Pondicherry – India
The Prana Project was founded by two German ethnologists following the devastating tsunami; from emergency aid provided at the outset, it has grown into a successful project over the years.
The core of the project is special education: children from three religions (Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam), two castes (crop farmers and fisherman) and the outcasts – Dalits, – of the village attend regular classes together. In addition to specialised classes, the students play, paint and dance, sing and laugh. A yoga teacher gives classes with great success and during role play students are trained to deal with conflicts. Above all, the children learn that other religions and castes do not necessitate a reason for hostility; peaceful coexistence is desired.
Because malnutrition and poor health of the children are two main problems, a school lunch was introduced: when children from the regular school come to the special school, they receive a “power shake” concocted by a doctor filled with vitamins and nutrients in addition to a balanced meal with rice, vegetables and fresh fruit at the end of the day. Like many children who come from unimaginably destitute conditions, this is their only warm meal of the day.
The project’s own therapy centre treats children with disabilities and their mothers learn how to continue to work with their children at home. This type of therapy is widely accepted as traditional healing methods are combined with targeted physiotherapy. In the treatment centre, mothers are encouraged to come out of isolation and step back into the community with a newfound self-confidence. Simply the fact that you are taking care of children with disabilities, combined with many more small and large achievements helps to increase the positive and growing reputation within the village.
Other women from the village take part in the project’s own sewing and dressmaking course. A master tailor teaches the woman and at the end of the apprenticeship, the women can bring in their own fabric and use the machines, continue to receive further tips and independently sell the fruits of their labour. This way, they have a small income at their disposal which they personally manage: a piece of independence from their husbands.
The Lucky Children
Throughout India there is the perception that there are people who bring misfortune solely due to their existence. Concretely this means avoidance, exclusion and stigmatisation of women, such as widows, and their children: they are expelled from their families.
Prana has created a model institution that is also supported by the HelpAlliance: The “unlucky children” and their mothers are, through training and/or therapy programmes, in a position to free themselves from the misery and hardship and thus able to begin a new life in another community independent of the traditional beliefs. This is how “unlucky children” become “lucky children”.
Two former children from the care centre, both of whom have been taken care of by the Lufthansa employee responsible for Prana for 10 years, have also become “lucky children”; they live within the project and study in Pondicherry.
In 2013, Sangeetha will finish her BA in Business and Administration. According to the philosophy and goal of Prana, of possibly bringing together remaining family members, Sangeetha now lives with her mother, (for the first time since childhood), a former migrant construction worker.
Since April 2012 is Jagadesvary a lucky child too; she initially studied English in order to master the language so she could begin her law studies. Since she has no relatives who can live with her, she lives in her own little apartment alone, but embedded within the safety and security of the project, with other lucky children’s families as her neighbours. She is also even proud of “living alone” not because she was expelled, but rather as a sign of independence – almost revolutionary.