The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 to focus attention on the global extent of child labor and the action and efforts needed to eliminate it. Each year on 12 June, the World Day brings together governments, employers and workers organizations, civil society, as well as millions of people from around the world to highlight the plight of child laborers and what can be done to help them. Today, on World Moms Network, we commemorate this day by writing a tribute to Mathioli R. Saraswathy, a philantrophist who dedicated her life for the betterment of the lives of children.
Mathioli R. Saraswathy, the founder of Nandalala Seva Samithi
Mathioli R. Saraswathy, the founder of Nandalala Seva Samithi, who passed away on May 9, 2018, was fondly called as ‘Akka’ by her loved ones all over the world. She was a legend who not only looked beyond the ambiguity and challenges of every day but also foresaw the empowering picture of tomorrow for them.
‘Akka’ is an endearing word that defines a close relationship. In the Tamil language, it refers to one’s elder sister, who is supposed to be a step above the rest. True to this word, she who was held in high esteem, was actually an exception to this rule as she mingled freely them.
Akka established Nandalala Mission, a non-profit organization, in the early 90s in Chennai to nurture the fullest potential of children through educational, cultural, physical and service-oriented activities.
Age was no barrier for this 78-year-old enigmatic personality who was always befriending little ones all over the world. She believed that every child is bestowed with creativity and encouraged their latent talents. She had no linguistic barriers and made them understand her love for them and they too reciprocated their abiding love for their dear ‘Akka’.
She loved being with them, conversing with them, playing with them and elaborating about this beautiful world around them. She could talk with ease about flowers, trees, birds, animal, sea, and stars. In her eyes, children reflected the finest blend of grace, charm, and beauty of the world. Just like the child in ‘Akka’ was alive until her last moments, she will continue to live in the hearts of the little ones all around the world.
Though this charismatic personality disappeared from their lives forever, the little ones still look forward to her visit at the Nandalala Temple, part of the Mission, located in Chennai, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu in India.
The little ones are not alone. Their mothers, older sisters, and even grandmothers miss the frail figure who was more than a mother to every one of them. “She was our ‘Amma’ (meaning mother in Tamil) and will always be, they say. On the day her soul left her body, one could see that it was a big blow to the women who were involved in various activities of the Samithi with their ‘Amma’. “We do not know to live without her guidance. She was always there whenever we faced any problem, official or personal. Whom do we turn to now,” they wailed.
Mathioli R. Saraswathy
Mercifully, this image is sustained from anecdotes drawn from their lives. Anecdotes that prove that Mathioli Saraswathy was their mother in all ways throughout their lives.
For Vidya, who was plagued with a number of personal problems Akka was a good mother who internalized her. For more than a decade now, she has always helped her to tide over innumerable problems. She has counseled her like a mother and helped her to unleash her potential and become independent.
Says Vidya: Akka was of the view that external parenting always made a child dependent on its mother. But if you internalize and facilitate the child to be aware of its potential, the child will achieve greater heights. More than that it will not mirror its patent’s potential and this alone will help it to achieve its goal in life.
Mathioli R. Saraswathy
“Mathioli Saraswathy always believed that good daughters can become an effective mother,” said Seetha Nagarajan, who is a globetrotter and who has been associated with her for nearly four decades now. She goes on to explain that it was because of this the Chennai chapter of Nandalala Seva Samithi began an activity called ‘Mathruseva’ (meaning service to mother) through which the underprivileged were given free food.
Seetha Nagarajan saw Akka open chapters in San Francisco, New Jersey, and Los Angeles. “They were all begun one after the year between 1997 and 1998,” explained Seetha.
She goes on to explain some of the activities in these places. In the early years, volunteers of the Mission took children to local museums, volunteering at local homeless shelters, talent shows, and quiz competitions. As ‘Akka’ always believed in feeding the poor and needy, volunteers focused on services on a larger scale. They distribute sandwich bags, provide meal services at community shelters and soup kitchens. Children too are involved to make them undergo the joy of giving and bliss of social services.
The Mission also provides a platform for children to showcase their talent. “A youth concert series was begun to give a home-concert environment for budding artists. This has not only encouraged children to perform before an august audience but has also been well received by the residents. A concert is organized every month,” said Seetha.
“The Mission also distributes scholarships to well-deserving under-privileged students from India and also reaches out to children on a broader international scale. “Also, on an ongoing basis, the Mission has been donating books to school libraries in Australia, Canada, and India.
