Sevashram is a charitable society registered in March 1995 . It was founded by Fr. Kuriakose Mampilly, a priest of the catholic archdiocese of Ernakulam – Angamaly. The Major Archbishop Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil appreciated and encouraged his initiative as he discerned it as a special apostolate inspired by the Divine Spirit. Sevashram has, at present, five houses in Kerala, located at (1) Angamaly in Ernakulam District (2) Vaikom in Kottayam District, (3) Pullani Swasrayagram, North Thuravoor panchayath in Ernakulam District (4) Cheruvaloor, Kadukutty panchayath in Trichur District and (5)Maruthorvattam, Thanneermukkom Panchayath in Alleppey District. Sevashram reaches out to the people of four districts in Kerala (Ernakulam, Thrissur, Kottayam and Alappuzha).
The objectives of the society, articulated in the Memorandum of Association, are (1) to evolve an alternate ‘SANYASA’, rooted in Indian culture, by a group of people committed fully to the service of fellow human beings, men and women, belonging to different religions, walks of life and regions: and (2) to empower the marginalized and unorganized masses to become aware of their rights and duties as citizens and contribute their share towards the building up of a just society, drawing inspiration from the gram swaraj of Gandhiji’s dreams and the kshema rashtra envisaged in the Constitution of India, tapping locally available resources to the maximum.
Sevashram has responded to the context of the heterogeneity of the Indian society with a truly secular perspective. The tenets of eight world religions are inscribed and emblems of various religions are prominently displayed, at various locations of the ashram.
MISSION OF HOLISTIC DEVELOPMENT
Sevashram’s mission is to build up a community of love based on human values through the holistic development of all those whom it is pledged to serve. It is not a mere spiritual centre; spiritualism assumes a different form at Sevashram. The services of Sevashram are meant not only for human beings, but for the whole universe.
The Sevashram community believes in the Upanishadic insight: “ God resides in all creatures here”. (Isa vasyam idam sarvam). It prays for the well – being of all forms of life in the universe (Loka samasta sukhino bhavantu). All its activities are considered performance of God willed duties without expecting anything in return (Nishkama Karma), aimed at the reinstation of dharma (Dharma Samsthapana). This idea is conceptualized and envisaged as establishment of the Kingdom of God by Christians, Rama Rajya by Hindus, Classless Society by Marxists, Poorna Swaraj by Gandhians and Kshema Rashtra by the founder-fathers of the Constitution of India.
Trusting entirely in divine providence and raising funds locally through human resource development programmes and eco-friendly micro enterprises, without accessing foreign money, the members of Sevashram dedicate themselves to the cause of building up a community of love.
‘Janasabha’, the expansion of which is “Jesus Apostles’ New Association for Service Aimed at Basic Human Awakening”, founded in 1980 by Fr. K. Mampilly, was the forerunner of Sevashram. It had people belonging to different denominations, castes, and creeds, males, females, young, middle-aged and old, single and married, as members.
PROJECTS & PROGRAMMES:
The focus of the activities of Sevashram is on human resource development as an empowerment process of the people, which is neither project-oriented nor money-oriented.
Sevashram has been playing its role as a catalyst and a collaborator in people’s development.
From the very inception, as Jana Sabha in 1980s, endeavours towards organizing people were made in right earnest. Later, several of Sevashram’s activities for people’s development were carried out through grassroots level women’s self-help groups called swadhyaya sangams. Each sangam had 20 members on an average. All of them were women from families in the neighbourhood. They belonged to the economically and socially backward strata of the society. The swadhyaya sangams were encouraged to promote cultural and social activities as well. The members functioned like a closely-knit family unit. A strong humanitarian bond was cultivated through constant interaction among the sangam members.
Besides running an alternate savings and credit programme, which is both sustainable and manageable, the sangams used to encourage their members to engage themselves in self-employment activities like running micro milk collection and distribution, homestead production units of vermy compost, and distribution of home appliances and wellness products. Sangam members used to become both contributors to and beneficiaries of the marriage and funeral funds that were run as centrally sponsored and administered welfare. They also used to participate actively in the talent promotion
competitions such as unniyarangu, kumarolsavam and prathibha poshini for the age groups of 3-12 years, over 12 years up to marriageable age and above marriageable age, respectively.
