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Utkarsha Project

The world is a nest that accommodates all living beings. However, some of us are more fortunate than others - and have the capacity to make a difference. "Earn daily and only then can you eat daily" is the motto of the people of the Sahariya tribe living in close proximity to the city of Gwalior - but can we really blame them for their short term vision?

A local tribe, their main livelihood is supported by cutting wood and collection of minor forest products. Lacking any infrastructure they are then forced to sell them at throwaway prices to the local shopkeepers. Some of them are involved in other jobs that require minimal skills. The average annual income may not exceed US$120 per family.

The root cause of the poverty for these people is illiteracy amongst the tribal people; they’re caught in a hopeless situation of having to fend for themselves on a daily basis with no hope of changing the future. An average tribal never gets three square meals a day. Scarcity of resources - whether it is in form of food, clothing or shelter is a way of life with these people. A child is seen as a spare pair of hands to earn some more on an immediate basis versus the luxury of being sent for education (a costly affair also) to change the course of life.

Due to the hard work and efforts of some volunteers of Vivekananda Kendra, Gwalior a barren hilly rock has been transformed with green vegetation and the environment made lively with chirping birds and flowing streams. It is reminiscent of the atmosphere that must have prevailed in ancient ashrams or gurukuls (places where the sages taught their disciples). With this background "Utkarsha" (means awakening) was established on October 28, 1992 as a free hostel (boarding place) for tribal children based on the age old gurukul system of education.

During the course of their work the Vivekananda Kendra volunteers realized that, in order to make a difference to the future of the tribal folks it was important to start working with the next generation. The Kendra workers took it upon themselves to work with the tribal folks to convince them of the value of education for their children. What started as a small project has since then matured into a full-fledged initiative, with tribal children now on the waiting list.

Utkarsha's principle is very simple - one child per family is allowed to stay on campus.
He or she is admitted to a local school in the city and lives amongst other students under the supervision and guidance of the warden. The children are provided a holistic experience in life - education supported by craft skills, prayers, yoga, and community work. After a decade the experience with the children has been wonderful, the children have undergone multidimensional personality development in the following levels

1) Physical level - Yoga, games, exercise.
2) Mental level - Stories, songs, various competitions.
3) Intellectual level - outing and excursions, various games.
4) Psychological level - song, meditation,
5) Spiritual level - Gita Path, prayers, recitations etc.

Throughout these many years the children have developed group dynamics, a rhythm, and a lifestyle that they never expected:

1) Daily schedule "early to rise and early to bed".
2) Washing own utensils, clothes and keeping the premises clean.
3) Healthy & hygienic lifestyle, something that is next to impossible for them in their villages.
4) Prayers twice a day in prayer hall and before every meal.
5) Exercise and yoga practices everyday.
6) Communication skills and participatory life style. Sharing with equal proportion.

The concept began in 1993 by supporting 8 boys and 2 girls, from various districts and villages. In 1995 as Vivekananda Needam was fully constructed Utkarsha was shifted to the campus. Today Utkarsha is preparing for future expansion. The concept has proven its worth - besides accommodating more number of children (27) the children under this project are getting ready to enter life in the information age. Today they stay in four main areas in the Needam complex:

  • Kartavya (two room cottage) - 6 children
  • Samidha (three room cottage) - 2 girls
  • Satsang (double room cottage) - 2 boys
  • Aruni and Shwetketu (dormitory) - 15 boys

The Needam complex has cottages for its senior residents and a Nature Cure Centre as well. The children live in harmony with the environment, the senior residents, visiting nature cure enthusiasts, as well as temporary local camp visitors.

All of the students were given "Vivek" as the last name after Swami Vivekananda, as family names are not part of their tribal culture. In fact, three students do not have parents any more and have been adopted by Needam. Pratik Vivek is from the very first batch of students and now studies in an ITI (Industrial Technical Institute) learning work-skills related to electrical work. He is in charge of all types of electric fittings and maintenance, the diesel generator and other appliances in the Campus.


"Let her arise out of the peasant’s cottage, grasping the plough, out of the huts of the fishermen, the cobbler and the sweeper. Let her spring from the grocer’s shop, from beside the oven of the fritter seller. Let her emanate from the factory from marts and markets. Let her emerge from groves and forests, from hills and mountains."

Swami Vivekananda on Mother India


How can you help?

You can be the difference for a child to spend his life in child labor or a life with a
promise for a better tomorrow and all future generations. Supporting each child takes
$325 per year that translates to 0.90 cents per day, the cost of a coke bottle in the
vending machine.

