« Respire la vie comme une rose épanouie et souris ». Rabindranath Tagore
The Association Surya Geneva was created in 1999 by a group of volunteers passionate about India. It promotes socio-educational projects in India and fosters the cultural exchanges between India and Switzerland.
Different educational projects are supported by Surya-Geneva while, at the same time, integrating the dimension of sustainable development. Its orientation relies on the 17 objectives of sustainable development as defined by the United Nations for 2030. Its line of action is to work in close collaboration with local associations, with the aim that they become independent over time.
The association tries to build bridges between East and West, between very different cultures that have everything to gain by being known to each other.
Surya-Geneva is inspired by and relies on the thought of the great poet and pedagogue Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Prize in literature in 1913. His humanist and universalist vision particularly caught our attention. Tagore was animated by a deep faith in the future of a cultural federation of all races and all the peoples; in his writings as well as in his education he has always ardently championed the cause of union with the West and the principle of a friendly cooperation. “Unity”, he writes, “is not made in spite of the differences, but thanks to them. By getting closer, the races must each of them conserve their own features”. Furthermore, in “UNESCO Courier” of May 1949, he writes: “We should not seek uniformity, that will be death, but unity, that it life. Only those who do not look alike can unite. And the nations that bereave other nations of their independence destroy the interdependence”.
The resources of the Association Surya-Geneva come, on the one hand, from donations from its members and other public and private institutions and, on the other hand, from its own activities such as keeping stands during events. We particularly thank the communes of Collonge-Bellerive, Geneva, Meyrin and Prégny-Chambésy for their support.
- Isabelle Kolly-Ottiger, President
- Joëlle Libois, Vice-President
- Sophie Biffiger, Treasurer
- Pina Lupu, Secretary
- Murielle Lervoire
- Claire Libois
- Paul Yawer
- Charlotte Matos
- Diane Roh, Honorary member
Projects and events
Board members travel regularly to India. These trips enable them to follow-up the projects, as well as build a bond of trust and friendship with the local partners.
The three projects currently supported by Surya-Geneva are: Shantosha Nanban, plastic bags prevention and the Francophile group. Due to the interaction of its local partners these projects are constantly developing: they acquire, at the same time, a long-lasting steadiness.
The events in Switzerland are directly linked to our association’s aim of promoting the richness of mutual and horizontal socio-cultural exchanges between India and Switzerland.
SHANTOSHA NANBAN (Friendship and Joy)
The utility of the centre has been recognized by the local authorities. Shantosha Nanban is located at Pondichery, in the South of India and takes in more than sixty street children. They are either orphans or have been abandoned by their families and this structure is essential to their survival, given the very hard conditions of street life. The structure provides the street children with emergency accommodation. For those unable to find a short-term family to live with, Shantosha Nanban offers a hostel, a community enabling them to experience a new stable life linked to nature, while developing their artistic and cultural expression according to Tagore’s precepts.
The girls – the most vulnerable – are particularly taken care of. According to local customs, girls and boys are supposed to be separated and local legislation has recently reinforced this obligation of separation. Our association is interested in subsidizing a lodging place for the girls and it has purchased a plot to this purpose. However, the authorisation for building the girls’ dormitories on this plot could not be issued since the plot is considered to be too small: a new one is about to be purchased South of Pondichery.
Various cultural and sports activities are organized at the centre. Recently the children were initiated to the practice of ultimate Frisbee. India has been much involved in this new attractive sport and competitions are organized at the world level. This game is particularly beneficial for education since the teams are mixed and the game is self-refereed. A technical, tactical, physical and funny sport very much appreciated. It does not demand a specific equipment apart from a frisbee disc.
KENO NOI PLASTIC
The project Keno noi plastic (“why you should say no to plastic” in Bengali) or Plastic bags prevention is an awareness program implemented in West Bengal. It aims to inform the pupils of the primary and secondary schools of the consequences of unrestrained consumption of disposable plastic items in daily life. After a one year’s awareness campaign, we expect the pupils and students to be not only able to evaluate the consequences of the proliferation of this type of plastic, but also raise awareness in their respective communities on the long-lasting environmental damage caused by the use of plastic bags or other plastic objects rejected in a natural environment.
THE FRANCOPHILE GROUP IN SANTINIKETAN
A Francophile group in India. The Association Surya-Geneva stands up for projects that reinforce mutual acquaintance between the Indian and francophone cultures. It is intended as a platform promoting exchanges between different cultures in an equal and horizontal manner, since it is as important to reveal the richness of Indian philosophy in French-speaking Switzerland as to provide easier access to French-speaking culture in India. This is closely akin to the project of the international university founded in Santiniketan by Rabindranath Tagore, the Visva Bharati University, a worldwide known institution hosting students of all cultures. It is here that we have established the Francophile Group animated by a Bengali lady, Mrs. Mira Gosh. She has learned French at the Visva Bharati University and is a specialist of Tagore. She organizes free convivial meetings open to everybody and dedicated to French culture. The participants have different backgrounds: from children coming from disadvantaged families to elderly people interested in French culture. Tagore’s traditional songs complete these meetings. This project aims both to better set forth the values of Francophonie and of the French language in India and expand the knowledge of the Poet’s philosophy in Switzerland.
INDIAN MEAL FOR THE NEEDY
The ship “Geneva” was requisitioned by a social association with the aim of providing the needy a place to get together, have meals and socialise. Twice per year the association brings its contribution to this project by preparing and serving an Indian meal on Sunday evenings. By this action – very much appreciated by the recipients – we provide a taste trip to about hundred people. This way Indian culture is revealed to people who have few opportunities to travel or go to restaurants; it generates discussions about the food and its origin and also recalls memories to the ones who have travelled to India.