The Centrally sponsored Self Help Movement and the State sponsored ‘Kudumbasree’ mission were adaptations of the grass-roots level people’s organizations Sevashram initiated. However, with the advent and proliferation of externally funded SHGs such as ‘Kudumbashree’, ‘Janashree’, Micro Credit’ etc., and the Centrally sponsored and funded projects like MGN REGP, and State subsidized rice distribution @ Rs. 1/- per kg. programmes, the savings and credit activities of the Swadhyaya Sangams came to a stand – still. Reading the signs of the times, Sevashram withdrew from those areas and started focusing more on micro enterprise development activities, from 2005 onwards.
INCOME GENERATING ACTIVITIES AND MARKETING NET-WORKS:
Several income generating activities, using locally available materials as the raw material, are undertaken by Sevashram. Besides, societies of coconut farmers having at least 10 yielding trees are formed and federated into a net-work to interact effectively with the Coconut Development Board.
Sevashram has developed over 25 organic products and is marketing them under the brand names of Kerasyam, Aiswarya, Jaiwa Dhanya, Kera Vimal, Kera Veeryam, Shree Kesh and Kera Biofer.
Kerasyam is the coconut oil which is 100 per cent free from carbon and sulphur, extracted from dryer dried copra and certified by the Quality Testing Laboratory of the Coconut Development Board of the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, as conforming to the norms prescribed for pure coconut oil by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).
Coconut oil ordinarily available in the market is extracted using conventional methods that necessitate addition of preservatives like sulphur. Hence it contains carbon and is yellowish in colour. Kerasyam coconut oil is extracted from superior quality edible grade drier dried copra. The drying process is fully natural and semi automatic and it is completed within 24 hours. Extraction filtering and packing without the use of any preservatives ensures 100% purity and clarity.
The products under the brand name of Aiswarya are three bath soaps ___ Chandan (sandal wood extract), Sugandh (lemon extract) and Shalini (tulasi extract).Though all three soaps are made using caustic soda as the base, the two factors that make them different from most other soaps are the use of Kerasyam Coconut oil and the non-use of animal fat.
Jaiwa Dhannya is the general brand under which come several items, such as a balanced diet mix, Ojasyam, a substitute for coffee & tea- Jully , Madhu Thani (pure bee procured and home processed honey), and several coconut, cocoa, milk and jackfruit based convenient food and confectionery items.
Santhwana is a traditional herbal oil for cuts, bruises, aches, pains, swellings etc.The ingredients it contains are, essences of 21 home remedies like Allium Cepa, Aloe Barbadensis, Asparagus Recemosus, Erythrina Indica, Moringa Oleifera , Peper Betle, Psoralea Corylifolia etc.
Ashwas is a pack of herbal tablets which is ideal for relieving internal aches. It is made with the essences of 18 home remedies like Eclypta Alba, Piper Longum, Black Pepper, Vernonia Cinera, Mystica Fragans, Turmeric, Acorus Calamus etc. The tablet, is to be consumed after disintegrating it in honey or breast milk. It becomes an ideal remedy for nausea, diarrhoca, vomiting, fever and gastric discomforts.
In Kera Vimal washing soap & detergent cake, besides Kerasyam Coconut oil, sunflower oil and Punna oil are used, to ensure that the soap & the powder remove the dirt fully, does not cause any harm to either the cloth or the person using it. The detergent powder Kera Vimal also has these three effects.
Kera Veeryam is the natural coconut vinegar, made of coconut water treated with mother vinegar, using the technology provided by the Coconut Development Board.
Lemoney is a Ready – to – drink beverage, made of aerated water, containing lemon juice, and ginger and green chilly essences, sweetned with natural honey & cane sugar. The percentage of total soluble solids in it is 15.4. It does not have chemical preservatives, sweeteners & colours.
The coconut herbal hair oil, developed by Sevashram is given the brand name, 'Shree Kesh'. It contains essences of Emblica Officinalis, Bacopa monnier linn, Eclypta Alba, Lawsonia Inemis, and Cyperous Rotundus etc., with Kerasyam Coconut Oil and lemon juice. When applied, it helps to remove all the dirt from hair, promotes hair growth, prevents hair loss, makes hair blackish and glittering and keeps hair dandruff free and head cool.
