“She stands here in front of us. God’s love in a human body.” said Dr. Jane Goodall, while presenting Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, known as Amma, with the 2002 Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence. Sharon Stone – when she welcomed Amma to present her with the Cinéma Vérité award inPariswas also drawn to say, “I welcome this saint, this angel, this person of active goodness.” If you haven’t yet planned on meeting the little woman that stood tall at the UN when she spoke about how we are all connected to each other and this earth, then there is an opportunity this summer to do just that.
Amma is the founder of Embracing the World (ETW), a vast network of international charities, the founder and chancellor of Amrita University, and the founder of AIMS, a not-for-profit super specialty hospital in Kerala. She is also a renowned spiritual leader and motivator who has inspired people all over the world and a visionary who has been at the helm of many significant, transformative discussions and initiatives globally.
Her philanthropic activities range from providing the most basic amenities – food, shelter, education, livelihoods and healthcare to the poorest communities all over the world, as well as efforts to increase environmental preservation through sustainable efforts backed by path breaking research in laboratories at the Amrita University. ETW runs rescue and relief work responding to disasters around the globe with funds and manpower that are completely voluntary.
Under the auspices of Mother’s Kitchen, volunteers prepare and serve 10 million meals every year across India,Kenya,Costa Rica,Mexico, North America,Australia,Spain and Southern France to name a few countries. Amma also believes that helping women earn a better living pays off for everybody – mothers provide better nutrition and healthcare and spend more on their children.
Furthering this conviction, ETW has vocationally trained more than 100,000 economically vulnerable women throughout India and supported them with start-up capital and marketing assistance, as well as access to microcredit loans from government-regulated banks and affordable insurance plans. The women use these assets to form self-help groups, share micro savings accounts, and start their own home-based businesses. For many of the women, it is the first job they have ever had.
Since 1998, ETW has provided monthly pensions for widows and other women in poverty. In 2006, the project was expanded to benefit the physically and mentally challenged and now serves a total of 69,000 beneficiaries. The plan now supports more than 100,000 impoverished men, women and children who are struggling to make ends meet.
The United Nations has officially made Amrita University India’s first ever UNESCO Chair on gender equality and women’s empowerment in recognition of their unmatched work in the area.
The massive destruction wrecked by the 2004 Tsunami and the work that ensued towards rehabilitation of several hundreds of villages triggered Amrita University’s research into wireless technology for landslide detection as well as ground breaking Nanotechnology, which further led to the launch and popularization of MoVE, a tablet based learning for rural children, open and distance learning with virtual laboratories and wearable technology for health and safety.
Amma emphasizes the need to give back to nature and supporting this has encouraged planting of more than a million trees, energizing communities into creating their own small home and community gardens leading to reducing, reusing and recycling waste and increasing the green footprint. Simply put, Amma emphasizes the need for sustainable communities.
In Amma’s own words “Environmental protection is one of the greatest issues mankind faces today. If only we would walk along the path shown by our ancestors, we could easily find solutions to the problems we are facing in this area. In the past, our ancestors didn’t need to ‘try to protect Nature’ because their very lives themselves protected Nature. Environmental protection was inherent in their very lifestyle, worship and cultural customs. Reverence and respect towards all creatures and creation was an integral part of their life. It was ingrained in them that they should take only what was needed from Nature, without exploiting and destroying Her. But in today’s world, we see humans taking from Nature and their fellow human beings without any limit. Moreover, they often destroy them at the same time. Taking more than we need and then wasting it is unrighteous.”
On June 24 and 25, Amma will visit Atlanta for two days of public programs open to all, which will be held at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta. The programs will include inspirational music, meditation, spiritual discourse, and personal blessings, where Amma will meet everyone individually in her inimitable style.