NRI community in South Africa, Singapore and Thailand in serving their motherland. Two special international highlights were the establishment of over 800 Ekal schools in Nepal'sremote villages and the prospects of starting Ekal schools in Sri Lanka in the near future.
He recounted the experiences of Siddhartha Agarwal, a senior studying Economics at Harvard University, who spent the summer working with Ekal in India to learn more about development work in Indian villages as well as to do a research project on education. Another speaker was Sangeeta Gupta, a homemaker and dedicated Ekal worker from India. Her daughter Khushboo is a graduate from the UK and is starting a year-long voluntary mission serving with EVF-India. Smt Gupta invited the audience to a ?van yatra? (visit to a tribal area) to witness for themselves how the Ekal Vidyalaya movement is transforming India.
Braham Aggarwal, prominent businessman from Orlando who recently donated $365,000 for 1000 Ekal schools and pledged to donate for five years to the Ekal cause, described succinctly that Ekal'sselfless service is synonymous with the divinity that Hindus see in our fellow beings. Praising the dedication of the Ekal volunteers, Shri Aggarwal struck a receptive chord with the audience by saying that he saw God in the tireless work of Shyamji Gupta and his brainchild?Ekal Vidyalaya.
Over a century ago, Vivekananda'sprofound words of wisdom were uttered, underlining the need for Indians to spread the light of education in every nook and corner of India. Now the Swami'sclarion call can be witnessed in action. The Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation has turned into a ?people'smovement? striving to bring value-based primary education, healthcare, women'sempowerment and grassroots development to the nearly 100,000 remote tribal villages of India. This dynamic vision for India has gained the support of the Indian masses as well as the NRIs living in the USA.
(For more information on Ekal Vidyalaya, visit www.ekal.org or call 281-933-6169.)
At this national meeting, attended by over 80 attendees, the important discussion was on sharing experiences of volunteers who had visited Ekal schools. Another key development was to create more Ekal regions in the USA to promote the cause and create more awareness.