Mathioli R. Saraswathy with children
Life of ‘Akka’ who was born in Puducherry on October 9, 1940, was entirely dedicated to philanthropy. With the aim of serving the needy, she began numerous trusts such as Nandalala Seva Samithi, Sri Nandalala Religious Trust, Nandalala Medical Foundation and Yogasaras Educational Academy in Bengaluru, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Tiruchy, and Tiruvananthapuram, in India.
She was always of the view that the trusts helped children not only tread the path of love but also instilled values-based systems and made them imbibe Indian culture.
Apart from the trusts, ‘Akka’ provided financial assistance for the underprivileged in India too. Economically-deserving students were not only given financial assistance to pursue their higher studies, but also uniforms and food. The summer camps held exclusively for children at various places in the city helped them to hone their creativity and learning skills.
Managed under the banner of Nandalala Medical Foundation, she had set up a low-cost dialysis center, clinics for ENT care, eye care, physiotherapy, and acupressure.
‘Akka’ was also a prolific writer. She has penned innumerable poems, songs, prayers and stories for children and philosophical commentaries in Tamil. Some of her works have been translated into English as well. Art was an integral feature in all her books.
In 1998 and 1999, she was awarded the national NCERT award by the Indian Government for her work for children. She was awarded a gold medal in 1991 for her book on science “Vinnilirundhu mann varai” by the Children’s Writers’ Association.
Apart from this, she had the habit of releasing books on Christmas every year and has been doing so for more than three decades. These books were published by Akka to showcase her love for children.
Yes, passing away of this legend has not dimmed her appeal. She still remains a friendly spirit, hovering around.
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by guest poster, Lalitha Sai, in India, as a tribute to ‘akka’.
Lalitha Sai, Journalist, India
Lalitha Sai, is a writer based in Chennai, India. She is happily married to a police officer. Her son is an engineer in Europe, and her daughter is a doctor in Chennai. She has 25 years of experience in journalism and has held posts of senior editor in the leading news dailies of India, “The Hindu” and “DT NEXT”. She focused on women empowerment in her articles.
She is now working as the head of operations of content releases in a private company.
Enjoying chocolate paczki – a national Polish treat – after preschool one day
A little over a year ago, I posted an article on WMN that announced all of my hopes and dreams for when my kids go to school. I talked about the things I wanted to do, the things I had been planning to do and put on hold for awhile, the freedom and the feeling of being on my own and pursuing anything I wanted in my newfound free time – whether that be a enrolling in a photography course, writing a children’s book, joining a cooking class, taking a tour of this beautiful city I live in.
With my youngest turning three last March, I decided it was time for her to try out preschool for a couple of days per week for a few hours per day. She would join the same class as her older sister and is familiar with the teachers, the kids in the class, and everything surrounding the school. She has been with me for every pick up and drop off of her sister over the last two years.
Ivy on her first day of preschool: not a tear in sight
Since she is my third and my last, she is both extremely close to me, but also very “grown up” in order to keep up with her older siblings. So, I was ready for anything. I was ready for her to cry. I was ready for her to rebel and run right out of that classroom. I was ready for her to be proud and march right in. Lucky for me, she was thrilled for her first day. With a wave and a smile, she said, “Goodbye Mommy” and headed straight on into the classroom. I waited in the coat area for a few minutes to see if she changed her mind or if she would start to cry when she noticed I was no longer in sight. Nope. I went to a cafe less than half a mile away to have a cup of coffee and catch up on email. I found myself incessantly checking my cell phone to see if I had a missed call or text from the teacher, saying that perhaps I should come to pick her up. The phone was silent.
After seven years of being with one, two, or three children all day everyday (besides a few babysitting hours here and there), I was on my own.
If I had to describe the mix of emotions I felt after dropping the last of my three children off at her first day of school, it would be nervousness, excitement, freedom, joy, uncertainty, and a little bit of fear.
I think all of those feelings are to be expected.
But here is what I didn’t expect: loneliness.
For my whole life, I have been around others. Whether that be at work, at university, with my children, with my parents, or with my husband. Nearly seven years ago, I delivered my son just two days after my last day of work at the U.S. State Department. And for the following seven years, I have been with my children. So the thing I felt the most acutely after dropping her off for a few hours? I was lonely.
Who would I talk to? What would I do?
I did not expect to be lonely.
As I had expected, coming to grips with finally having all of the children at school, especially when you have been a stay-at-home parent, is hard.
