Service, Slowly and Steadily
Swami has once said, “Service, slowly and steadily, broadens one’s heart, bringing with it an unexpected feeling of happiness and it begins to transform the community around as well”. Recently, with Swami’s grace, the youth had the opportunity to undertake a Grama Seva trip to Bangkok, Thailand which proved to be truly enlightening. It was only after this trip that the youth have a better understanding of Swami’s quote!
On December 18, 2018, 31 of the youth from Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, India and Thailand packed their bags and headed for a three-day service trip to Baan Unrak Children’s Home. Baan Unrak Foundation was established by Donata Dolci who is lovingly called Didi (elder sister). Although born and raised in Italy, a single command from her Guru brought her to serve the rural areas by the borders of Thailand and Burma. In 1990, an abandoned wife approached Didi and handed her a child who had nowhere else to go. The mother and the child were suffering from severe malnutrition and many other illnesses. Since then there has been no turning back for Didi and she has gone on to raise more than 130 children providing them access to education, medical care, food and shelter. Most importantly, she showers them with love equivalent to that of a thousand mothers. Once the youth got a chance to see her in action in Baan Unrak, it all made sense as to why Swami called her the Mother Teresa of today’s day and age.
Her inspiring and touching story encouraged the youth to come together to work with Didi for Baan Unrak. During a recent trip earlier in the year, it was strikingly clear that there was a need for the children’s spirits to be uplifted. During their trip, the youth had split into groups so that they could all work simultaneously to ensure a productive Seva. The first group was in charge of painting the grills as well as the rooms of the children. Their sole intention was to create a brighter and more cheerful environment for the children to live and grow up in. Hopefully, it would also help in creating a more conducive environment for the children to learn in. Didi had also requested for a mandala to be painted on the floor of the meditation room. Meditation plays a key role in the development of each child at Baan Unrak. Through meditation, Didi teaches these young children the importance of loving all. The youth knew that this room was special and was extremely close to the hearts of all who were living at Baan Unrak. Hence, with Swami as their guide, they put in their best efforts in ensuring that a beautiful mandala was painted.
Another group was formed to improve the gardens of Baan Unrak. Lately, the people of Baan Unrak have been finding it difficult to grow their crops. They were unable to grow the necessary vegetables that they needed for their daily consumption. The youth came up with new solutions and used technology to help improve the growth of the crops. Since Didi did not use pesticides, they were cautious to use only organic and natural methods of improving crop productivity.
While Didi’s primary aim is to ensure that Bann Unrak provides the children with a safe and happy environment, she did have some concerns about the safety of her children. With over 130 children to look after, she struggled with looking out for each and every child present. In order to lessen her worries, the team decided to install CCTV cameras around Baan Unrak. With these cameras, Didi would be able to better safeguard the premises from her office.
Another team was formed to help the community living in Sangklaburi. Many of the individuals living here come from a low to no income background. They live in harsh conditions and are in need of desperate help. When the sun sets, many of these families are plunged into darkness as they have no access to any lighting facilities. With Swami’s blessings, the team was able to install solar panels in homes which needed immediate help. In the future, the youth hope to install more solar panels and brighten up the lives of many more of these individuals. The families were visited with a goody bag filled with food and necessary household items. In addition to improving their living conditions, the team also conducted medical checkups for the villagers. For many of these villagers, medical care is a luxury that they cannot afford. The two certified doctors who were part of the team went to the homes of these individuals and checked their eye sight as well as their general health.
During the visit, the doctors highlighted about nine homes that needed a follow up medical check, which would be conducted during the next visit to Sangklaburi. After the visits to the village, the doctors made sure to check everyone’s eyesight, including the children of Baan Unrak!
A group of lovely aunties from Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore formed a solid team and ensured that no tummy was rumbling in their presence. They helped to cook delicious meals for all the children at Baan Unrak and for the entire team of volunteers as well; cooking tirelessly while the rest of the youth engaged in various tasks. They took great care to ensure that each dish prepared was not only mouth-watering, but also filled with much love. They chanted Swami’s name and listened to Bhajans as they prepared each meal. It was no surprise that all the children loved their food!
On the last day of their visit, Didi had organized a public Christmas party to allow everyone to soak in the Christmas spirit. To brighten up the mood, the painting team decorated the canteen with balloons and Christmas decorations. A volunteer from Malaysia even dressed up as Santa Claus and gave each child his/her very own customized Christmas gift. The arrival of Santa Claus got all the children enthralled. The children had also worked very hard to put together a splendid performance for the party – one filled with yoga acts, skits, choirs and dance performances! As much as the children were grateful for the help from the youth; they too were extremely thankful to have been in the presence of the children, and for their warmth. It was truly a night to remember!
Although the youth have attended various Seva activities in their country, this one felt different and perhaps, even more special. In Singapore, it is undeniable that most of the people live a very privileged life. Even for low-income families, there is support granted by the government in the form of heavily subsidized medical services and compulsory education. As a result, it was only during this trip that the youth met people in such desperate need of help and were glad that they were part of a team that was doing something to improve these impoverished individuals’ lives. Initially, one of the youth was really nervous and had doubts about embarking on this trip. While he had asked his closest friends if they would like to join him on this trip, all of them declined due to other commitments. This, coupled with the fact that his parents were very reluctant to send him to Thailand alone for the very first time, made him uneasy. However, Didi’s story had really left a huge impact on him and within him he knew that he had to embark on this trip. There was a strong calling for him to do so. With strong faith that Swami would take care of everything, he embarked on this trip. Today, he is grateful that he took that leap of faith, because this trip is truly an unforgettable one! Being with the children, seeing their smiles and hearing their laughs, he learnt a lot from them as well. Seeing first-hand how Didi had dedicated her entire life to the children not only made him respect her even more, but also made him more determined to do a lot more Seva. She left her comfortable home in Italy and headed to a country where people spoke a language completely foreign to her so as to help the children who needed her. Despite the language and cultural barriers that might have existed, she touched and transformed so many lives. “There is only one language, the language of love”!