Swami Dayananda Saraswati, an eminent scholar of Vedanta and Sanskrit, a great visionary, a powerful thinker and writer of today is the founder of AIM for Seva.
AIM for Seva is a secular organization. Our contributors as well as beneficiaries come from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
It is a Non Profit Organization but is envisaged to be a movement where every Indian is invited to participate to bridge the urban-rural divide in the country.
Students and devotees of Swami Dayananda Saraswati some of whom are eminent teachers in their own right, who personally initiate and oversee the various AIM for Seva projects.
Our vision is towards rural community development mainly through education. We endeavour to provide better educational opportunities for children in rural India and help them find employment. We also work in areas of healthcare, wherever needed.
Eminent corporates like Emirates Foundation, IDRF, KPMG, Freescale Semiconductor, Comite Maharashtra, NIIT, Lucas TVS, CII, Shriram Group, Pepsi, Tata Relief Commitee, Share and Care and Rajshree Sugars are some of our major donors. NRIs from USA and Canada also contribute substantially to all our programs.
Physical distance, economic factors since children are from very poor families and social barriers such as dysfunctional homes, single parents, and alcoholic fathers prevent children in the rural areas from attending school. Building more schools may solve the problem of physical distance but will not address the economic and social factors. Moreover building more schools is not economically viable as it requires huge infrastructure and other resources such as qualified teachers which are already in short supply. The concept of a student homes effectively solves many of the above problems and is the more viable solution.
A cluster of 10-15 villages are first identified in a particular area. We visit the government school in that area, announce our intention to start a student home and explain the idea behind it. We invite applications from children who are in need of support. The criteria of selection are:
• Children from very poor families, with a monthly family income of Rs. 500-600
• Live far from the school with very poor or no transport facilities
• Come from dysfunctional homes
• Show an inclination to study and achieve
We shortlist the most deserving students, based on the above criteria. Subsequently we visit their homes to verify the information before we admit them.
Even though we give special importance to educating people in rural and tribal areas, our student home admission are open to every deserving child, irrespective of the caste or religion he/she belongs to.
We personally go and meet the parents of the shortlisted children. We talk to them about the importance of educating their child and also tell them the philosophy behind our student home program wherein the child receives education and care for his/her overall development.
The fact that our state coordinators are themselves respected teachers in the community hence it is easy for the parents to trust and entrust their child to AIM for Seva.
Most of our student homes take children who are studying in grade 6 – 8 (between age of 8 – 10 yrs). They stay with us till they complete 10th grade. We prefer taking student from a lower grade so that they stay with us for at least 3-4 yrs. This gives us an opportunity to help them grow into responsible and honest citizens of India.
At the time of admitting the children we make the parents sign the application form which implies their consent to keeping the child in our homes. This helps us avoid any legal implications for keeping their children under our care.
Overall coordination of the student homes in a particular state or area is taken care of by Swamiji’s students. The day to day management of a student home is entrusted to specially trained wardens who are selected after rigorous screening procedures.
AIM for Seva is highly committed to educating a girl child. At present, among the 50 student homes spread over 12 states, we have dedicated 7 exclusively for educating girls.
The children in student homes come from extremely unprivileged homes with average monthly family income of Rs. 600-800. By sending the children to student homes to attend school, the parents are already forgoing the income that could potentially be earned by the child. Any further burden on them in the form of fees on our part would act as a deterrent for them to send children to school. Hence, we decided against charging fees.However, we encourage parents to participate in our projects in some way. For example, some mothers occasionally come and cook for children; parents of students from farming community provide grains on special occasion etc.
We take every measure to ensure that children are not cut-off from their parents.
The students go home for a period of 2 months during the summer holidays, and also for major festivals such as Diwali. Moreover, parents meet their children every month when they come to the student home for monthly meeting with parents.
The problems faced with institutionalization of children are:
We agree that it is ideal for children to grow up in a homely environment, provided the parents are capable of nurturing their children and inculcating the right values and ethics in them. Unfortunately in rural areas due to problems such as alcoholism, extreme poverty and other socio-economic factors, children grow up with no direction in life.
Given this situation staying in a ‘student home’ where our trained and committed wardens care for the children becomes a better option for their development. We take care of problems like child abuse through constant monitoring and training the wardens on parenting and psychological handling of children.
Generally a hostel means a place where children are given boarding and lodging facilities alone.
However at the AIM for Seva student homes we not only take care of these two basic necessities, but also provide all that is required for a healthy upbringing of a child.
In our vision, for a holistic development, one needs to pay attention to the growth of a child in three main areas namely: giving emotional security, developing cognitive & intellectual skills, and finally, overall character building.
The programs at our Student Homes are designed to take care of each of these aspects. The nurturing environment of our student homes ensures emotional well- being of children. Through private academic tuitions, computer and language classes, intellectual growth of children is taken care of. Finally, classes on values and ethics focus on overall personality development for making these children responsible citizens of India.