Most of us use our new unstructured free time to run errands, clean the house, read a book, go to the gym, catch up on email, or have an actual, uninterrupted phone call with a friend. But as my youngest went to school for the second, third, and fourth time, I realized that I needed to structure my time. I needed to have a plan. I needed to reach out to friends and other moms – meet them for lunch or an exercise class. I needed to schedule a lunch date with my husband. I needed to volunteer to read to my son’s first grade class. I needed to be around people.
It is funny, and even a little bit ironic, how it all comes full circle – or at least, how it did for me. I have waited all of this time for a little bit of silence and time to myself. And what do I find myself missing the most? Human interaction. The noise. The chaos. The laughter. The bonding. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I found myself talking to the dog in the car after preschool drop-off one day recently.
In the daily hustle and bustle of parenthood, we often don’t realize how the energy and joy our children exude nurtures us.
Parenting requires us to be in the moment 24/7. We are concerned with what we are providing for our children and how we are shaping their thoughts and actions, but have we ever thought about how they are shaping us? What they are providing us?
Love, joy, humor, and sure, a little bit (or boat load, depending on your day) of impatience at times. In the absence of the noise and chaos, I realized how disturbingly quiet life can be without the kids at home. So while you still have them at home, try to remember that and cherish it. And when they do go to school, have a plan, and nourish the part of you that needs the support, love, and interaction of others – because loneliness is something you might not have expected.
This is an original post written by Loren Braunohler for World moms Network.
What was your experience when you sent your kids off to school?
One of my twin daughters has always been a worrier, she is one of those children who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders and she wants to know and understand everything. This can be particularly difficult for her as she is dyslexic and this means she struggles to accurately read information and has to practice or learn things dozens of times before they sink in.
It would be so easy to label her a ‘natural born worrier’ but actually how would that help? All that does is give her story a strap line, something to trip over when she is older. I can imagine the conversations of the future now ‘well I can’t help it, I’ve always been this way. I’m just a worrier and I’ll never change’ but that’s not right. Of course she can change, we all can.
But we have to want to change and purposefully make positive choices to allow it to happen. As a nine year old she probably isn’t sure what she can do to change it, she probably isn’t even sure how to name her issue. She just knows she has this uneasy feeling and needs to check things time and time again and that at the end of the day she often feels overwhelmed and teary.
So as her Mum, I feel it is up to me to help her navigate this battlefield. I’ve had some run-ins with worry before although I’d never have labeled myself as anxious but I think that is just because it feels a newer ‘label’ to me or maybe it just wasn’t one my parents used and therefore I didn’t become accustomed to it.
I do think anxiety is what my daughter is suffering with though and as such I’ve been doing some reading to find out more and see how I can help her. I’ve discovered that research (1) shows that many children are born with a shy or temperate personality and these are the children who will probably worry more. I was very glad to read though that it doesn’t have to affect adulthood as many vocations require the very characteristics that cause the worry and that management strategies are available.
One such strategy that is working for my daughter and I is that I sit with her at the end of the day just for ten minutes and she tells me what is worrying her. We tend to find that the moment her head hits the pillow all the worries of the day rush in and overwhelm her and she is building courage and boldness to tell me about these anxieties and I can take them away with me. It is such an eye opener to realise some of the issues, guilt and situations she has been carrying with her for days, weeks or sometimes even years. Things I had long forgotten arise their ugly head and take over her thoughts but she seems to be able to trust me and allow me to reassure her or sometimes solve the issue. It’s amazing, things that can seem massive to a nine year old can actually be the easiest things for me to deal with.
There are some things I can’t deal with though and if she gets herself really wound up, we just sit there and cuddle and deep breath, allowing her body to calm and the hormones to subside and then we talk through how likely (or very often unlikely) it is that something will happen. For example, last week she bought 4 animal shaped erasers and whilst in the shop she decided to swap the pink one for a white one (same price) but instead of her asking the cashier she just did it. Nothing really wrong there as she had paid (and had the receipt) but courtesy and self-preservation would say you’d normally ask first to avoid looking suspicious.
I wasn’t with her when this happened, she was out with my husband but it was troubling her enough by bedtime that she broke down and told me the police would be coming to find her. I found out the story and reassured she had done nothing illegal and we talked about how busy the police are and we talked over a theft situation she knew of where the police had not really investigated as it was too small in comparison to other crimes. It took about fifteen minutes but the combination of listening without judgment, cuddling to soothe and then logic to beat the anxiety worked for her and she was able to go off to sleep easily.
