Warming lights during the dark monsoon
On the 25th November, cyclone Nivar swept across Tamil Nadu. With heavy rainfall and strong winds, Auroville and the surrounding villages experienced flooding, fallen trees and some housing damage. Luckily, the severity of the cyclone dropped last minute, so the damage was not as bad as expected and we are all fine. Following the storm, the skies cleared, the sun shone and we had a peaceful Karthigai Deepam celebration with those of our children who could come. It was the first time some of the children had been to Deepam since March which was very special for us. We made colorful kolams, lighted over 1000 oil lamps and sang together as the full moon rose. We are grateful to have had this celebration of light and hope during this dark and challenging year.

We are so proud of Dharani who has made incredible progress in many areas and loves handicrafts. She is now 23 years old and came to Deepam for the first time when she was just two years old. She was born with a neurological disorder called Sturge-Weber Syndrome and has severe epilepsy and other complications. Both her parents died of HIV and she has gone through a lot of hardship and trauma in her life. Luckily, she has an older sister who takes good care of her. Over the years, Dharani has received physiotherapy, education, medical and social interventions and (in usual circumstances) attends our vocational training and day care programme. Here is a photo of her embroidery work.

Many of you have reached out to us in this challenging time to ask how we’re managing. Sadly, we had to close Deepam in March due to COVID-19. India had a complete lock-down for almost two months, with no public transport or flights, schools & universities closed, food shops were only open in the morning and only essential services and travel allowed. Since then, the lockdown has been gradually relaxing. A lot of work has started up again, shops and eateries are open again, and public transport has began operating. However, schools and hands-on therapies are still closed. Masks should be worn at all times outside of the home and social distancing should be maintained. As public transport and domestic flights have started up again, COVID-19 has now spread to Auroville and the surrounding villages too (which were almost untouched for approximately 4 months) and we have had one positive case in our team. All our team members self-isolated at home as recommended and luckily she has recovered well and nobody else developed symptoms. Fortunately, cases are well managed in Auroville, however with cases continuing to rise in our closest town, Pondicherry, we are bracing ourselves for more positive cases. Very sadly, the husband of one of our young speech therapists who helps out at Deepam once a week (from Pondicherry), passed away due to COVID-19.

As many people in India live from what they earn daily, many (including the families of our children) have had no income and are struggling. The Government provides a small amount of rice, dhaal, oil and sugar to most of the poorest households, but no fruit or vegetables, and food prices are steadily rising. Thankfully, some of them have been able to restart work, but many have lost their jobs permanently.

We still do not yet know when and how we can restart our work with the children. We have never been closed for such a long period in our 28 years so it is not an easy situation for us, however we are doing what we can. Our team is in touch with all our children and we help families with food and medication where needed, as well as providing homework for our children where possible. We have initiated for a few of our older students to volunteer on an Auroville farm while school is closed which is very meaningful for them, and we hope to be able to open the vocational training centre soon, at least for a few of the other students.

We are continuing to pay our eleven employed team members their full salaries and we really want to continue being able to do this and to keep our experienced staff. We fear we are going to face a crunch in donations due to global financial difficulties and we are grateful for any support in these challenging times.

Help at Deepam during the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic

Flea-markets in Karlsruhe

Our amazing friendship circle managed to arrange two flea-markets in Karlsruhe during the pandemic. During one of the markets there was even a clown and a women’s choir. Many items were donated, much effort was put in, a lot of laughter was had and the proceeds were substantial. Thank you all!

During lockdown our team member Leo has initiated a wonderful opportunity for a few of our older students to volunteer on an organic Auroville farm.

House-visits at the homes of our children in different villages

Some parents are doing exercises with their children at home