Humanitarian Activities

Back to listDec 31, 2008

Bharat (India) Soka Gakkai Supports Nutrition and Education Project in Southern India

081231x_bsg_tsunami.jpg Every second month, a mini-truck carries food packages for children in four villages of Nagapattinam

Following the devastation caused by the tsunami which struck the coast of India on December 26, 2004, Bharat (India) Soka Gakkai (BSG), looked for ways to address the nutrition and education-related needs of children living in Nagapattinam, one of the worst-hit areas in Tamil Nadu, south of Chennai City, India.

In 2005, the BSG Trust signed an agreement with the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and donated a grant of 3,380,450 rupees to support children affected by the tsunami. Since 2006, the Guild of Service (Central), an experienced NGO based in Chennai, has been implementing the project.

Initially, a survey was conducted in seven affected villages to identify which had the most vulnerable children. It was found that while children who were orphaned by the disaster were already receiving support from the government, many of those who had lost one parent were in serious need of assistance. Often the children had been taken out of school to work.

081231x_bsg_tsunami3.jpg Children display booklets in which all the food materials their family has received are listed

Four villages were selected for the project: Madathukuppam, Naickerkuppam, Kellamoovoorkarai and Thoduvai. Some 47 children were enrolled, all first-generation learners who were not getting support from any other organizations. Each child receives food for his or her family worth 6,000 rupees per year, and a further 1,000 rupees per year to cover school costs including school fees, uniforms and supplies. The food packages, containing rice, lentils, nuts, porridge and sugar, plus vegetables, dry fish, milk and Horlicks, were designed in consultation between the MSSRF nutrition specialist and village elders. The families were given some nutrition education at the start of the program. Each child’s height and weight is being monitored.

081231x_bsg_tsunami2.jpg MSSRF’s principal coordinator Dr. Sanjeeviraj talks with students at Thiruvengedu High School for Girls

Usually the school drop-out rate increases after a disaster, but the BSG project has helped ensure that children, especially girls, stay in school. Many were previously suffering from depression or finding it hard to concentrate in class because of a lack of food. Counseling sessions are held for parents to motivate them and also to help the family understand that the children will need time to study at home and therefore spared some household chores.

The project’s success is exemplified by the experience of Saraswathi, aged 16, who lives in Thiruvengedu. On the day of the tsunami, her brother saved her from drowning. Her father had died previously, and her mother was swept away by the killer wave. She says, "I like school because I have lots of friends there. Calamities will come, we need to be courageous in life. I want to finish school and become the best nurse in the district."

[Adapted from an article in the December 2008 issue of the Value Creation, Bharat Soka Gakkai (BSG), India; photos courtesy of BSG]