The other thing we have been doing is turning to her bible and looking for reassurances from God. She has already made a commitment to follow Christ and as such has a deep belief and it has been fabulous helping her unearth bible verses that speak directly to her insecurities. Versus like the following have been a great success and I have been enjoying putting notes in her lunch-box, under her pillow and stuck on her mirror to catch her at different times of the day.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25)
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25)
Another method I’ve come across that sounds really good is the three C’s (2). This means helping your child to Capture their worrying thought, Collecting evidence to either support or bust it and then Challenging their own thinking. Sometimes my daughter seems so scared by a thought that comes in her head that she just wants to push it down and not spend a moment thinking about it but this method demands that we give the worry some space and investigate whether it’s really something to be concerned about.
There are many other small strategies we are putting in place as well, like focusing on the positives and all the family share their successes at the dinner table each day, so we can remember to build each other up and acknowledge the good we have done. Then after we also share a mistake we have made and this is important for us all; to be mindful that results only come when we are willing to make an effort and sometimes fail at whatever it was we were doing but resilience and the guts to try again and again are super important.
I pray that through being open and real with our children, showing these imperfections my husband and I are able to model acceptance and love and this creates an environment where anxiety cannot grow.
As the months and years pass I’m sure I’ll learn new strategies and my daughter my not even need them any longer but for now if you have any tips on helping a child with anxiety, I’d love to hear them and please do leave me a comment.
Many thanks for joining me on this brilliant but rocky journey we call parenting. Mich x
Do you have an anxious child? What are some ways in which you help them cope?
This is an original post for the World Moms Network by Michelle Pannell, who can normally be found blogging over at Mummy from the Heart and Progress Not Perfection.
Kids are out on holiday for the next two weeks. Funny how it’s Easter Holidays in some places, Spring Break in others, and here it’s the Buddhist New Year. In the end it doesn’t really matter what it is I’m just glad I don’t have to wake up at 6 am to convince my kids to eat something before heading out dragging heavy backpacks and in my son’s case; an uncomfortable uniform and terrible shoes.
I still can’t believe my 4.5 year old daughter brought home SPELLING homework for the holidays. I’m in shock as to why she would need to do spelling at that age. It pains me, she hates going to school just because it’s all WORK WORK WORK. She does not have fun and she’s not even out of Kindergarten yet.
My kids have been going to a “Cambridge” School for the past year and thankfully my son is ok with it. He likes to learn so accepts the heavy backpack and uncomfortable uniform. I am surprised that he always gets a C in Art and I don’t care that he is in “position 21” of 22 kids in the class. I couldn’t care less.
When there are parent teacher meetings previous to exams, some parents write down notes as to what needs to be studied. I sometimes don’t even go to the meeting and most of the time my son misses one day of testing cause we travel so much. I’m not sure what the teachers think of us.
My daughter’s teacher calls my home complaining that she is “missing so much work”, I have no heart to tell her that I don’t care.
So why do my kids go to school? Why don’t I just homeschool them if I think the school is just suffering?
Because I need those free hours to be with myself, even if I mostly end up doing errands for the house in the end. I need to have those hours to be able to work in silence ( I have to go to the coffee shop or the maid will talk to me while I’m trying to work on the computer). I’m a bit glad when the maid doesn’t come for one reason or another, it means I can come back from school drop off, help my husband get off to the office and I can get back in my pijamas until noon. And yes, of course I feel guilty!
We have decided to stay one more year in Sri Lanka, I hope my daughter doesn’t suffer too much with the “no crafts, no playing” schooling style of this school. I always tell her, you won’t have to go to this school forever, just for a little more. In the next country I will find you a more artistic school, I promise.
For the past few weeks people have been telling me to go to the supermarket on Monday because the rest of the week I won’t be able to get any provisions, cause everything will be closed. They must be exaggerating right? Who knows. We managed to organize an out of the country trip to where it’s also Buddhist New Year but mixed with Carnaval. We are going to Thailand for Songkran, where the kids will probably learn more about life and stuff than in those hot uncomfortable classrooms where they work work work.
In the end, all they really want to do is travel. School is just to give them some kind of routine. I hope the next year will be ok for them.
Do you remember when you had your first period? Did you know what to do? Did you have someone to talk to about what menstruation was? In India, the idea of menstruation has been a taboo subject until one woman decided to tackle it head on.
