Volume 5 - Issue 09
The story of Giripuram in coastal Andhra Pradesh, India
With the focus on grass-roots level empowerment, for nearly five decades now, the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organization has been doggedly providing sustainable and long-term solutions to the problems of the millions that languish in remote and rural areas of India, neglected by the local administration.
Today, the service organization started by the Avatar has built itself a sterling reputation for the highest efficiency, dedication, honesty and integrity. From government agencies to corporate India, decision makers are unable to ignore the saga of endless love that Bhagavan Baba’s life has come to personify, in uplifting the plight of rural population in the remotest of locations. Social outreach, driven by love for God has become the hallmark of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organization in India and all around the world.
No Water, No School, No Zeal to Live
Free Flowing Liquor in a Parched Land
Meanwhile, along with the health hazards of alcohol, the absence of potable drinking water also took its toll on their health. Leave alone the lack of access to a proper health facility, these socially neglected villagers did not even have a proper pharmacy to buy medication for their health needs. Though they were only a few kilometers from the neighboring town of Machilipatnam, the only time this fishing community felt cared-for was just before the elections, when various political parties came to woo them for their votes.
It all started a few years ago…
The Ocean Makes and Breaks Lives
God fulfills the desires of every individual but tests the same for courage, fortitude, endurance, and internal development. Bhagawan Baba says, “Pleasure is an interval between two pains”.
Two and a half years ago, on December 24, 2004, the tsunami struck Giripuram, along with much of South Asia, leaving the village completely devastated. Many lives and entire families were wiped out. The very tide that had sustained them for so many years, turned against them, engulfing their destinies in its fury. The same ocean that had nurtured, nourished and nursed them for decades, swept them away in seconds at the fateful moment. Pleasure and pain came to them from the same source.
Sai Youth Rise to the Challenge
At first it was the condition of the Giripuram school children that pained the Sai Youth members. It was then that the Sai Youth decided to initiate service activities in this village community while connecting it to an ongoing (AP, India) state-wide school uplift project called “Sri Sathya Sai Gurukula Seva Yagnam” a campaign aimed at creating decent primary learning facilities for the downtrodden everywhere; a project that hopes to leave no child behind.
Leave No Child Behind
In keeping with the objectives of the noble Gurukula project in mind, and with the divine name on their lips, on 25th October, 2004, the Sai Youth of Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh laid a foundation for a permanent school building in Giripuram. The experiences derived out of this program are simply unforgettable and precious.
Right from the inception to the inauguration of the school building, the participation of the villagers directly or indirectly towards construction was commendable. Even the school children rose to the occasion and expressed their love for this noteworthy cause. They carried bricks of love on their tiny heads and participated in small chores. The hands that could barely clutch the ends of a slate, moved by the notion and emotion of building their own dream school, now joined with the Sai Youth thus demonstrating to us that it is indeed conviction, not age or maturity that is required to take on a noble task.
The entire village was involved hands-on in the project and participated with pride and joy. The Sai Youth and the village children together brought to life the school of their dreams in just three weeks, proving the power of team spirit, purity of intentions and divine grace, the sure-shot formula for unprecedented success!
At the district level, sevadal members from various zones also participated in the construction of the school building. The inauguration of the school building was held on 15th November 2004. Completing the entire project, right from the foundation laying to inauguration, within 21 days was possible only because of Swami’s sankalpa or divine resolve and this is indeed a lasting boon to the village.
All-round Development to Uplift the Impoverished Community
Combating the Saline Water Problem
Sai Organization Inspires Corporate and Government Sectors
Having researched the pathetic condition of these villagers, the Sri Sathya Sai Grama Seva Trust of Andhra Pradesh decided to renovate the water plant. The Indian Oil Corporation, as part of their corporate social responsibility, also chose to lend a helping hand. The significant renovation cost to bring the abandoned desalination plant to functionality, which stood as a barrier in the past, was now overcome.
Inspired by the lead taken by Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organizations, the local leaders of the village community did their part and managed to get a Government Order (G.O.) to sustain the future monthly maintenance of the plant. With Sri Sathya Sai Grama Seva Trust taking up the herculean task of bringing the plant to order, and with government now promising to take up the monthly maintenance cost, the idea of bringing in sweet drinking water to the neglected masses became a reality.
