Sarvodaya, meaning Universal Uplift or Progress of All, expresses Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of future human society.We present the Bala Shanti Project in Coimbatore on the 25th anniversary of its establishment.
“A society is good when the last and smallest member of society will have the opportunity to produce and earn sufficiently for a decent and dignified living.” This was the ideal of the philosophy which in 1986 pushed Dr Aram and his wife, Minoti, and a group of Gandhian friends, to start up the Shanti Ashram of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. Literacy, development of the conditions of women, healthcare, environmental politics, battle against poverty, leadership programs for the youth and projects for children, are the actions promoted by the Ashram, of which the Bala Shanti project is part, and which was created in 1991 to help the very poor children in the surrounding villages. In 2013, Mrs Minoti wrote: “Tagore, the much loved poet and Nobel Prize awardee said: ‘Every boy and girl is a harbinger of the message that God still has not lost hope in man.’ It is in this context that I see the work for our children: to be able to serve one of the most precious gifts of God to humanity.”
Initially the Bala Shanti project aimed to offer nutrition, education and healthcare to a small group of children from the ages of 3 to 5. Today the project helps thousands of children in 17 villages, who are in turn directly involved with their families in the battle against poverty, stirring up a proactive social participation.
In 2002, after the first contacts with the Focolare and the two visits of Chiara Lubich in India, the “Support from a Distance” program of the New Families Movement began a new and ongoing partnership with the Bala Shanti project, in support of hundreds of children.
One of the programs of the Bala Shanti – the Children’s Parliament, was created in 2006, and is composed of former students of the project: over 800 children and adolescents from 6 to 18 who meet regularly to lay down the action themes that involve them directly, such as the promotion of hygiene, continuing education, social participation and community service.
Another renowned initiative is that of the Children’s Bank, created by children for children. This initiative was launched in May 2013 with the aim of teaching children the value of savings and financial planning for their own education, besides donating a part of their savings to help children who are poorer than them. In 2015 over 1,500 children, small savers, participated in the project.
This year the 25th anniversary of the Bala Shanti project is being celebrated with joy in view of the positive results achieved.
More information: Bala Shanti Project