AIM for Seva

Shaping Up: How value-education and cultural validation shaped a tribal girl from the hills

A.Poovizhi joined the Bhavani Arun AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Girls, Chinnasalem, Tamil Nadu in 2015 when she was in Class 11 and 16 years of age. She hails from Semabarai village in Jawadhu hills in Tamil Nadu.

“I came to know about AIM for Seva when the local coordinator came to our village and conducted a camp,” says Poovizhi. Nine girls from Jawadhu hills joined the Chinnasalem Chatralayam the same year.

Recalling her stay at the Chatralayam, Poovizhi says the first week was the toughest. “I had made up my mind to leave the hostel a couple of times but then Mataji (Swamini Suddhavidyananda Saraswati ji, the coordinator of the Chinnasalem Chatralayam)  counseled me a lot during the initial days,” recalls Poovizhi.

Constant encouragement by the coordinator provided the desired results.  Poovizhi did a one year certificate course in computer as well as a first level certification course in Hindi. “While studying for the Hindi certificate course, I realised that I have a love for languages,” she says.

After completing high school in 2017, Poovizhi shifted to Chennai from Chinnasalem to pursue her graduation. She has completed her BA (Sanskrit) programme at the Queen Mary’s College, Chennai.

Poovizhi’s father died when she was in her teens after a prolonged illness on account of hyper tension. Her mother is a daily wage labourer in the construction industry in Chennai. Her younger brother and cousin also studied at the Chatralayam in Sriperumbudur (S. Viswanathan Memorial AIM for Seva Chatralayam for Boys), Tamil Nadu.

Her younger brother has joined BA (Economics) at Presidency College, Chennai while the cousin has bagged a job with a firm in Chennai.

In 2019, Poovizhi, along with her friend N. Gomathi did a three day Sanskrit camp for the boys living in the Sriperumbudur Chatralayam.  A total of 56 students attended the three day Sanskrit course with 20 of them from the AIM for Seva Kuppuswamy Chatralayam for Boys, Polur, Tamil Nadu. The camp ended with students putting up a skit.

At the camp, Poovizhi and her friend Gomathi taught the boys basic speech and words in Sanskrit. This included Sanskrit numerals (1-50), parts of a body, self introduction phrases and days of the week.

Poovizhi is keen to enter the academics line. She is now pursuing her masters in Sanskrit.  Poovizhi has also signed up as a volunteer with Samskrita Bharati (an NGO that is devoted to the continuing protection, development and propagation of Sanskrit) and conducts online classes in her spare time.

Her biggest learning after coming into our Chatralayam was the importance of Seva. “I gained lot of confidence and the importance of studying and having a career,” she says. “ I also relished the three different meals that were provided to us every single day. Back home, we mostly consumed the same dish, morning till night. Having access to a restroom was also a luxury as at home, such a facility was very basic that was covered with Olai (palm leaves) on the top,” Poovizhi says matter-of-factly.

She has taken some of the teachings back home to the hills. “Till I joined the Chinnasalem Chatralayam, I did not know aspects like giving respect to elders, helping others, health and nutrition, temple and prayer. Now whenever I am back home, I always make it a point to keep my house neat and clean, light a lamp and do my prayers regularly,” she says.

That is what is called a 360 degree transformation.