Government Endorses Sai Organization with Its Vote Of Confidence
The confidence in the work being done by the Sri Sathya Sai Organizations was such that the government even went to the extent of clearly putting an exclusive clause in the G.O. stating that, “Only if Sri Sathya Sai Grama Seva Trust renovates…” It is said that good work is contagious; this being God’s work, it must be doubly so! As Bhagavan Baba always says, “My Blessings are always there for a good cause.” To keep up the momentum, the Government as well as R.W.S (Rural Water Scheme) officials completed their works pertaining to the plant much beyond the expectations. The entire work of this plant was successfully completed within a month of the Bhoomi Puja or the ground-breaking ceremony which was held on 14th April 2007.
On 17th June 2007, Mr. Vemuri Krishna Murthy, District President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization, Krishna District, lit the lamp to inaugurate the program of “Rakshita Manchi Neeti Padaka” (Protected Drinking Water Project). The Member of Parliament of Malleshwaram, Honourable Booragadda Veda Vyas presided over the function. The inaugural function was also attended by the Water Supply Minister, Mr. Pinnammaneni Venkateshwar Rao who was the special guest. The President of Sri Sathya Sai Grama Seva Trust, Andhra Pradesh, Mr Y. Srinivas, the president of Tallapallem village Gram Panchayat, other ward members, officials, and villagers were amongst those that took part in the inaugural function.
Sri Pinnamaneni Venkateshwara Rao said, “I bow to Baba garu, who not only started just this project but also many such water projects throughout the state.” His speech delighted the audience as he reiterated the government order (or GO) and stated that although Sri Sathya Sai Grama Seva Trust implemented the plant renovation, the monthly maintenance cost for it henceforth will be taken care by the government.
During his speech, Mr. Booragadda Veda Vyas, said, “It is indeed a matter of pride that the Sri Sathya Sai Grama Seva Trust has taken the initiative of renovating the water plant thereby following the footsteps of Baba who says service to humanity is service to God. Today is a day of celebration.”
The function indeed was a celebration of Sai’s will to transform both the served and those who serve. The development in local infrastructure that 60 years of independence could not bring to the village, the youthful force driven by their love for Sai accomplished literally in weeks! The school building took precisely 3 weeks to come up from the ground up and the desalination plant took 4 weeks to turn salt water into the sweet and sacred elixir that is effectively quenching the thirst of the local population.
At the celebration, it was hard to miss the excitement in the air. The sweet melody of the Mangala Vaidyalu, a symphony from traditional instruments, filled everyone with a sense of triumph and relief. The overflowing crowd in the tent and the rapt attention of the villagers were sure signs that the community was thrilled with this new project successfully spearheaded and accomplished by the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization. It was surely out of happiness that on the spur of the moment a young lad of Giripuram stood up and impromptu composed and rendered a heartwarming song. All were spellbound by the spontaneity, genuine gratitude and appreciation. The villagers felt proud of their involvement in the project.
The long wait of the villagers had finally come to a happy ending: The pure drinking water of the desalination plant was released. Hundreds of villagers stood in line with their earthen pots to carry home their first fill of clean and sacred drinking water. Their first sip down their parched throats… a drop on their tongue, a tear in everyone’s eye, the auspicious mangalavaidyalu music playing in the background, holy bhajans being sung… one had to be there to truly experience the joy of the moment, a joy that had its source in the selfless love that is Sri Sathya Sai!
The members of the Indian Oil Corporation, corporate partners of the project, declared that they were happy for having had the privilege of participating in such service activities that prove beneficial to people. In this regard, the service activities conducted by Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization are indeed ideal and exemplary, they pointed out. Thus, the project had left a mark not only in the corporate world, on government records, but also most importantly in the hearts of the villagers.
Sai Love Brings Water and School to Community
It is said that actions speak louder than words. During this project the Sai Youth learned that results are better than actions; better than results are sustained results; even better than sustained results are sustained solutions to long-standing problems. The participants received lessons for life from the experience, as one youth can confirm:
"As the comments from the villagers suggest, they are indeed grateful and happy. It is not just them that walk away with these feelings. We the youth of Bhagavan Baba too are immensely thankful to Him for having received the gift of this opportunity to serve Him in this way. We pray to Swami for strength to carry out many more such activities in His Divine mission. Even though what we accomplished with His grace and guidance is something quite small in face of the magnitude of needs for such intervention in our nation, we cannot discount the experience as insignificant. Mother Teresa so rightly said, 'We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.'"
Nothing in the world is more gratifying than to make a difference by reaching out to others, only to realize that the person who seems to be the other is none else than ourselves! That realization is the ultimate high of our journey with Sai! And it’s simply…indescribable and priceless!
- Sai Youth of AP
and the H2H Team
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Vol 5 Issue 09 - SEPTEMBER 2007
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