Sai Aashraya Adarsh Gram
Years before the establishment of Sai Aashraya, a dedicated group of 6-7 families had been tirelessly volunteering every weekend near a railway bridge in Bengaluru. Their mission was to serve a community of leprosy patients hailing from a small hamlet in Dharmapuri District, Tamil Nadu. This marginalized village had been ostracized by society, and the residents struggled to find opportunities for employment. To support their families, they resorted to seeking alms in Bengaluru and then also traveling to various districts like Salem, Erode and Coimbatore, using the collected funds to educate their children in hostels. Their only motivation for enrolling their children in these hostels stemmed from a profound desire to shield the younger generation from experiencing the same social isolation and hardships that defined their own lives.
Our volunteers would visit the leprosy patients over the weekends, providing essential services such as bathing in nearby public washrooms, leprosy wound dressing, distributing clothes, and spending quality time with them. However, as our organization took shape, a realization dawned upon us that this patchwork approach was not sustainable or effective.
A pivotal moment occurred when a senior volunteer, also a scientist at the Indian Space Research Organization, led a team to interact with the elders of the leprosy-affected community. Expressing the family like bond that was present, they questioned the value of serving only on weekends and sought guidance on how they could provide more concrete and continuous assistance. The elders agreed to visit Sai Aashraya's headquarters the following weekend, coincidentally during Christmas time.
Understanding the long-term needs of the patients, volunteers compiled a list of essential items, including special cups and vessels, warm clothing, torches, buckets, and other daily necessities and procured them for distribution in gift bags. Christmas morning of 2016 saw a convoy of Sai Aashraya volunteers' cars picking up the patients from their temporary location in Bangalore. The patients were overwhelmed by the love and care extended to them.
Upon reaching Sai Aashraya's residence, volunteers opened the car doors, lovingly offering a rose to each patient. What initially seemed like a celebrity convoy to the neighbours transformed into a poignant moment as the stark reality of the patients' conditions became apparent.
Christmas prayers were offered, and the patients joined the volunteers for breakfast. As the elders struggled to eat on their own due the lack of fingers, we stepped in to offer a helping hand by feeding them. It was during this heartfelt moment that one of the leprosy patients, an aunty, couldn't contain her overwhelming emotions. As volunteers provided her with water and comfort, she tearfully expressed, "Even if you had given us ten thousand rupees, our joy wouldn't match what we feel now. This is the first time in our lives that we're being treated as ordinary human beings." A poignant silence punctuated by intermittent sobs enveloped the space. Before we could respond, she continued, "You might assume it's just 25-30 of us seeking alms under that railway bridge to educate our children, but the reality is that we are 80 leprosy patients and our families residing in our village in Dharmapuri District. Today, we find ourselves in dire straits and in desperate need of help."
This revelation served as a divine message, prompting Sai Aashraya to embark on a transformative journey. Without any preconceived plans for village adoption, the organization decided to permanently adopt their village, situated three hours away. The initial assessment revealed alarming conditions—90% of the village was malnourished, elders hadn't seen a doctor in over 30 years, and the community struggled even to collect their monthly rations.
Driven solely by the overwhelming need and without a background in village adoption, Sai Aashraya committed to providing Holistic Food & Nutrition, Medicare, Educare and Sociocare to uplift the lives of this marginalized but resilient community. The story of the inaugural village adopted by Sai Aashraya, born out of this deeply poignant encounter on Christmas morning, stands as a testament to the profound transformative impact that arises when we wholeheartedly embrace the opportunity to engage in selfless service the moment it presents itself.
Sai Aashraya's Super Speciality Medicare Camps exemplify compassionate and comprehensive healthcare. Our devoted team of volunteers carry out these camps with a primary focus on general medicine, cardiac examinations, and regular ulcer dressings, undertaking comprehensive measures to impede the spread of ulcers. From monitoring vitals to conducting cutting-edge cardiac assessments such as ECG, 2D Echo with Colour Doppler, all procedures are efficiently carried out in our state-of-the-art Mobile Medical Units. Alongside this, a month's supply of medicines is dispensed, and meticulous patient records are securely stored in the cloud. These transformative Medicare camps are held on every 3rd Sunday of the month.
Witnessing an increasing number of patients seeking treatment, not only from the village but also neighbouring and distant areas, is truly heartening. Many faced challenges in following up after surgeries in external hospitals due to financial constraints. Understanding the hardships faced by these people, the compassionate residents of Sai Aashraya Adarsh Gram go out of their way to ensure the comfort of these visitors.
In addition to medical care, provisions are distributed monthly to all 75 families in the village, including essential items like Rice, Daal, Cooking oil, Turmeric powder, fresh produce, and seasonal fruits. Every two months, clothes and daily necessities are lovingly handed over to patients and their families. At the end of each day of Seva, volunteers serve traditional South Indian meals on banana leaves to both village residents and visiting patients.
Education is a cornerstone of our mission, with volunteers supporting children's education by covering tuition fees, assisting youth in securing employment opportunities, and providing stationery and sports equipment. Beyond academic lessons, children are imparted valuable life skills, participate in tree planting, and engage in regular games and events alongside elders.
We are always deeply committed to empowering people to achieve self-reliance through meaningful employment in any place where we work. Through our efforts, individuals are equipped with the skills and confidence to pursue various job opportunities. Presenting themselves professionally and confidently, these individuals debunk misconceptions about leprosy, emphasizing its non-contagious nature. The success stories are inspiring, with many securing positions as security officers, engaging in small-scale farming, participating in provisions packing, candle making, taking on roles as clerks etc., showcasing the diverse talents and capabilities within the community.
Our commitment extends to providing walking aids, crutches, walkers, and other necessities to elders in need, allowing them to move freely and be independent. Festivals are joyously celebrated in the village, with residents organizing cultural programs to showcase India's rich heritage. Promoting awareness about the curability of leprosy and ensuring a life of dignity for these inspiring individuals are integral aspects of our Seva. Through collaboration with local authorities, we ensure that the basic needs of the village residents are comprehensively met.
What we do
The once modest village has now blossomed into a self-reliant hub and is serving as a beacon of inspiration for neighboring communities. Its residents have undergone a remarkable transformation, embodying newfound confidence, boldness, and optimism. Our Volunteers who are driven fueled by the mission to serve with love, witness miracles that manifest right here in this village.
Leprosy ulcers, notorious for their resistance to healing, have defied expectations. In an extraordinary turn of events, most ulcers have not only healed but vanished completely. Individuals who endured two to three decades of suffering now live pain-free, embracing healthier and happier lives. Motivated by their improved well-being, these once-ailing individuals and their families are now eager to contribute to the betterment of their village in their unique ways.
The younger generation are healthier, have better educational opportunities and are actively involved in various village activities. The impact is unmistakable, with children and youth becoming integral contributors to the village being a vibrant one.
Society, which once ostracized the patients and their families, has undergone a remarkable shift. Today, the village is not just respected; it is hailed as an exemplary community. This has bestowed upon the village and its inhabitants a sense of dignity and pride. Most significantly, happiness is now everywhere, etching radiant smiles on every face, irrespective of age. Sai Aashraya Adarsh Gram stands as a living testament to the transformative power of love, a profound reminder that love has the unparalleled ability to heal, uplift, and create enduring impact.