The Yogananda Trust serves 4,550 destitute, abandoned, and helpless elderly women per month, especially widows, above the age of 60 years, in Vrindavan and Radhakund in Uttar Pradesh, India. These elderly women and widows have been left all alone either due to the death of their family members or abuse by their husband or children. In less fortunate cases, the widows have been flung to Vrindavan out of the outdated social custom of isolation after their husband’s death. Most of them belong to the distant backward parts of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Here at the Yogananda Trust, they have opened their hearts and souls and allowed it to be a family to them. They have shared their stories of survival with utmost trust and faith. The Yogananda Trust attempts to provide these mothers with love, care, and compassion for the betterment of their physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
The Yogananda Trust’s community service includes a range of activities to meet the needs of the destitute elderly widows. Sevaks of the Trust cover the entire Vrindavan and Radhakund area to serve the old, abandoned, and helpless elderly Mothers as per their requirements. They have rescued many of these mothers in dire conditions on the streets during their rounds of the area, among other care services. The Yogananda Trust provides milk, vegetables, and ration to the community widows and offers need-based services, including medical, cooking, cleaning, etc.
Daily and monthly distribution of milk and vegetables.
The Yogananda Trust distributes milk and vegetables to 751 beneficiaries on a daily basis and ration to 2,700 beneficiaries on a monthly basis in Vrindavan and Radhakund.
The Yogananda Trust employs an efficient distribution system to provide milk and vegetables on a daily basis and ration on a monthly basis to the destitute mothers living outside the Trust-run Ashrams.
For this purpose, there are 6 distribution centers in Vrindavan and 1 in Radhakund. Each center provides an identity card to the beneficiary against which milk and vegetables are provided daily. A similar method is followed for providing monthly ration to the needy.
4,550 mothers receive need-based support per month in Vrindavan and Radhakund. Many mothers are also supported with their rented accommodation.
The Field Sevaks follow up with the mothers on their well-being and provide need-based services, such as cooking, cleaning, full medical care, and other household chores.
The Field Sevaks regularly visit the mothers living in the community to provide emotional support. The sevaks and the volunteers spend quality time with them by sharing their stories, laughter, and so much more.
Bonding with the mothers is central to the work that the Yogananda Trust does in the community.
4,550 mothers receive complete medical care per month in Vrindavan and Radhakund
The Yogananda Trust provides complete medical assistance to all the mothers in the Ashram and others in Vrindavan and Radhakund who seek help. The assistance includes admissions to the hospitals, surgeries, routine check-ups, post-operative care, providing medicine and medical equipment, among others.
The Field Sevaks (full-time employees) conduct weekly surveys of the community to check on the mothers’ health and medical requirements and provide necessary services as per their need.
The Yogananda Trust has 2 ambulances that are on 24X7 duty for any emergency in the Ashram or in the community. The mothers are assured of getting full medical attention at any given time.
The Yogananda Trust has a physiotherapy unit which opened in 2018. The unit has treated over 415 patients and conducted 1,950 sessions. Every mother in the Ashram receives a 15-minute massage to improve circulation and overall physical well-being. Tremendous improvement has been seen in the mothers suffering from paralysis.
The Yogananda Trust provides customary death rites to the mothers under its care. When any of the mothers leaves her body, the Yogananda Trust pays a proper homage by offering flowers, holy tulsi leaves with sandalwood paste, incense, lamp, prayers, Hari kirtan, Mahamantra jaap, and Gita paath before the body is taken to the burning ghats. The Funeral Sevaks put together the ritualistic bamboo-stick bed and four people carry the body on their shoulders.
At the funeral ghat on the bank of the holy Yamuna river, the priest offers pind for the departed soul and all relevant rituals as per the Vedas are conducted for the smooth transition of the soul. The mukhagni is performed while the priest chants the mantras. On the 13th day, food is offered to an elderly Mother as part of the 13th day ritual.
Every six months, a havan is performed at the Yogananda Trust. Also, an annual tarpan and shraadh ceremony takes place during Mahalaya for peace of all the departed souls. On the passing of a mother, the Yogananda Trust always tries to inform her relatives or children, if it has their whereabouts or information, in case they want to be present at the funeral.
There are 4 care homes for elderly and widow mothers and 1 for elderly sadhus in Vrindavan and Radhakund, which provide 24X7 care for the 119 inhabitants.
The 4 Ashrams strive to make the lives of destitute, abandoned, and helpless elderly and widow mothers better. These Ashrams provide shelter, food, and medical assistance to the beneficiaries, along with a range of programs for emotional and spiritual well-being.
