Making A Difference
7 million beneficiaries
4200 villages covered
2 million volunteers
Over 150 rural herbal gardens created
100,000 people benefited by yoga classes
Action for Rural Rejuvenation (ARR) is a multi-pronged, holistic, outreach program which was established by Sadhguru in 2003. ARR’s primary objective is to improve the overall health and quality of life of the rural poor through a well-defined philanthropic effort that enhances existing development schemes by supporting indigenous models of health, participatory governance and community revitalization. Through its dedicated team of qualified and trained volunteers, the project is now active in 4200 villages in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
ARR has been creating waves of positive change in the lives of people in rural areas. Its success can be attributed to its multi-faceted approach which envelops healthcare, sports, yoga, community development and social bonding. ARR works towards short-term wellbeing of villagers as well as long-term sustenance of the projects, by involving the community and creating a sense of ownership towards the projects undertaken. Emphasis is placed on ensuring that the community has the capability to take action for their wellbeing. The rural Inner Engineering program and Isha Kriya practice offered by Isha Foundation present villagers with tools to establish health, vitality, mental calm and clarity, and instills a deep sense of joy within them. After a core volunteer base is generated through these programs, the ARR team encourages the participation of the entire village community along with the volunteers in community games.
In particular, encouraging women’s participation is paramount among ARR’s efforts. Women are considered the main force in a village community as they are responsible for housework, earning income, organizing community activities and child rearing.
For example, as food preparation is in their hands, if women are convinced to incorporate a simple fruit supplement in the family’s daily diet, it is certain that the nutrition of the family and of children in particular will be improved. Overall, the community mobilization activities create trust and provide the required support for sustainable development.
A culture of caring
ARR also works towards the psychological wellbeing of villagers. The large number of suicides by farmers led to the establishment of “Karunai Karuvarai” or “Wombs of Compassion.” Here, under the ARR aegis, one person in each village is trained as a village-counselor, so that farmers have a listening post to vent their grievances and work towards feasible solutions.
ARR also cares for people living with HIV/AIDS. The ARR Mobile Health Clinics refer patients exhibiting HIV-related symptoms to the nearest Counseling and Testing Center. Isha Rural Health Clinics are also equipped to test for HIV for consenting patients. ARR also partners with TANSAC (Tamil Nadu State AIDS Society) and maintains a Community Care Center for treatment and counseling of people living with HIV/AIDS in Palladam, Coimbatore.
The annual Rural Olympics or Gramotsavam draws upto 500,000 people
Olympics, rural style!
The Rural Olympics are an integral part of Action for Rural Rejuvenation’s efforts in introducing sports and recreational activities in the villages of Tamil Nadu. Daily gatherings on the volley-ball court are helping to renew a sense of community by involving villagers – old and young, and men and women from all castes and economic levels. Playing together fosters a healthy spirit of competition, which translates into higher self-esteem, improved communal harmony, better health and enhanced productivity.
“It makes such an enormous shift in them – just playing games and having inter-village tournaments. They forget all their miseries, their half-full bellies and everything. Suddenly they are a new kind of people,” says Sadhguru. “People were coming with the inspiration that they want to change their lives and live in a different way, in a more inspired way.”
It was unthinkable just a few years ago that adult and old women would turn up to play games in rural Tamil Nadu. Other changes have also taken place. At the volleyball final of the Rural Olympics, it is remarkable to see cheers come for a volleyball player, the villagers forgetting that the boy who is a champion in their village, is from the lower strata of the caste system. Other rural competitive sports scheduled for the day include games of throw ball and many traditional rural games like kabadi, uriyadi (blind-folded pot-breaking), tug-of-war, rekla-race (bullock cart races), valukkumaram (greasy pole contests), and slow cycle races carrying on till sunset.
Following the tsunami that devastated South Asia in 2004, Isha Foundation’s team carried out comprehensive rehabilitation in several tsunami-hit villages and was among the first teams to reach the disaster-hit areas.