Adoption of Communities
Inspired by the call to serve selflessly, the SSSIO initiated a worldwide service project as a humble offering to Sri Sathya Sai Baba for His 95th birthday in 2020. What began with the goal of adopting at least 95 communities, has grown by leaps and bounds driven by the devotion, dedication, and enthusiasm of members of the SSSIO. Currently, there are around 160 communities that have been adopted in 40 countries outside of India, that are being served, and that will be cared for in the future. The choice of which community to adopt is dependent on local needs, local socio-economic and socio-political situations and varies widely from country to country.
In Kenya, North Laikipia in the Rift Valley Province is a remote area approximately 350 km from Nairobi. Since there are no secondary schools for the 20 primary schools in the vicinity, the SSSIO of Kenya started two projects to provide secondary education to the children. This includes the construction of toilets, new classrooms, solar electricity system, water storage facilities, and a fence. A third project in the Rift Valley addresses the needs of the community, especially for the elderly. SSSIO volunteers regularly deliver food to a village of 10,000, giving special attention to about 200 elderly women living in particularly difficult circumstances.
The SSSIO of Mauritius has adopted two indigent, rural communities of 77 underprivileged families. The villagers live in difficult conditions, with many challenges including poverty, drugs, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, poor hygiene, and unemployment. Several initiatives have been started to make a positive impact in the lives of these people. The programme began with a village clean-up campaign and distribution of food to the needy families. When more than 150 SSSIO volunteers cleaned the littered streets, the villagers joined them to clean the village. Following the clean-up, 75 boxes of food were delivered to needy families.
Morocco’s fourth-largest city, Marrakech, and nearby village, Tamazout have each benefitted from projects undertaken by the SSSIO, such as improved access to safe-drinking water. In addition, hundreds of students at the Tamazouzt School benefit from regular medical, dental, and vision services provided by the SSSIO of Morocco.
Five communities in South Africa have been adopted by SSSIO members and a sixth is under consideration. SSEHV classes are a particular area of interest in this region, as are medical and dental care. In the Frasers community, stationery packs and lunch boxes were distributed to 330 children. Other services included medical camps, health education classes, veterinary camps, skills development for women, mother and child programmes, immunizations, workshops to address teenage pregnancy, human values classes, and the distribution of food and clothing.
In Santa Ana and Huntington Park, California, USA, the SSSIO has focused on the needs of school children living below the poverty line. In one especially moving case, four siblings had to share a single pair of shoes, and as a result, only one of them could attend school on any given day. SSSIO volunteers distributed shoes, eyeglasses, shampoo to treat lice, and other items, thus enabling the children to attend school regularly. SSSIO further supported the children by helping their families with basic needs for food, bedding, and healthcare.
The SSSIO of the Central Region of the USA adopted the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, Missouri. The Sanctuary provides refuge to eagles with permanent injuries that cannot be released back to the wild. SSSIO volunteers served at the sanctuary twice a month, taking care of the grounds and providing needed supplies. During the annual regional retreat of the SSSIO, an interactive educational session was held, and participants joined in a walk for birds, carrying placards with the five human values and informative posters about the birds at the sanctuary.
In Trinidad and Tobago, as a part of the Guardian Angels of Children programme, assistance is provided to more 100 underprivileged children from three schools in the Couva/California community. School materials such as stationery, schoolbooks, school bags, sports uniforms, footwear, and belts were provided to the children. Needy children also received comprehensive health checks and medical care. The SSSIO works with families in the community, offering family planning and parental counselling services. Free medicines and eyeglasses are also provided to those in need.
In Ecuador’s large cities of Bahía de Caráquez and Guayaquil, volunteers from Sathya Sai Schools have initiated three community programmes. The Walk for Human Values programme drew public attention to the benefits of practising human values. Regular handicraft workshops help the local women develop skills to generate income for subsistence. On a celebratory note, 280 members of the Bahía community organised a Kuyaraymi Festival that was enjoyed by more than 1,000 local residents.
SSSIO volunteers in Peru have focused their efforts on helping needy people who cannot travel easily to receive basic services. Some of these populations reside on the outskirts of Lima, the capital, while others live in remote mountainous regions. SSSIO volunteers deliver school supplies, clothing, and food to communities in need, and provide medical services directly to underprivileged communities who cannot access basic healthcare.
