Village Reconstruction Organization
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Template:Infobox organization Village Reconstruction Organization is a non-governmental organization in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India. It supports structurally weak, impoverished, and unregistered villages in the coastal regions of Southeast India. Since 1969, it has helped rebuild 505 of these villages, which are often destroyed by natural catastrophes. It also helps villagers through expert advice and funding for the creation of training and health centers, schools, homes for the elderly and children, and programs for the support of women. The organisation was founded by Belgian Jesuit Michael A. Windey and is supported largely by European organizations and donor cities.
The Belgian Jesuit Michael A. Windey had served at St. Xavier's College, Ranchi, as a professor and as founding director of the Xavier Institute of Social Service. A typhoon on the east coast of India in 1969 with floods that submerged Guntur drew him to Andhra Pradesh, ending his career as a professor as he undertook the task of reconstructing villages. Some 15,000 people had lost their lives in this disaster. Together with the local population, he helped to rebuild the village of Rajapeeth with brick houses which would withstand subsequent storms.
The organization later expanded to Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Orissa. Most of its activity continued in the four southeastern states, with seven regions and two clusters, in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu. Dalits and Adivasi are the main peoples served.
It was said to be "one of the first groups to pioneer with savings and credit groups," in the wake of the flood in Guntur. In 1987 it was among two NGOs in India and eight in all of Asia singled out for a case study by Habitat International. In 2015 it had projects in 5 states with 320 volunteers.
Windey was reputed to have a Gandhian type approach that "made ordinary people self-reliant and dignified.... (He) never bothered about the religion of the person he helped. ... While selecting villages, he always chose to help the poorest village." He has also been described as "the heir to Mother Teresa's legacy of aid projects." The Times of India described his "rare crusade for better village life." A dialogue conducted with Windey in 2009 conveys much of the spirit and extent of the movement. He died at Heverlee, Belgium, the same year. His fellow Jesuits described his ideology and methodology as "ecumenical, Gandhian, voluntarism, and mobility" and his battle cry as "in times of crisis instruments of progress."
The organization assists with the construction of villages as well as facilities within the villages: schools and skills training centers, health clinics, childcare and community centres, and homes for children and homes for the elderly, especially among the dalits. Jesuit novices help with programs such as Bala Mela, construction works in villages, laying of roads, and archeological survey.
Houses deteriorate quickly from the weather and so low-cost building material is used which can stand up to the severe weather conditions; The organization was singled out for its "innovations in low-cost building materials... (from) rice-husk ash cement." It also carries on eco-friendly programs and for the preservation of forests. Its approach is "community-based participatory": the organisation provides expert advice, but decisions are made by the village council.
Various cities in Germany are involved in giving financial support while most of the labor is supplied by villagers. In 2010 the non-profit association "VRO Deutschland – Village Reconstruction Organization eV" was formed in support of VRO-India. Also, VRO-India was the "mother NGO" for Society For Integrated Rural Development and was the training ground for the future director of the Society for Community Organisation and Peoples Education.
The annual report for 2015–2016 showed overseas donations at US $807,090 and local contributions at US $131,910. Foreign aid came largely from Switzerland, with Belgium, Germany, and Austria making up most of the rest.
Awards bestowed on Michael Windey and on the work of the VRO:
- 1972: Best NGO and Gandhi Award (Guntur)
- 1994: International Man of the Year Award (USA)
- 1998-99, 2001: Nomination for Intern Livelihood Award (Finland)
- 2000: International Environment Award (Nepal)
- 2001: Millennium Award for Industrial and Social Peace (XLRI)
- 2002: Demiurgus Peace International Prize 2002 (Zug, Switzerland)
- 2004: Vredesprijs Kerk en Leven-2003 (Belgium)
- 2005: Knight of the Order of the Leopold Award (Belgium)
- 2006: Servant of the Poor Award (CNRI, New Delhi)
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