Welcome to ATMA SEVA 101! This piece was constructed in order to shed light on what ATMA SEVA has done, our new direction, and, most importantly, our intentions. Also, there is a sneak peak into our next major humanitarian project!
ATMA SEVA was founded in 2001 and the focus was about HIV AIDS grassroots community education programs. Over 20,000 adults and children directly benefited from these outreach programs. One aspect was the peer-to-peer education program; a select group of children from various public schools were chosen and spent a weekend at a Buddhist temple learning about HIV AIDS as well as leadership and communication skills. The idea was to educate a select few and have them go back and spread the knowledge to their peers. Another aspect was teaming up with a local traditional healer who had many connections to rural villages that were in need of assistance. Working with the traditional healer projects included community seminar events, massage training, the purchase of minivan, and the construction of a new clinic. The funding for these projects came from a matching Rotary Grant. These projects lasted over nine years and have made a significant impact. Click here for more details on our past work.
In 2009 when the HIV AIDS programs came to a close, ATMA SEVA still wanted to help and still wanted to be active. We started a dialogue with the Buddhist temple (Wat Doi Saket) with whom we had been working with, and the principal for the Buddhist high school stated that he wanted a better English program for his novice monks. That was really the point in which ATMA SEVA turned a corner and without knowing it at the time, was on to something special.
With the one task of improving the novice monks’ conversational English we began to brainstorm the most effective way to do this and at the same time were talking about the direction ATMA SEVA was headed. After an eternity of planning, brainstorming, procrastinating, joking, researching, meeting, we came to our current model. To preface a little, the whole over arching goal was to be financially independent and not reliant on outside resources. We wanted to help but we were tired of grant hunting and not knowing where our next meal would come from.
Our solution = Offer unique and rare travel experiences, which includes our flagship Wat Doi Saket project, and continue community projects and service work. As far as we could tell our criteria had been met.
1) Not reliant on outside resources, CHECK
2) Continue to help people and support projects, CHECK
3) A new angle, offering trips and experiences that are meaningful and positive, CHECK
So, now our model has been outlined but how do we choose our community work? Since helping people is the core of our mission, the last thing we want is to tell communities and people what they need and how they should do it. We consider that to be unethical and wrong. Instead, our method is to form lasting relationships with the communities and their leaders and let them communicate to us their real needs and wants. Our intentions are to help, and we take every possible precaution to make sure we never overstep our boundaries and never cause any harm.
So, now we have the WHAT and the HOW but the remaining question is WHY? Currently, ATMA SEVA has three managing partners from different backgrounds and different ages, but we ALL share two major interests: traveling and helping others. I should focus in on the word traveling and note that we are not interested in commercial or tourist attractions but more to do with the culture and true identity of a country. The strongest tie between the ATMA SEVA partners is our passion of wanting to help others. We all feel there is a huge gap between the people that have and the people that don’t, and we are not satisfied with how the chips have fallen. ATMA SEVA is a step towards positive change.
1) Our intention is to bring a voice and platform to the needs of the communities in which we work.
2) Our funding model is to offer travel experiences that are positive and make a difference.
3) Our travel experiences must be unique.
Now, about our next our next big community project. Without going into too many details this project will be in Northern Thailand just outside Chiang Mai city. We are still in the very early development and meeting stages, but the goal is to build a school with dormitories attached to provide an education and shelter to disadvantaged children. It will be a full sized and regulation public school but attached will be living and eating quarters. This project is a collaboration between ATMA SEVA, Wat Doi Saket, and a local foundation that is run through the Buddhist temple. The immediate next steps are to finalize the location and to secure the land. After this is complete, building and logistics is the next step. ATMA SEVA will be posting updates on all of our social media outlets, so stay tuned! (facebook, youtube, twitter, blog)
In conclusion, we all truly hope that this venture will bring change and be something positive that many people can benefit from. For all details and information check us out, www.atmaseva.org
David Poppe, Programs Director