What we can see in Auroville
In Auroville we can see the Matrimandir and the accompanying beautiful gardens. We can see all the millions of wonderful trees, take comfort in their connection to the soil and water, and enjoy the shade they provide.
We can see all the different buildings, marvel at the different architectural styles and enjoy the comfort provided by the guest houses.
We can see a whole variety of many other things, the farms, the schools, the food and restaurants and all the commercial units producing a colourful array of products.
But what many visitors don’t see in Auroville?
Many visitors don’t see the Aurovilians going into the local villages supporting the local population and particularly the children. There are almost 50 Auroville projects now providing outreach services, as can be seen in a new exhibition in the Visitors Centre.
These Aurovilians aspire to build relationships and to provide understanding, hope, direction, empowerment, and ultimately love, through organising educational and health programmes through free playgroups, after school groups and health/healing programs. But occasionally, they face opposition, cultural barriers and even hostility.
One such Aurovilian is Bridget who is one of the co-founders and co-ordinator of Thamarai Educational Projects. Bridget kindly showed me some of the various buildings they operate from. She explained that Thamarai services provide educational support in as many villages as they can, some in the south and some in the north of Auroville.
She also introduced me to some local educated, dedicated youth who had come forward to help as facilitators to guide the children.
Their work is constantly evolving. For example, after one healing centre was shut down in a village, a new mobile health programme was designed by Aurovilian Muthukumari, who grew up in Moratandi village. This program now reaches several government schools and many women’s groups.
When finances allow, new programmes are being offered. For example, some students practice Silambam weekly, a traditional martial art, which is a stick folk dance known to improve concentration.
Bridget explained that apart from their usual educational program, a leadership program is offered, based on Monica Sharma’s book Stewardship for New Emergence. This book is used to support children and youth to source their own inner power for project design, to create solutions to problems they want to address.
So, Thamarai children have been trained to design projects Some have chosen to work on water and waste management, education and sports development and overall wellbeing in the village.
After training in the yoga and healing program many women take these skills and approaches to their own communities, and many have started their own yoga classes in their villages.
The truly wonderful thing is that some of the youth that were once students of Thamarai are now coming to ask for support in starting activities to help other local children, in the same way they were helped many years ago.
The love has come full circle.
Breaking down barriers
Thamarai’s work not only builds bridges between the Aurovilians and the local population but also between different castes in the local population. For example, the main after school centre is in a Dalit (previously known as untouchables) village, and other children from non-Dalit villages are allowed to go to the programs by their parents.
Help Thamarai to bloom
The beauty behind all this work is that it is not just about educational support, it is also about empowerment, supporting people to recognise their own greatness and their own talents.
All this work is not visible, but Thamarai means lotus and all Thamarai’s work involves helping the inner lotus of disadvantaged people, and particularly children, to flower.