Support Group Members:
Top Row: Shankar Vengadesh, Marie-Françoise Corbel, Martin Littlewood, Satyakam Karim
Bottom Row: Heidi Watts, Janet Fearn, Laura White, Sudhir Pradhan, Devasmita Patnaik
Insert Left: Amy Bassett, Insert Right: Marion Meakin.
The present support group was invited by SAIIER to manage what was then known as New Creation Bilingual School in January 2005. There were seven original members and three original permanent invitees. Over the years people have come and gone, but 2 of the original members remain and 2 of the original permanent invitees have become full members, although one member is only present in Auroville for 3 months per year. The group functions as a management committee, and meets weekly to decide, in coordination with the school’s principal and administrator, on all matters pertaining to the running of the school.
The present members are:
Amy Bassett (permanent invitee), joined Auroville in 2004 and has served primarily in administration at places such as Matrimandir, Pour Tous Distribution Centre, Future School, Blue Light Open Source Research & Service, Aikiyam School, Housing Service, and over the last four years with the Funds and Assets Management Committee. She was the administrator at Aikiyam for about 2 years starting in December 2010 and continues to participate in the Aikiyam School Support Group as much as she can.
Devasmita Patnaik I am an ex-student of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram School. After completing my studies I worked as an auxiliary nurse in the Ashram Nursing Home for 4 years, while teaching Sanskrit to small children. I have been connected with New Creation School through my husband, Satyakam since 1984. We have been helping financially since 1986 from France, where we lived for many years. When we joined Auroville in 2010, I worked 2 years at Matrimandir, and later in the Housing Service. It is a sheer joy to work with our very dear Principal, Shankar Ji, who is so broad minded and open to new ideas, and of course to be part of Aikiyam School Support Group, where there is a good listening among the members and we do move forward with solutions to the many different issues that arise. I am happy to be a member of an efficient and harmonious Support Group and to observe the constant progress of Aikiyam School.
Marie-Françoise Corbel, known as Françoise: I joined Auroville in 1981 and immediately began to work in the Auroville education system as teacher and school administrator. In 2003 I started to work as a teacher and school advisor, offering support and training to beginning teachers and to schools’ administration. I joined Aikiyam Support Group in 2007. Being part of the Aikiyam Support group has been and is an interesting adventure, where working as a team for the harmonious development of the school is a real joy.
Heidi Watts: (Original Permanent Invitee) Just before I retired from my position as co-chair of the Education Department at Antioch University New England, USA, I made a short visit to Auroville, and have returned every year since 1991 to work with the schools and teachers for three months in the winter. I am a founding member of the Aikiyam School Support Group, the Integral Education Teacher Training Program, and the Auroville Teachers’ Centre. The Aikiyam School Support Group is exceptionally collaborative and effective. It has been a pleasure to have been a part of it and to watch as the school expands and matures.
Janet Fearn (Original Member) came to Auroville in 1968. I have done many different things including handicrafts with village women, guest house management, work in organization/governance, and most recently in the field of communication and conflict transformation. My main function in the Support Group is keeping track of donations and the financial situation, and more recently coordinating the publication of the newsletter.
Laura White: I became Aikiyam's administrator, joining the Aikiyam School Support Group, in September, 2013. Before joining Aikiyam I had, since 2008, been the administrator at NESS, another Auroville School with CBSE affilation. As a clinical therapist, I am a founding member of Auroville's Child 'Protection Service. Two of my favorite activities are teaching meditation and music, which I did for 25 years. I truly enjoy working with this group and find its weekly meetings a real inspiration in how to manage a school.
Martin Littlewood (Original Permanent Invitee) I am a founding member of the Support Group, and have been participating in the work of the group as a part time member since its creation in 2005. As a member of Auroville International - UK, I have been visiting Auroville almost yearly since 1985, and for most of that time had a close connection with the school, mainly through our friend Roy Wicks, a former principal. I have been joining the support group for its meetings when in Auroville and contributing in whatever way I can. In 2014, my wife and I decided to join Auroville, and it is now a great pleasure and privilege to be able to be a permanent member of the group, and join the weekly meetings. As a professional management consultant, experienced with small organisations, I really appreciate the efficient and open way that the group works in helping to run the school. It is a real model for this work, and the school is thriving under its management and guidance.
Marion Meakin: I am the newest member of the support group, joining in 2015. I have been variously a guest, guest worker and volunteer for nearly twenty years in Auroville and am now a Pre-Newcomer. I feel honoured to have been asked to join this group.
I worked in the field of education, educational management and special needs/learning disability for twenty years in the UK as teacher, head-teacher and drama-therapist practitioner/trainer. I have been on various boards of governors as both teacher and parent representative.
I further worked in the field of English as a Second Language, working voluntarily in Dharamsala with Tibetan refugees and in Bodh Gaya teaching low-caste and impoverished children in a Buddhist retreat and social welfare centre. Subsequently I worked for an English Language Institute in Thailand working upcountry in Lopburi Province for 2 years in a Catholic School and then in Bangkok for some years as teacher, teacher trainer and curriculum principal.
I am currently working out of the Teachers' Centre at SAIIER and introducing a phonics-based reading programme to Aikiyam School as well as running various workshops for teachers in Auroville.
Satyakam Karim (permanent invitee) I came for the first time to Auroville in January 1974. Then I came back in 1978, when I met Andre Tardeil, who later started New Creation School. In 1983 I came to New Creation when there was just one keet house of Andre and Family and their newly born daughter, Auma. Since then I have been in constant touch with New Creation and have followed very closely its development. We have always been donors for both the schools, run by Roy and Andre, and from 2006 we decided to give our support to Aikiyam only because of the good organization, the presence of a very efficient support group and the quality of the teaching. We have contributed for the beautification of the residential zone of New Creation as well. Devasmita and I have been active members of AVI France from 1986 till 2010, the year we came and settled in Auroville.
Shankar Vengadesh (Original Member) Shankar grew up in the nearby village of Kuilapalayam, where his father had a small farm. Upon graduating from high school, he went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Economics, and did further studies in second language teaching. He joined Auroville in 1995 and began teaching Tamil as a first and second language in Last School. He has taught Tamil language and culture during four sessions at the University of Washington at Bothell in USA, and teaches Tamil as a second language to adults in Auroville. In 2006 the Support Group asked him to become the principal of NCBS, now Aikiyam School. His love of and dedication to the school and the students is apparent throughout the school, especially in the alert and happy faces of the students.
Sudhir Pradhan: I graduated in Economics from Utkal University, Odisha and completed Integral Education Teacher Training and Research in Delhi. I moved to Auroville in 2001 and have been working as an educator with various educational projects. I presently teach at Udavi School