Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA), Nasik:
Shri Kukade suggested I visit some VKA projects and hence I headed to Nasiks VKA office with his letter of introduction. Shri Vasant Rajaram Belembe took me to various service projects in and around Nasik.
First we visited Harsuls Vanavasi Seva Prakalpa that runs a girls hostel for vanavasi children coming from within 20 mile radius. There were 70 girls who attend nearby high school. These children get high quality training and do well in school. Shri Bhaskar and Sou. Prabha Kulkarni are the able managers of this model center. We had lunch there and a brief meeting with the children and the center workers. Expense is Rs. 335/month per student.
Then we went to Pitundi with volunteers from Nasik who were on their regular Sunday mobile medical dispensary trip. People from 98 villages (within about 10 mile radius) come to this Pitundi center for free medical treatment. A young vanavasi, Shri Laxman Tople, is VKAs full time worker in the Pitundi center. He has had coniderable experience in social service. The medical service is provided under the Janakalyana Samiti banner. The Samiti also runs blood banks in Nasik (which I visited) and many other towns and cities in Maharashtra.
At the Guhi Kendra,VKA runs a residential school for vanavasi boys and girls. There areabout 300 students in the primary school and about 50 in the high school. A better hostel building is coming up. Four full time workers work here. Daily routine is pretty much like a disciplined camp except for the school part. Students asked me a lot of questions about life in US. Our workers run 5 KG schools in the neighboring villages (covering about 100 preschoolers). These preschoolers are taught on cleanliness, hygiene, shlokas, bhajans, prarthana. Annual expense for the Guhi center is about Rs. 15 lakhs. I spent 3 days here. One of those days, I visited IXth grader Shivadas Wadekars house about a mile away. His parents served us lunch. Groundnut is their main produce.
At Kanashi, VKA runs a hostel (30 boys and 20 girls). Evening prayer consists of Ganapathi Atharvashirsha, Jay Jagadisha Hare, etc. Shri Daji Sathey is the full time worker here. He is now 77 and is an inspiration. Kanashi is the area of continuing problems in national integration.
Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram currently has 1000 full time workers.