Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team, or AMURT, readily admits “that there are no ready-made solutions to problems of poverty. Every situation is unique and requires its own local solution.”
In 1965, AMURT was founded as one of the few private international volunteer organizations in India. The original objective was to meet the needs of Indians of the sub-continent after the many natural disasters that strike there every year. This specificity of relief became the backbone for the expansion that this organization has seen over the last four decades. The U.S. contributes over 1.9 million dollars annually to this organization. The U.N. recognized it as an international NGO in 1991.
The AMURT office network now extends to over thirty-four countries and the field network covers 180 countries through its ashrams. Acharya Bhaveshananda Avadhuta, the public relations secretary of Ananda Marga, says there is “a band of over 5000 trained whole-timers of which 2000 are women.” All AMURT field directors are from the areas they serve. Due to this they are much more able to promote a solution to fit the particular circumstances of a local disaster.
Most recently, these disaster relief efforts have helped over 15,000 Syrians fleeing from the war in Lebanon by providing food, warmth and schooling for displaced children. In February of this year, when super typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines, AMURT responded across five islands, feeding cooked food and bottled water to tens of thousands people who had suddenly been thrust into poverty. In 2013, when Northern India and the surrounding area experienced torrential floods, AMURT responded with 20 locations across the area providing food, non-food item and medical attention.
Disaster relief may have been the foundation, but AMURT relief extended its reach in 1985 to include long-term development. AMURT feels that it can play a very important role in breaking the cycle of poverty by helping vulnerable communities. “For us, development is human exchange: people sharing wisdom, knowledge and experience to build a better world.”
Some of these programs have educated thousands and others are still educating today. In Romania the “Transitional Housing Program” has helped several youth find housing, motivational counseling and life skills. In 2010 AMURT began a community healthcare system in Kenya aimed at reducing maternal mortality rates. They have also established similar programs in Burkina Faso and begun the “Access to Water” program within the country, partnering with Water Shed Management.
The list of positive steps towards the elimination of poverty on a global scale will continue to go on and on for AMURT. It attributes much of the success to its well-defined mission statement and principles. Its mission is “to help improve the quality of life for the poor and disadvantaged people of the world, and those affected by calamity and conflict. We encourage and enable individuals and communities to harness their own resources for securing the basic necessities of life and for gaining greater economic, social and spiritual fulfillment, while honoring their customs, language, and religious beliefs.”
If you would like to find an AMURT office near you or donate money to their disaster relief cause please contact AMURT at http://www.amurt.net/contact/ or by phone at 1-301-738-7122.
– Frederick Wood II