The coir pith based bio manure, produced by Sevashram, using the technology provided by International Panacea Ltd., is known as ‘Kera Biofer’. It helps to improve the general health of soil, increases nutrient availability, ensures better growth of all plants and higher yield of crops.
Ojasyam is a four-cereal balanced diet mix developed by Sevashram. The ingredients it contains are: wheat, ragi, green gram, Bangal gram, Vanilla essence, Cumin & Cardamon. What makes it unique is non-use of preservatives. All the cereals are germinated, dried in the manually operated drier, operated on the natural convection principle, developed by the Regional Research Laboratory, which is an affiliate of the Central Institute of Scientific Research (CISR), Govt. of India. The diet mix could be consumed either as porridge, boiled with water & milk, as uppuma or steamed cake, or as dosa, pancake or any other form of food, roasted in oil.
The substitute for tea and coffee, developed by Sevashram, is called 'Jully'. It is a five spice health drink mix, having cumin, fenugreek, coriander dry ginger and cardamom as ingredients. Sufficient quantity of this powder could be mixed with water, boiled, and consumed, adding coconut jaggery for obtaining the best results.
'Panchagavya' is an organic growth promoter for crops, which is prepared by mixing cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd and ghee with banana shake prepared using tender coconut water, over a period of 21 days. During the process of fermentation, certain beneficial bacteria and fungi grow & multiply . The mixture thus obtained has the potential to promote growth, and boost immunity in the plant system . It could repel pests and control diseases. It has been proved to be capable of enhancing biological efficiency of crop plants and quality of fruits and vegetables.
Pseudomonous is a biological fungicide that controls a wide variety of seed and soil borne diseases caused by various fungal pathogens, and increases germination and crop yield.
So also, Trichoderma is an effective and eco-friendly bio-fungicide which is used for biocontrol of stalk rot caused by soil borne plant pathogenic fungi.
Other Organic fertilizer cum bio fungicides, developed and being distributed are:
(1) Jeevamruth, made of fermented cow dung, cow urine, water, molasses and gram powder (2) Matsyajam, a fermented fish- molasses mixture (3) Antajam, a fermented egg- lemon - molasses mix (4) Jeeva, Vermi compost (5) Jeevasyam, pure vermi – wash, prepared from the vermi – compost kept drenched in water for 24 hours, in a tray, and collected through a sieve-funnel- tube system, after filtering it through a three layer medium made of sand, charcoal and rubble.(6) Sasyajam, a fermented leaves-cow urine-sea fish mixture, extracted from the leaves of Neem, Mango, Tamarind and Lemon trees, prepared in pots kept under the earth, for a period of 10 days.
Jeevasyam, Antajam, Matsyajam, Sasyajam, Panchagavyam & Jeevamruth have obtained organic in-put certification from ‘Indocert’.
Areca Spathe containers, plates & cups of different sizes are made to order. So also, carry bags of various sizes and designs are made from paper against firm orders. As these products are biodegradable, they are becoming very popular as substitutes for plastic containers & carry bags.
Besides, convenience food items based on coconut, cocoa, milk & jackfruit etc., are made without using any chemical preservatives.
COIR PRODUCTS :
A wide range of coir products have also been developed with the technical assistance of The Central Coir Research Institute and National Institute of Interdisciplinary Science & Technology. These include coir geo textiles, coco logs, coco lawns & coco poles.
1. COIR GEOTEXTILES
Geotextiles are permeable natural fabrics used to prevent soil from erosion. They protect the land surface and promote vegetation cover during the formative period after which they degrade into the soil. Their functions basically are: erosion control, separation and filtration/drainage. Made from coir fibre, both woven and non-woven, it is a complete geotextile.
Based on the technology developed by the Coir Board of India, Coir Geotextile is made out of natural coir fibre. The coir fibre is first spun into coir yarn and then it is woven into Geotextiles, which is naturally resistant to rot, moth and moisture. Natural coir contains cellulose fibre with high lignin content and hence it is strong and hard. Geotextiles made out of coir have the right strength and durability to hold the soil in place.
