Tsunami came and engulfed communities and left in its wake devastation, deprivation and psychological fears of the worst imaginable kind. While thousands of children were left orphaned and without any support, entire villages with their infrastructure were washed away; rendering the fishermen communities without boats, nets and confidence on sea as their provider. Nagapattinam district was the worst affected by Tsunami in the mainland in the country, claiming 6,065 lives of men, women and children, mostly from the fishermen community. Of the total district population of 1.4 million, approx. 197,000 have been directly affected and at least 6,051 were killed. The disaster has created a lot of unrest and fear in the minds of people, leaving with it the larger question of employment and sustenance of their lives. For children who were orphaned, the need was of survival, emotional support and education. Gasunie Engineering Technology (GET), having its registered office at Groningen, Netherlands, got inspired to ameliorate the fishermen's community's sufferings and develop a proper rehabilitation programme for them. They got in touch with Bandhua Mukti Morcha (BMM), a New Delhi based NGO, who, in turn, contacted us for initiation of the project. It was decided that we would be responsible for conceptualizing, monitoring and evaluation of the programme, while BMM will be responsible for fundraising and other inputs. VHERDS, a local Tamil Nadu based NGO, was selected as the implementing partner.
This project, it was decided, would be run for three years in light of the financial commitments from GET, but if needed the local partners continue to look after the project for another three years; finally the fishermen community shall take over. After consistent discussions with our project partners, it was decided that our focus will be on building strategic alliances for strengthening existing educational system by providing additional teaching staff to the existing schools and remedial coaching to the children. The project not only aims to cover basic education but also empower communities through income generating activities by setting up a vocational training center. After a survey of the Nagapattinam area, which was one of the worst affected, we finally zeroed down to three villages, namely Chinnurpet, Chandrapadi and Talampettai because of substandard living conditions and lack of education, life skills and vocational training. Personal interactions with the villagers by our field staff as well as senior functionaries like Swami Agnivesh of Bandhua Mukti Morcha, Dr. (Mrs.) Kiran Modi, Managing Trustee of Udayan Care, and Mr. T.P. Radhakrishnan, Gen. Secretary; VHERDS as well as Mr. Jan Hulsbergen and others from our major funding partner, Gasunie Engineering Technology (GET), we developed a beautiful partnership with the Tsunami affected people of these villages and thus the project, SUGAM Vedashram Project was conceived to bring sunshine into their lives. SUGAM VEDASHRAM PROJECT aims to provide an education and vocational training platform where perseverance and tenacity will make individuals and communities grow. The project has set down certain priorities, including building a facility near these villages to enable the following:
* Strengthening of the existing education facilities.
* Quality education for the children with special focus on orphaned and semi orphaned children.
* Literacy programmes for adults.
*Vocational training leading to income generation for the communities.
*Capacity building of the community.
*Child care, whether orphaned or with parents.
*Self Help Groups (SHGs) and Fishermen Clubs for better management of funds and loan facilities through micro finance.
The site for the project has been identified and land for construction has been purchased. A local sub-committee has been formed in the village to coordinate and help in smooth execution of the project. While we are working with all the three proposed villages including men, women and children, we are laying special emphasis on the tsunami orphans and semi-orphans in these three villages. Since the schools in the villages desperately lacked adequate staff, a few teachers have been appointed in the Government schools, who have started imparting education. At present we are seeking funds from various sources for construction of the Center, which is partly funded by GET.
The project has been developed to provide following facilities in the building, that we are constructing:
1. Primary Education, Remedial Coaching:
The existing infrastructure of the village school will be strengthened to improve the standard of education. The SUGAM Education centre aims to:
· Assist the local authorities and the villagers to improve the teaching standards of the school and supplement additional teachers in the existing governmental infrastructure.
· Provide the teachers with teaching material, and trainings with an objective of capacity building of the teachers to enable them to take up modern techniques of teaching.
· Set up the SUGAM education centre which will provide remedial classes in all subjects.
2. Adult Literacy for the Community:
The SUGAM Education centre will increase literacy among adults by conducting classes in its premises. The volunteers and staff together will teach these adult men and women.
3. Vocational Training:
Vocational Training will be carried out in such a way that it will supplement regular education already being provided and enhance the recipients' capability to earn and spend consciously. The SUGAM Education Centre will attempt to provide obligatory training on-
· Fish Net Making.
· Environmentally and economically sustainable fishing methods of Drying and preserving fish.
· Agriculture: Dairy, coconut or agro-based training. More activities will be identified based on the availability of the local resources.
· Micro enterprise based trainings such as fishing, boat repair and stitching, artisanship, carpentry, electrical mechanic training depending on the market economics as well as the previous and traditional skills of the community.
4. Life Skills Education:
A centre for imparting soft skills: better hygiene; moral values; care for the environment; understanding of the impact of human fishery on marine life; etc.
5. Yoga and Meditation:
Yoga and Meditation centre will be set-up in the centre for the physical and mental strength of the entire community affected by the Tsunami disaster. This centre will play an important role in providing the affected people emotional strength and energy to start rebuilding their lives again. In addition, the Yoga and Meditation center will increase the awareness of the people and overall performance of the community as such.
6. Sports facilities (Indoor and outdoor):
Facilities for the indoor and outdoor games like Badminton, Basketball, Chess, Carom, Table Tennis etc. will be provided for the village youth, children and adults. This will improve coherence of the community and understanding/tolerance of the individuals involved.
7. Community Hall (For religious and cultural functions):
Community hall at the centre for organizing religious ceremonies and cultural functions. This will also cater to the need of the community festivals and weddings etc. This center will also be used for educational and cultural events.
There will be a facility for the library at the centre for the villagers. It will be set-up for dissemination of information to the community at large. It will also cater to the needs of the needy students and youths, who are interested in studies and competition, but don't have sufficient books and periodicals.
9. Crèche / Day care centre with Mid-day meals:
A crèche would be available at the SUGAM education center to enable parents to leave their pre-primary children while they are away for selling fish. This would also enable community women to do some work and earn. Children will be provided with mid day meals.
10. Living quarters for teachers as well as volunteers from outside: The SUGAM education centre shall have rooms dedicated to in house teachers as well as visiting volunteers.