Beyond the materializations, manifestations, and amazing medical cures Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is widely recognized for, His greatest miracle is the transformation of the human heart. Witnessing such a transformation that usually takes years, decades or even a lifetime, within a short span of days is phenomenal and very inspirational. Many testimonials of such transformations were highlighted during the International Conference on Strengthening Values Education held by the Education Committee of the SSSIO in Barbados, West Indies, from October 12 to 14, 2023.
- Mr. Fiaz Shah, a representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the person in charge of education at UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Office, openly declared that his dream was to be involved in Sathya Sai Education in Human Values (SSEHV) after retirement! He stated this heartfelt desire at the end of his talk, which focused on quality inclusive education in the Caribbean.
- Mrs. Teshia Hinds, a TV host and a producer for Radio, TV, and Digital Broadcasting, moderated a panel discussion on “Developing a Value Based Society”. The discussions inspired her so much that she aired individual interviews with each panelist on her TV show and pledged to fully support the SSEHV program!
- Education officials from Barbados, Grenada, Suriname, Guyana, St. Martin, and Jamaica, as well as other conference participants, expressed enthusiasm for implementing SSEHV across the Caribbean.
The conference was conducted by the Sai Institute of Education, West Indies (SIEWI) in partnership with the Institute of Sathya Sai Education, USA (ISSE-USA) with input from the Canadian Institute of Sathya Sai Education (CISSE). The goal of the conference was to raise awareness about the holistic SSEHV program in the Caribbean, a long-term vision and goal of the SIEWI.
The event at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Conference Center drew more than two hundred government officials, policymakers, and educators, including representatives of teachers’ associations and unions, parents, and members from nine Caribbean countries. Over two hundred people also logged in online from Belgrade, Croatia, Italy, the Virgin Islands, Uganda, and other countries.
An Experiential and Impactful Conference
It is said,“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” What better way to inspire everyone than to highlight real-life examples of how SSEHV has been embedded into educational systems and communities at large across the world!
The conference was off to a rousing start when Dr. George Bebedelis from Greece, the co-chair of the SSSIO Education Committee, spoke in his inaugural address about how anyone can join this great movement. Then, the past President of the Caribbean Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools, Barbados, spoke on a vision for peace and prosperity in the Caribbean and the role of human values.
Mrs Doris Hampton (USA) and Mr. Lalu Vaswani (Barbados) presented the story of the ‘Miracle School of Ndola’, Zambia, in the place of Dr. Onanga Opape, Professor & Psychologist from Gabon, who could not make it due to unforeseen circumstances.Mrs. Juanita Villa, Director of the Sai Institute of Colombia, and Mr. Alfredo Harmsen, Founder-Director of Sathya Sai School of Ecuador, presented extraordinary stories of transformation and love from Latin American schools that had embraced SSEHV. Many hearts were touched and motivated. Everyone listened in admiration, spellbound and amazed.
Equally enlightening and inspiring was the brief presentation by Mr. Rawle Heralal, Principal, Sathya Sai Primary School Trinidad/Tobago, on the impact of SSEHV in schools. It was heartening to learn about the ‘Peace Project’ to reduce crime in Barbados from the program director, who presented it on behalf of the Minister of Crime Prevention in the Office of the Attorney General, Barbados.
Videos with testimonials on SSEHV from American teenagers showing the impact of SSEHV programs worldwide increased the audience’s enthusiasm for this unique and sacred program that benefits all humanity.
Mr. Anthony (The Mighty Gabby) Carter, Cultural Ambassador of Barbados, presented a specially composed song on the five human values that brought the entire audience to its feet in applause. It was a fitting expression of the joy, peace, and harmony that human values usher into our hearts and, thus, into society.
The experiential learning continued with a very engaging interactive session on “Who Am I,” which explained the integrated awareness of our oneness with innate human values. It was presented by Mrs. Doris Hampton (USA), a Faculty and Board member of ISSE-USA and a member of the SSSIO Education Committee.
The Keynote and Key Workshops
Dr. Shantal Munro-Knight, Barbados Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, delivered the keynote address. She spoke on enhancing the practice of human values in the Caribbean to achieve unity, prosperity, and opportunity for all. She called on leaders in Barbados and across the region to take deliberate and strategic action to strengthen values at home, school, workplace, and communities. She stated that leaders must exemplify the behavior they want the youth to emulate.
The conference featured six 90-minute break-out sessions on topics dealing with human values:
- In classrooms for kindergarteners and primary-level students.
- In classrooms for Secondary and Higher Secondary level students.
- For parents.
- Integration Into new and existing programs.
- Integration Into public and private workspaces.
- How to improve health through the EASE program.
Detailed discussions were held over two days in an interactive and informative format.
Dr. Ramadevi Sankaran, MD (USA), delivered an informative talk on how human values are central to a holistic approach to mental well-being, followed by a highly appreciated Q&A session. Mrs. Kalika Grana, Director, ISSE-USA, and Miss Pavani Pathirana, ISSE-USA, also gave an interactive presentation on a direct lesson plan (explicit method) for experiencing SSEHV. A reflection by Mrs. Ann Lady Hewitt, retired chair of Erdiston Teachers’ Training College in Barbados, made everyone think about their experiences in their spiritual journey.
The Master of Ceremonies, Mr. Lalu N. Vaswani, and all presenters ensured that every presentation included audience reflections, comments, and Q&A sessions. Even after the recorded video address on Teacher Well-being by Dr. Margaret Taplin and Dr. John Johnson was presented, they responded to audience questions live online!
Feedback sessions were ubiquitous. The final day of the conference featured a Meet and Greet session–an informal exchange between local and international speakers and attendees engaging in a community forum where questions were answered.
A Memorable Conclusion
The SIEWI presented a memento of gratitude to all speakers, consisting of a 10-inch-tall mahogany plaque of Barbados engraved with the human values logo. The international visitors also enjoyed an island tour of Barbados’ sights and historical attractions.
Multiple newspapers carried reports of the successful SSEHV conference. However, the hundreds of hearts inspired by attending in-person or online is a true testament to the success of the conference!