It is capable of reducing excessive force of water flow due to heavy rain and protect the slopes against erosion. Coir promotes growth of new vegetation by absorbing water and preventing topsoil from drying out. It stabilizes soil constitution and provides an excellent and balanced microclimate for the plant
Coir geo meshes and nettings are heavy woven mulch that cannot be moved by flowing water, wind or growing grass. The openings between the strands give the grass or vegetation plenty of growing room.
Coir geo-textiles are being increasingly bought by several developed countries for the protection of natural environment. Since coir is biodegradable, the geo-textiles has become an ideal material for erosion control or embankment protection. It can be used either as an interlay or overlay. The former performs the functions of separation, filtration and drainage and the latter protects the surface soil from erosion.
All these properties make coir geotextiles ideal for many civil engineering applications. Its scope is enormous considering that this natural fabric can be used for protection of mines, roads, railroads, airfields, reservoirs, dams, canals, embankments, etc. Other advantages are that it is economical and easy to transport, handle and install.
UNIQUE FEATURES OF GEO TEXTILES
Eco-friendly, non-polluting and easy to install
Provides faster binding of soil with high air and water permeability
Excellent medium for quick vegetation
Permits sufficient sunlight to pass through
Properly holds the seeds and saplings in place
Facilitates deep rooting of plants providing adequate nutrients
Degrades over a period of time (two to six years)
Applications: As erosion control blankets in Road, rail and river embankments, Landscaping of and building of, air fields, defense installations, erosion prone cuttings & slopes, hill sides, mining fields, waste-dump areas, Filtration in road drains and land reclamation,Agricultiral and horticultural applications like mulching, antiweed, vegetative seeding etc.,Concrete column curing , Fly ash dump waste protection and greening, Forestry revegetation, As sound barrier ,Roof top greening , Agri and Horti engineering industry, Mud wall reinforcement,Soil stabilization etc.
Geotextile is available in rolls of 50m x 2, 50m x 1.5m and 50m x 1m.
2. COCO LAWNS
Cocolawns are made of coir geo –textiles, coir non-woven felt and coir pith based biofertilizer. On the base provided by these ecofriendly materials, Korean or Mexican grass is planted. The ready-made habitat promotes fast growth of grass and within a period of three months a live green carpet is organically woven!.
Cocolawn uses completely eco-friendly and natural coir materials for making lawns, which is a big plus point in a world that is fast moving away from synthetic substances. Cocolawn also offers the convenience of transportation.
Once laid, one does not have to bother even if one’s residence has to be shifted. Cocolawn allows the luxuary of rolling or cutting to any size for transportation and re-laying in another location.
The open weave of fabric drains excess water and offers adequate support to the grass from wind and erosion. The coir pith based organic manure, absorbs and retains moisture. The moisture is released gradually during dry season providing an ideal micro climate for the grass.
Cocolawn can be used as a ground cover, roof cover or for restoring vegetation in denuded areas. It can be moulded to fit into any contours. Space constraint will not be a problem as far as cocolawn is concerned; it can be stretched or shortened to suit to convenience.
Sevashram has its own outlets for marketing its products having Unique Selling propositions. It has set up a ‘Swasraya Food Park’ at the heart of Angamaly town, and developed a network of niche markets, in collaboration with institutions and well wishers, known as ‘Gruhaiswarya’.
Informal people’s consumer cooperatives are the constituent parts of this net-work. The objective is to ensure availability of quality goods of everyday needs at reasonable prices. Besides fostering love and fraternity among the share-holders, the gruhaiswarya units help control the prices of wellness and sanitation products. Both the Food Park centred marketing net-work and the supply chain, called ‘Jeeva Nirchary’ that links up gruhaiswarya centres are being managed by groups of enterpreneurs.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES.
Sevashram recognizes the 'Core Competence' of each and every person, and strives to offer him/her the facilities required for giving full expression to it in the most congenial atmosphere. Entrepreneurship development is considered a means to achieve this end.
Ordinary men & women are incapable of acquiring the land, buildings, machinery, equipments, working capital, and support systems required for operating micro enterprises of their liking.
Nor are they competent enough to procure quality raw materials, whenever needed, at reasonable prices and market the finished products, in attractive packs, at competetive rates, under a common brand, through well established net-works. Besides, most of them lack leadership quality & sufficient know-how to manage machines, money and personnel. Another area where they lack confidence is accounting and book-keeping.