Special Active Aging program is conducted to preserve the mental and emotional health of the mothers by engaging them in recreational and developmental activities. It stimulates and improves cognitive functions, emotional state, and creative outflow of energy among the mothers. The activities include chair yoga, ball games, antakshari, paper games, book reading, spiritual movie nights, painting and craftwork, etc.
Energization exercises and yoga are conducted every day at the Ashrams. These practices allow the mothers to heal their physical ailments by channelizing their prana, improving the flow of blood in the body, strengthening their muscles and nervous system, and magnetizing their spines. As per the medical records,major improvements in the physical health of the mothers are observed within a few months of doing these exercises daily.
Daily kirtan, chanting, and healing prayers are conducted at the Ashrams by the mothers. They perform healing prayers for the ones in need, along with chanting of the Gayatri mantra and the Mahamrityunjaya jaap, on a daily basis. The mothers feel uplifted to help others with their prayers.
The Yogananda Trust has provided 328,561 free medical services and funded 64,523 surgical operations till date to the extremely poor and destitute men, women, and children of Vrindavan.
Access to complete healthcare for the poor in India is severely inadequate and even non-existent in some regions. Vrindavan met with a similar fate till a few years back with only a fraction of the destitute being able to get the much-needed medical attention, resulting in high mortality rate, unemployment, and declining health quotient of the city.
With a vision to enable universal access to healthcare for the poor, the Yogananda Trust partnered with the Ramakrishna Mission Hospital to provide free complete medical services to the impoverished in Vrindavan.
Through this collaboration, the Yogananda Trust ensures exhaustive medical care which includes admission to the hospital, surgeries, routine check-ups, post- operative care, providing medicine and medical equipment, and others, with the help of 24x7 trained professionals.
Medical assistance for the poor with no means
The beneficiaries belong to low socio-economic class with no financial means to access any form of medical care. Their conditions are known to be severe given the lack of medical attention, poor nourishment, unhygienic conditions, and unhealthy environment.
Without the assistance of the sevaks, they would not get admission into the hospital owing to the lack of proper identification documents and/or no funds to support medical care. In the absence of such a program, these patients would have negligible chances of getting any treatment.
There are 11 OPD and bedside care sevaks (full-time employees) at the hospital looking after the poor patients undergoing treatments and surgeries.
The OPD sevaks assist in getting admission into the hospital, communicating with the doctors, explaining the treatment to the patient, procuring medicines and medical equipment as per requirement.
For the ones admitted and undergoing surgeries, the bedside sevaks provide full-time care to them before and after the surgery.
With the intervention of the Yogananda Trust and collaboration with the Ramakrishna Mission Hospital, Vrindavan is witnessing a new era of unconditional access to complete healthcare for those who earlier could not afford or access medical attention.
The overall impact of improved health of the lesser-known-poor citizens of the city might be difficult to gauge but it has certainly helped to drastically change the circumstances of the city for the better.
The Yogananda Trust aspires to expand its love and compassion to all the beings of Mother Nature.
With the onset of the global pandemic, while the humans are under threat, the condition of stray animals has deteriorated as well.
In Vrindavan, feeding animals is part of a daily ritual. Since the lockdown, the movement of locals has been stopped leading to starvation of animals. During the area survey, the Yogananda Trust observed cows and monkeys dying on the roadside and dogs howling all night due to starvation.
It decided to step in and serve the starving animals. It secured permission for its ambulances and vehicles to go around the city. It collaborated with Akshay Patra to provide food for these animals. It also formed a dedicated Pashu Seva team that takes care of stray animals in Vrindavan now.
Since its conception on 27th March, the Pashu Seva initiative has been feeding a significant number of stray animals in Vrindavan (per day):
Dogs: 163 Cows: 72 Bulls: 36 Monkeys: 250
The Yogananda Trust believes in the ‘Education For All’ mission and aspires to complement the educational programs for underprivileged children running across India.
It funds the tuition fees of a total of 112 students. It supports scholarship programs in 3 schools in Vrindavan, Gajja, and Rishikesh.
In Vrindavan, it offers scholarships to 27 children to attend the Krishna Brahmaratan Vidya Mandir school. Their parents are daily wage workers and below poverty line.
In Gajja, it provides support to 50 children studying in Sikhar Academy. They are mostly single-parent children, whose father either have been killed in an accident during work or are laborers in the hills.
In Rishikesh, it supports 35 children studying in Mother Miracle School. Their parents are mostly daily wage workers.