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Villages around Auroville

Auroville Village Action Group

Sappadu Compassion Project 2004

Ries & Djoewie

Ries en Djoewie


Laxmi, 31, and her husband Manjini with their children. Laxmi received a loan of Rs 2000 in January this year. They now run an ironing business. This beautiful family has freed itself from the clutches of poverty. They earn around 50 Rs per day and are regular in paying back the loan.

Iyappan is talking with Radja about the progress of her petty-shop, she got a loan and is doing well now






Arayi, 62, making (dhoop) small incense cylinders. In May 2002 she was helped with a loan of Rs 4500 to start this business. She buys the raw-material from Pondicherry and sells the finished product with a reasonable margin. This little business has changed her life. Her husband also helps her in the work.

India is a country with a rich culture, but its problems are as vast as the country is. More than half of India's one billion inhabitants live under the poverty line and for them famine, unemployment and illiteracy are an obstacle for a better future. Especially the elderly, physically challenged and widows are victims. Unable to play an economic role in Indian society, they form a forgotten group. The Sappadu Compassion Project is actively working for these people in the Auroville bioregion.


The team

The project originated with two Dutch voluntary workers in collaboration with the Auroville Village Action Group AVAG),functioning as a local NGO in the bioregion.

  • Ries Korse (54) worked in Holland as a social worker with children and asylum seekers and joined Auroville in 1990. ries@auroville.org.in
  • Djoewie Leegwater (48) is a healthcare worker in Holland, who often visits Auroville in order to monitor the Sappadu-projects. She is the contact in The Nederlands and responsible for the fundraising.
  • Local fieldworkers from AVAG do the work on the spot. They are mostly young men who come from the area, speak the language and are familiar with the situation in the villages whose inhabitants have come to trust them. The fieldwork is coordinated by a Tamil couple Morris and Ambu , and by Bhavana , a longtime Aurovilian originally from USA. Iyappan is the head fieldworker and contact for the project.


  • Sappadu helps elderly and disabled persons in getting a pension. Illiteracy and complicated procedures can form insurmountable obstacles for these groups. 
  • Disasters caused by fire can keep troubling the simple life of the poor, they are helped by the first start and the really nessecary things like clothes. Cooking materials
  • Provision of loans for physically challenged and widows to start small commercial units, like a teashop, pettyshop with vegetable, fish or flowerbinding. Tailoring service. Sometimes the loan is used to buy a goat or milk cow. The milk can be sold and thus provides an income. Also ironing service for the village .

A fresh wave of energy swept through the project during 2003 after the difficulties in 2002. New funds came in and a number of aged, handicapped, deserted and poor people of the region were helped to regain their self-confidence and go on with their lives. On the other hand, AVAG's work of identifying new candidates went on smoothly.

A note from the project coordinator:

Hello I am Iyappan and responsible for the Compassion Project! We heartily appreciate your continuous support to the project. In the first half year we could help 50 individuals with almost Rs. 100 000 (US $ 2000). Half of this amount is a grant that will not be paid back to us. Almost 2/3 of the needy people of our region are rendered helpless due to the Indian government's new, stringent policies regarding Welfare Schemes. Therefore more and more requests for help are coming to us through village groups that work for AVAG in 60 villages. We really wish to continue this project as even these little successes are really rewarding for us. We would also like to be more in contact with our donors so that we build a good friendship and work together for this noble cause and can go on with the project.

Thank You, Iyappan

We would like to share with you stories of some special individuals who touched our hearts and inspired us to go on.


Veerammal – back into business

Veerammal , a 67 year old widow, has had a tough life after the sudden death of her husband. After she had recovered from the shock she realized that she had two teenaged sons and a little daughter, totally dependent on her. She sold all her jewelry and invested the money in a grocery shop which helped her family to survive and to educate her children for many years. Her two sons grew up to be capable young men. She got them married to suitable girls of respectable families. Now all she wished was to retire as her sons would take care of the shop and their wives would maintain the household.

But none of these happened.

The sons along with their wives moved to the city in search of a better livelihood. Veerammal was now left alone to tackle the toughest job in the life of all Indian parents; ‘the marriage of the daughter'. She dearly loved her daughter and wanted to get her married into a decent family. She found the right match for her but the dowry his family demanded went far beyond the amount she had diligently collected over the years.

She had to sell her shop, the last support of her life, in order to meet the expectations of the groom's family.

Ten years after the marriage of her daughter AVAG found Veerammal struggling to survive. She had sacrificed everything for the sake of her children and expected nothing in return. Her ‘never give up' spirit had faded away. She had surrendered herself to hunger, loneliness and sorrow when one day, unexpectedly, Sappadu Compassion knocked at her door and gave her hope.

Today, Veerammal lives in a small hut with a broken roof that allows sun, rain and all that falls from the sky to enter her home where she sits gazing at the passers by. Beside her, small packets of rice, lintels and fresh vegetables await to be picked up. The reassuring smile on her face says it all. ‘She is back into the business'.


Balraj - busy writing his mid-term examination

Balraj was only six when his parents died in an epidemic eight year ago. Since then he lived with his old grandmother who gave him all the love and care he needed at that tender age. Like other kids he went to the local Primary School and grew up into a fairly smart boy. As a teenager he realized that, unlike his friends, he had the capacity to understand difficult subjects like mathematics and physics and he started dreaming of higher education.

All went on smoothly until this year when he had to make the first major decision of his life. His poor grandmother could not afford to buy him the books for High School so she asked him to drop his studies and find some work. Balraj knew that he owned his life to her and it was payback time now. He decided to quit school and started looking for a job. Yet on the other hand was his love for knowledge and his desire to do something great in life.

At this crossroad of his life Balraj bumped into Iyappan, AVAG's Compassion Project Coordinator. Iyappan was pleased to inform Balraj that he has not to worry anymore because as he is an orphan Sappadu Compassion Fund can accommodate his educational needs.

Early next year, Balraj will be sitting for the 10 e grade board exams.. His teachers have lots of hopes with him as there are only a handful of students like him, who can make it to the university.

After the financial crisis with the peak in September 2002, the project went on. Out of the 99 needy people, in the waiting list, 50 where helped again by the end of 2003. These aged and handicapped people were on the verge of calamity and needed urgent attention. Funds came right in time to help these desperate people. AVAG had made an urgent request for more funds to the donors in the half yearly report last year, and they came.

Keeping a close watch on the already helped individuals, guiding and encouraging them has been rigorous task on Iyappan's agenda. The result of this has been praise-worthy. Most of the little businesses started by the project are doing well and almost 90% of the beneficiaries have been regular in paying back the loan. This is a concrete proof that the Sappadu Compassion Project is a well worth program. 


On behalf of our friends in the village, thank you!

Auroville Village Action Group
Irumbai Road
Thiruchitrambalam 605111

Contact: avag@auroville.org.in

If you live in Holland, you also can send your donation to:Stichting Auroville Internationaal Nederland (AVI), Giro 805707 , indicating with “Sappadu Elderly Project”

  Romba Nandri

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