Here’s how we distribute the costs:

Pays for one student/year US$ 325
$100 pays for food
$100 pays for tution/conveyance
$75 pays for school bags/stationary/books/supplies
$50 pays for clothes/uniform/footwear

A typical day of the children in the hostel

Serial #
Time Activity
Remarks or significance
5.00 A.M.
Wake up and ablutions; 5.30 in winter.
5.45 A.M.
Morning prayers Includes Pratah Smaran composed by Srimat Adi Sankaracharya and a collection of Bhagwat Geeta verses based on Karma yoga. Followed by a meditation.
6.15 A.M.
Yoga practice For all-round personality development which includes physical, mental, intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth yoga provides basis for them.
7.15 A.M.
School for seniors and for rest of the students cleanliness activity. Daily at least an hour or even some times more than once children work together to learn and practice self help and self reliance.
8.30 A.M.
Break fast Menu includes satwik foods like Poha, Upama, Daliya, occasionally Idli or Dosa sometimes as per budget permits sweets etc.
9.00 A.M.
Self study or tuition class as per necessary. Academic development has no any other alternative. Over all Utkarsha every year passing rate is 65 %.
11.00 A.M.
Schooling for juniors 11.00 to 5.00 P.M.
1.30 P.M.
Lunch generally morning shift scholars come back from schools by 1.00 P.M.
2.00 P.M.
3.30 P.M.
Light refreshments.
4.00 P.M.
Study classes
5.30 P.M.
Games Out door games like cricket or of their choice as seniors too join some times.
6.30 P.M.
Devotional sessions Bhajan sandhya includes daily chanting and singing some Bhajans followed by meditation for a while.
7.15 P.M.
8.00 P.M.
Home work, getting prepared for next day school
8.45 P.M.
Story telling or night assembly in which children enact or sing of their own choice. Besides some TV serials for kids like Shaktiman, Mahabharat, cricket matches monthly once or twice any movie suitable for kids are shown. Frequent outing for circus after exams etc.

List of current children including their ages and classes
No. Name Age Class School Village
1 Pratik Vivek 17 yrs 1st yr Industrial Training Institute Gokulpura Distt Gwalior
2 Balwant Vivek 15 yrs 9th Radiant High School Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior
3 Ashish Vivek 14 yrs 8th Radiant High School Pipalkhedi Distt Shivpuri
4 Kamalkishore Vivek 15 yrs 8th Privately Dohara Distt Morena
5 Dinesh Vivek 9 yrs 3rd Sharada Vidya Mandir (Tapovan) Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior
6 Sunil Vivek 9 yrs 3rd Sharada Vidya Mandir (Tapovan) Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior
7 Shiv Singh Vivek 6 yrs 2nd Sharada Vidya Mandir (Tapovan) Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior
8 Ramlal Vivek 9 yrs 3rd Sharada Vidya Mandir (Tapovan) Patrota Distt Gwalior
9 Deshraj Vivek 9 yrs 4th Sharada Vidya Mandir (Tapovan) Patrota Distt Gwalior
10 Sameer Vivek 7 yrs 1st Gangaram Vidya Mandir Kareshia
11 Manoj Vivek 7 yrs 1st Gangaram Vidya Mandir Kareshia
12 Amarsingh Vivek 7 yrs 1st Gangaram Vidya Mandir Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior
13 Neeraj Vivek 7 yrs U.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior
14 Rakesh Vivek 6 yrs U.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior
15 Hemraj Vivek 6 yrs U.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior
16 Dheeraj Vivek 6 yrs U.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Needam Gwalior
17 Banti Vivek 5 yrs L.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Khodan Distt Gwalior
18 Neetu Vivek 6 yrs L.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Tinkala Distt Gwalior
19 Kuber Vivek 5 yrs L.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior
20 Harikishore Vivek 6 yrs L.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior
21 Komal Vivek 5 yrs L.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Hajeera Distt Gwalior
22 Ajay Vivek 5 yrs L.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior
23 Dilip Vivek 5 yrs L.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Pipalkhedi Distt Shivpuri
24 Pavan Vivek 4 yrs L.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior
25 Maitreyee Vivek 13 yrs 7th Radiant Vidya Mandir Needam Gwalior
26 Mukta Vivek 9 yrs 3rd Gwalior Glory High school Needam Gwalior
27 Lokesh Vivek 6 yrs L.K.G. Gangaram Vidya Mandir Ghatigaon Distt Gwalior.

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