Published: 17th April 2019
ATMA Foundation is taking charity to a more personal level
The founder of Atma Foundation about his initiative and why it takes social work to the next level
ATMA Society puts all of their soul into the incredible work that they do. Established in 2006, it is a charitable trust and NGO that implements service projects for social transformation and empowers individuals to serve society with compassion. Atma extends support to socially and economically weaker sections of the society irrespective to where they are from. The organisation was established by CK Suresh, a counsellor, performance coach and social activist with over 25 years of experience who wanted to add a personal touch to charity. We spoke to him about the journey and how much the organisation has done through the past few years. Excerpts:
What idea led to setting up the foundation?
I have been a professional trainer myself for over 25 years. My focus area has been on how I can use that skill set to benefit children. Over the past 20 years, I have been conducting activities such as counselling as a part of my general training process. Later, we started to do this on a more professional level. This is when more people became a part of the initiative. And later, we decided to give more priority to the training process than counselling or anything else.
How does the training process work?
When you take up treatment after you are affected with a disease, you are not really helping yourself as much as you can. Recently, we established a programme called Living in Harmony, a programme that tries to integrate ancient knowledge, current day management systems and technology with our training process. We ask ourselves about how we can apply this knowledge into our everyday lives and in the lives of those people who we speak to. These were public seminars that we conducted in association with a host of organizations. It is about creating an actual noticeable change in our lives.
SOUL STORIES: The children are introduced to a variety of programmes
What has the impact of these programmes been so far?
A few of the people who participated in these programmes had this desire to do something more. People benefit through care and compassion alone and we were able to spread that spirit by allowing them to take what they learn from us and spreading it around.
What does the training process focus on?
We focus on self empowerment first. The idea is for each person to focus on their own happy living. They have the right and responsibility for their own lives. Under this comes the importance of learning to handle emotions, relationships and various other critieria of this sort. In our formal education system, when it comes to learning about parenthood or adult issues, emotional management are all glossed over. But we like to focus on all things. So we even conduct classes on such themes. We call this the empowerment and compassionate lab or the EC Lab. An empowered person has fewer personal needs and more abilities to offer. And when you are empowered, you have this need to help other people as well. That is where this aspect of compassion comes in.
What are the other programmes that come under the organisation?
Currently, we have atmagurukulam, an orphanage for children. We also have a programme in association with the thrissur railway station called the Railway Child Helpdesk in association with the child helpline. We also have a Family Counseling centre and a Child and Adoloscent Development Centre which is a project for children with learning disabilities. Our programmes extend across ages. We have Atmakalakshetram, an initiative for middle aged people who simply want to be happy. The idea is to encourage people to follow what they believe in. They may be people who come to us for counselling and this may help them deal with stress and develop a healthy social life.
What is the criteria behind establishing these programmes?
We never speciaifically plan and start anything. How it usually works is that we start something and it grows into something bigger or gives rise to something else. This is how most of our initiatives come to be. Even if we are talking about this children's home, it will not seem like an orphanage to you at all. It is a bit of work that we give a lot of attention and love to.
How have the children responded to these programmes?
Even children who have lost all hope in life and do not understand what they want have come to us and regained the will to live. Even if they come, we do not talk about the past. we focus on their talents, their hopes and dreams. We provide mentoring in every field, depending on what each child's interests are.
START SMART: CK Suresh is the founder of the organisation
What are the other areas on which you focus?
We organise residential camps for children and adults. We allow the children to volunteer and help out even in this process. So they also sort of become a part of the system and are equipped to help others like themselves. We also get a great response form the children.
How does the volunteering process work?
One of our greatest strengths are the voluntary workers. Basically, our work is focused on forming their childhood, not just one single aspect. We have even helped some families build their own homes. There have even been instances where we've mobilised to do work of this sort. So one extremely important aspect of what we do is that we use this volunteering process like no one else can. It is truly about people coming together to help each other. And there's a lot of strength in watching that happen. We have help from everyone including housewives, retired people and individuals of all age groups. We try to maintain this idea of a family working together.
What are the main areas of focus?
We identified 5 levels of development in children. Physical, intellectual, cognitive, social and moral. We try to take these children through these levels without any interruptions. Even in our training camps, we try to focus on how we teach them instead of doing it for the sake of it.