Amma has always said that she is not interested in celebrating her birthday, but that if her children insist, then it should be used as an occasion to serve. And serve she does – in addition to spending nearly 20 hours personally embracing and consoling people, Amma used the occasion of her 61st birthday to announce massive expansions of our existing programs to help meet the basic needs of India’s poor. Below we’ve included details on the expanded programs including what we’ve done so far, and what we’ll be working on in the coming year.
Beyond that, in keeping with her vision that technology developed in a compassionate spirit holds the keys to the future of effective humanitarian outreach, Amma unveiled an array of mobile technologies for rural villagers and innovations in solar and other sustainable energy systems for rural deployment, all developed by researchers at Amrita University.
750 New Houses for Disaster Survivors and Others Living Without Adequate Shelter
As part of Amma’s dream that everyone in the world should have a solid roof over their head, we have built more than 45,000 homes for the homeless in more than 75 locations across India since 1998. This year, we built 500 houses across Kerala. In Uttarakhand, as part of the more than $8 million relief package for flood survivors that we launched in 2013, 250 houses were built for people whose homes were washed away. As part of Amma’s birthday celebration, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh bestowed keys and certificates to the beneficiaries of our housing project, some of whom came all the way from Uttarakhand to express their gratitude to Amma.
Scholarship Program Expands to Reach 51,000 At-Risk Children
Since 2007, we’ve been providing scholarships to children in low-income agricultural communities scarred by an epidemic of farmer suicides. This year, we added another 5,000 children to the rolls, bringing the total number of scholarship recipients to 51,000. Our scholarships help keep kids in school who would otherwise be pressured to drop out to work in the fields. In the long run, staying in school provides greater employment options and economic freedom for their entire family.
Pension Program Expands to Reach 99,000 People in Poverty
Since 1998, we have provided monthly pensions for widows and other women in poverty. In 2006, the pension project was expanded to benefit the physically and mentally challenged. This year, we added an additional 30,000 beneficiaries to the rolls, bringing the total number of recipients to 99,000. Recognizing that disability and/or the loss of a family member can consign those in the developing world to a lifetime of hardship, our pensions have no expiration date – they are given for life.
Brand New Saris for 150,000 Women in Poverty
Having a new set of clothing is an important part of preserving dignity and quality of life for people in poverty. With that in mind, Amma announced the gift of 150,000 new saris to recipients of our lifetime financial aid program and mothers of our scholarship recipients. Village representatives collected the saris directly from Amma and took them back to their villages for distribution.
Sponsored Traditional Weddings for 63 Couples
In India, a traditional wedding is one of the most important moments in a person’s life, not only for the couple, but for their whole family. Being unable to afford a traditional wedding can be a degrading experience for people in poverty. For decades, it has been annual tradition for Amma to officiate weddings for couples who cannot afford a traditional ceremony on their own. This year 63 couples were provided with wedding attire, gold jewelry, a wedding feast for their friends and family and all other arrangements. Amma personally adorned each bride and led the ceremony.
600 Specialized Surgeries Free of Charge in the Coming Year
Since 1998, our volunteers have treated more than 3 million patients free of charge. In the last year alone, we provided more than $8 million in specialized surgeries including kidney transplants, cardiac surgeries and cancer treatments to people in need. This year on Amma’s birthday, we pledged to provide 200 kidney transplants, 250 heart surgeries, and 150 neuro surgeries – all free of charge for people in poverty.
In her birthday address, Amma said that the greatest birthday gift she could receive would be to see others being ready to share their lives with the poor and the needy.