Aditi Gupta had her first period when she was 12, but was told to keep it a secret. Why? In India, menstruation is seen as taboo and thought of as something that shouldn’t be discussed with anyone. The issue of menstruation has often created a stigma around it, especially in rural communities. With fear of being ostracized for something they can’t control, Gupta decided that there had to be a way to take away the shame and empower girls to speak about menstruation freely.
With the help of her husband Tuhin Paul, they created Menstrupedia in 2012, a website that outlines the physical and emotional changes that girls go through, during menstruation, as well as answering questions that girls wouldn’t ask anyone else for fear of retaliation.
While Menstrupedia was a good first step in learning about menstruation, it wasn’t enough to tackle the ongoing stigma that girls and women go through during their cycle. This stigma brings about isolation for millions of girls who don’t understand how to get past an age old tradition that shames them for being seen as impure. In order to bring more awareness of this issue, Gupta & Paul created a Menstrupedia comic book that considerably helps girls be more informed on it.
The comic book features four main characters who talk about menstruation when one of the characters gets her period. Through dialogue and illustration of the female anatomy, the subject is explained in detail, ensuring that girls from ages nine and above can understand the information. In addition, the message they want to spread is one of inclusion, not shame.
My first encounter with menstruation at twelve was confusing and frustrating. I was away from home and when I realized that I was going through it, I had no clue what was going on with my body. My mother never prepared me for what to expect with regard to menstruation. I was on vacation at my aunt’s home and in midst of playing with my cousins when I started to feel some discharge staining my shorts. Horrified and scared because I had no idea why I was bleeding, I ran to the bathroom and from behind closed doors, was informed by my aunt that I was menstruating. I was never told by my mother about this radical change in my body and thought there was something wrong with me. Fortunately, my aunt made sure to educate me about menstruation and future bodily changes I would go through during puberty by telling me about her experience.
It was not uncommon for my mother to withhold information about menstruation, since menstrual hygiene was never discussed in her family, and especially in public. In addition, awareness of menstruation was not supported because it was seen as a “woman’s problem”.
Education plays a big part in spreading awareness about this issue, but unfortunately, age-old traditions play just as big a part in how girls are perceived when they go through puberty. While traditions should be respected, it should never be at the cost of taking away a girl’s right to be educated about her body. Gupta’s comic book is a great way of educating girls in India on menstrual hygiene. In addition, it empowers them to take control over their bodies and not be shamed for what is happening to their physical well-being naturally.
To see the original article regarding this post, click here.
How is menstruation handled in your country?
Pic Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Secrets. I believe they’re important. Especially for children.
When I think about adults with secrets, I mostly imagine sadness, nasty stuff or crime. Mostly sadness though. Actually, I don’t even know if I have big or little secrets myself. Probably not. I’ll have to think about it.
But a child with a secret, I absolutely love that. It’s touching and a little bit nostalgic. It makes me think about the candy I once hid under our beech tree, savouring one every once in a while, including the black sand it was buried in. My secret treasure…
My two children, they share a secret. The youngest however, age 7, is absolutely terrible at keeping secrets. At Mother’s Day, she has never made anything, especially not for me, and I shouldn’t go looking behind the couch at all. Oh, and it doesn’t have hearts all over it. That kind of terrible. She just adores sharing inside knowledge. And now she has to keep a secret.
Yesterday, she almost told me, while we were driving home from school. It was a school secret, completely fresh and just begging to be shared with the world. Or at least with me. Her big brother was just in time to keep her from giving it away.
When we got home, she whispered she would tell me later, when her brother was not there. Now that was quite a difficult parenting moment for me.
You need to know that I am a terribly curious person. It makes me who I am. I could never be a mail woman. All those closed letters, never knowing what is inside, what the story is behind that stamp, whether it is good news or not: my fingers would itch all the time. At least as a scientist, I can give in to that natural curiosity and the urge to reveal secrets.
That day, I had to grit my teeth and be a mother, not a scientist. I told her she was not allowed to tell me their secret. I explained to her that it is important for siblings to have little secrets, so they learn to trust each other. I did tell her she could tell me the secret if it was about something dangerous or something which didn’t feel right to her.
I ended my little speech by telling her I didn’t want to know their little secret anyway.
She didn’t believe that last bit. This daughter of mine is less naive than I am.
But she did walk away without spilling the secret. I’m not sure which one of us had the hardest time at that.
It has been five weeks and I still don’t know what it was about.
It’s killing me.
How do you feel about your children keeping secrets? Do you think it is important for them or do you fear they will also keep less innocent secrets when they grow up?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by K10K. Photo credit: Lisa M Photography. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.