Education is the most powerful weapon
which you can use to change the world.
– Nelson Mandela
Hariharananda Residential Balashram School
Background: In 1999, Odisha, an eastern coastal state of India, experienced the worst cyclone in its history. Many areas were devastated and thousands of victims died, countless settlements were literally swept away, and thousands of people lost their homes and their already often meagre agriculture. Years later, the aftermath of this devastation was still felt, especially by the many children who were orphaned and/or living in dire poverty as a result of the disaster. They were also cut off from any form of care and schooling.
In order to effectively help these and other children in need, PRAJNANA MISSION, with the support of HAND IN HAND, founded the Hariharananda Balashram Residential School. Balashram offers a safe home, good health care and excellent education to the neglected children of Odisha who were living in extreme poverty. They are receiving love, security and a solid foundation for their future that will free them from the devastating cycle of poverty and dependency.
On an area of about twelve hectares in the village of Pattamundai are the residential and school buildings, a small hospital, sports and playgrounds, agricultural holdings, and much more, for the all-round care of the children and young people. The Balashram staff is literally there around the clock to meet the emotional and social needs of the children. Therefore, Balashram is truly a place of charity and altruism, where children in need can grow up in a caring and compassionate environment, thus enabling them to become self-confident and responsible members of society, according to the Balashram motto: “Make your Dream a Reality”.
- The school was founded in 2004
- Every year, 40 destitute children between the ages of three and five are admitted
- So far, over 750 girls and boys have received a protective home at Balashram with free access to good health care and excellent education
- Three building complexes form the Balashram campus:
Main campus: school buildings, girls’ quarters, kindergarten, school
gardens, playgrounds and sports fields with a swimming pond, and staff quarters
Second campus: vocational training centre, dining hall, football field, agricultural buildings including cow stables and biogas plant
Third campus: boys’ and staff quarters
The word “chrysalis” comes from the Greek word “chrysos” (“gold”) and refers to the golden pupa that is transformed into a butterfly. In a figurative sense, a new, self-determined life also begins for the graduates of the Balashram Residential School. The framework of the Balashram follow-up project “Chrysalis”, accompanies them in this new chapter of their lives. During their stay at Balashram they were already supported according to their individual abilities and now, after completing the 10th grade, they continue receiving support for their vocational training or further studies.
For example, since 2017, the Balashram School has been able to offer education up to Secondary 2 (Grade 11 and Grade 12) in Science and Humanities, which is an important milestone in the development of the campus. In addition, the school is constantly striving to establish collaborations with companies, currently both in India and the USA. This enables young people to receive offers of promising internships and secure apprenticeships.
Tutoring Center in Arua
The Tutoring Centre in Arua was opened in February 2022 as a “Life Skills and Community Development Project”. It provides tutoring to children of the villages of Arua, Kadliban, Hatapatana, Keshpur and Nuapatana to compensate for the very poor quality of the schools there, and thus raise the performance level of the students. Around 240 children and young people are already attending this small centre since its opening a short while ago, and which is offering tuition for younger children in the mornings and for students of higher school levels, in the evenings.
The parents, who often have had none or very little schooling, are actively involved. Meetings are held with them at regular intervals with the aim to involve them closely in their children’s educational journey. In addition, an “ethics” class is offered every Sunday, which is attended by about 60 to 70 participants. Graduates of Hariharananda Balashram teach in the Tutoring Centre in their free time, and retired teachers from the surrounding area often visit the centre and support the classes as well. The response from the villagers is very positive. Where possible, parents of the students pay a small contribution, to cover electricity costs and examination fees.
Ecology – an integral part of all the Projects
I have just three things to teach –
simplicity, patience, compassion.
– Lao Tzu
All HAND IN HAND projects stand for ecologically responsible living. Here’s what is being tackled with green ideas for a healthy future:
The expansion of the Balashram garden
At Balashram, nature and its preservation are of immense importance. This is evident in the fact that even lower school pupils develop a deep awareness of it. Environmental issues, and their importance for the region and the whole globe, are discussed among all age groups. In practical, hands-on tuition, they learn how to grow plants and herbs. Each class has their own field or garden section, which the children have to take care of themselves.
The construction of a Balashram farm
In order to provide the Balashram residents with dairy products for their daily needs and to preserve the Indian Zebu breed, a large farm was built on the Balashram premises. 200 cows and calves live on the school’s own premises and produce enough milk to supply the children at the Hariharananda Balashram with healthy, dairy products.
The construction of a biogas plant
The biogas plant, which was commissioned in 2018, supplies 80 percent of Balashram’s energy needs and is powered by the dung of the 200 cattle. Before the installation of the plant, cooking for 600 people was still done on wood stoves. Since the commissioning of the biogas plant, the burning of wood could be completely eliminated.
The construction of solar panels
The Solar Project started in December 2019 and is continuously expanding, helping to save an increasingly large part of the cost of electricity.
The construction of a sewage treatment plant
A sewage treatment plant was built on the school grounds in 2017 to purify the waste water, which is then used to irrigate the fields. The service water from the cows in turn, is added to the slurry, which is used for the biogas plant.
Massive replanting and afforestation after natural disasters
In view of the increasing natural and environmental disasters, such interventions in devastated areas, are becoming more and more urgent Together with volunteers of PRAJNANA MISSION, HAND IN HAND also supports small farmers by providing the necessary equipment, seeds and seedlings, and by allocating agricultural land to them.
Environmental Care Camps
During these camps, the students of Balashram learn how to develop awareness for the environment and about the green ideas which HAND IN HAND and PRAJNANA MISSION envisage and support. This way, they, as a matter of course, begin to take care of nature and to love and protect its gifts. The school management regularly organises trips to nearby nature reserves, such as the Bhitarakanika Wildlife Sanctuary, where the girls and boys gather a lot of knowledge and information about different plant and animal species.
With enthusiasm and commitment, the children and young students also organise small events themselves, during which they exchange information with the residents of the nearby villages. For example, they talk about the efficient use of water, the handling of animals, and the dangers of plastic.
Ethics and Morals Education Camps
In the first Tutoring Centre (more will follow), above all, most of the school material is worked through again. Children and young students without sufficient school education, receive intensive support at the TC, besides also learning “life skills” which promote their social competencies.
Projects for the community are developed, and children learn and practice how to help and be of service to others. The aims are for the students to internalize ethical-moral values, develop a determined action for the common good, treat all living things with respect, and also to become clear about the goal of their own lives.
- Hariharananda Health Centres (HCHC)
- Mobile Medical and Dental Services
- Health Camps
Emergency life-support assistance in the event of natural disasters, such as medical aid, provision of food, hygiene items and emergency kits