After developing micro enterprises, as feasible, viable & sustainable business propositions, and putting them firmly on rails, Sevashram hands them over to the small and emerging entrepreneurs, providing them with backward and forward linkages, and helping them with hand-holding and escort services.
At the transitional phase, the capital base of each enterprise is assessed, and the entrepreneurs are invited to participate in the processing, value-addition and diversification operations, as share and stake holders, and enjoy the net profits in proportion to the money they invest, and the pains they take to sustain, stabilize and promote it, under Sevashram Brand, on mutually agreeable terms and conditions.
Kerasyam - Production & Distribution of coconut based value added products, Aiswarya Dairy, Swasraya Coir Defibring, Madhu Matra Bee-Keeping and Honey Processing, Jeeva Nirchary supply chain management, Home Appliances Distribution Programme, CIFT funded Community Fish Drying, and ‘Kera Biofer’ Plus Briquettes etc. are some of the micro enterprises that are run on a shared entrepreneurship.
ALTERNATE OWNERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS:
Through the Micro enterprises cluster development, provision of infrastructural facilities & support systems, joint share & stake management, arrangement for proportionate returns etc., Sevashram intends to probe into the possibility of developing a bottom-up, decentralized, participatory, humanistic and alternate ownership and management system which draws the best from both Socialism & Capitalism, and steer clear of the evils of co-operatives. The paradigm shift envisaged is to be guided by the values enshrined in the ancient cultures, sacred scriptures of various religions, and the Preamble of the Constitution of India.
DISTRIBUTION OF HOME APPLIANCES.
Another activity Sevashram has been carrying on without interruption is the distribution of home appliances. Sevashram buys the required goods in bulk, which are made available to the members who are given the facility of paying the price in weekly instalments. Every effort is made to keep the price reasonable. Above all, there is total transparency in the whole transaction. This enterprise too is now owned and managed jointly by Sevashram and a couple of entrepreneurs.
SOCIAL SECURITY SERVICES:
Sevashram has introduced social welfare measures in collaboration with the Life Insurance Corporation of India. The organization enrolls people in Jeevan Madhur policy, and gives policy holders the facility of paying premium amounts in weekly instalments.
OBSERVATIONS & ASSESSMENTS.
As the rural community in the operational area of Sevashram has benefited from the developmental initiatives of Sevashram, there has been increasing recognition of its activities as innovative and replicable.
The English daily Hindu, has been regularly carrying reports on Sevashram and its activities. In one of such reports Ramabhadran Pillai made the following observation: “Innovative products made by the ashramites are in high demand. The net effect of the activities of the ashram is of long-term
impact on the social fabric. The low income group get a better perspective of the life around them and get the confidence to deal with different situations and continue their effort to improve their lot….
The whole operation is structured in such a way that there is always a helping hand at every stage” (The Hindu, 25 September 2001).
Sevashram finds a place in the Golden Jubilee Souvenir of the Papal Seminary, Pune, published in 2006 with the title, Unto New Horizons. Fr. Lionel Mascarenhas SJ, in his article ”Golden Moments” in the souvenir says: “It is a special form of personal development and community building in the social, economic and moral (spiritual) spheres. It aims not only at integral development of the person, but also at making him/her eventually a partner in this venture”.
The report of a case study of Sevashram, undertaken by the Bangalore-based Centre for Innovation in Voluntary Action in 1999, has made the following observation in the report entitled Life Goes On. “This is a dedicated group that has a clear distinct vision on sustainable living practices…All the programmes are economically sound in that they are self-supporting within their production-consumption cycles. None depends on external support. There is total transparency regarding their vision; the values they promote and live by; and the interventions/programmes planned and executed with their support….The key is quality services at competitive costs, given the lifestyle of the group. Since their consumption levels are very low, they are able to have a surplus even from this to further service for the needy”.
The NABARD undertook an evaluation of Sevashram in 1999 in order to assess its role as a self-help promotion organization. In the results, published by NABARD in its Report on the Exploratory Study of Voluntary Agencies, Sevashram scored 193 out of the maximum of 200 marks.