Several communities in Colombia have benefitted from the SSSIO’s initiative, which revolves around human-values education. In Bogotá, human-values classes are tailored to the needs of young children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. In Barroblanquito-Peidescuesta-Santander, classes are focused on educating boys and girls of ages 6-12. As part of the adoption project, human values classes have been introduced to ongoing projects in Colombia, including SAIAMA, a facility that provides support for parents who come from outside the city to seek urgent care for their critically ill or injured children.
SSSIO has been active in El Salvador since 1990, when they began caring for disabled children who became homeless due to the country’s civil war. A permanent home was established for these children in 1997, when the SSSIO opened the doors of a new three-story facility. The centre has expanded its job-training and vocational programmes to allow young people with physical disabilities to develop skills for earning a livelihood.
In Venezuela, two SSSIO initiatives in Caracas are making a difference in the lives of the city’s most vulnerable citizens. SSSIO volunteers at the Asilo la Providencia San Antonio nursing home spend hours each week caring for the elders. Working with the Sathya Sai Centre of Miami in Florida, U.S.A., the local Young Adults distribute more than 600 containers of food each month to the homeless and needy families.
SSSIO volunteers have been active in Argentina for more than 20 years. In Buenos Aires, meals are served by SSSIO volunteers every Sunday. A wide range of medical services is offered each month. Volunteers in Recreo teach knitting, and the proceeds from the sale of products is used by programme participants to start small businesses. In Las Talitas, human-values classes and devotional activities are organised for more than 100 children on Saturdays. They also receive healthy food and medical care. In the small, remote village of Los Sauces, SSSIO volunteers have made a difference since 1996, by providing healthcare services and vocational training.
In Nepal, 18 communities have been adopted as part of the Adoption of Communities project. The focus is largely on sustainable improvements to local water supply infrastructure and the establishment of health clinics in low-income communities and remote areas.
SSSIO members in Malaysia have adopted 10 communities, with a common scope of supporting devotional activities and SSEHV programmes. Most communities are also provided with free medical services, food and clothing, and animal care. SSSIO members clean temples, plant trees, and support education including tutoring for the school children. In Taman Jati, Ladang Sg. Krudda, and Matang Jaya, a wide range of initiatives reach hundreds of people daily. In Desa Mentari, Selangor State, an Educare Carnival was organised in which 30 children performed a drama based on Siti Hagar, the Noble Mother of Ishmael (Abraham’s first-born child) and her sacrifice for her beloved son. In Lukut, Negeri Sembilan State, SSSIO established a Surau (Muslim Prayer House) where 30 Muslim families can offer their daily prayers.
In Thailand, SSSIO volunteers adopted the Lopburi community in the central region of Thailand. Volunteers regularly visit the community and distribute rice, oil, sugar, noodles, milk, and cookies, bringing joy. Blankets and other hygiene items are also distributed. The SSSIO helps the villagers organise group prayers, group meditation, and inspiring talks, including Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings. The head of the community thanked the SSSIO of Thailand stating that this is the only organisation which helps them regularly and looks after their day-to-day needs.
In Sri Lanka, the SSSIO has adopted 24 communities, mainly villages. Service areas include water delivery and waste drainage, construction of schools and multi-purpose halls, construction of wells including a deep-well project which supports over 400 villagers, construction and renovation of houses, construction of toilets, and construction of a water purification plant serving nearly 1,200 people. Other activities include serving food to the needy, providing electricity, organising medical camps, giving sewing classes, distributing dry rations to needy families during drought, offering support and guidance on agriculture, planting trees, providing books, school bags, and stationery to school children, and offering human-values classes.
Shortly after the launch of Adoption of Communities project, the large Indonesian island of Sulawesi was struck by a tsunami produced by a 7.8 earthquake. The island’s capital, Palu, was especially hard-hit; 2,000 people lost their lives, buildings and roads were destroyed, and drinking water supplies were interrupted. Since then, the SSSIO has built 170 homes, a medical clinic, a maternity clinic, a library, and a community hall which it shares with government agencies and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) who are also engaged in the restoration of Palu.
In Syria, more than 40 children are enrolled in SSEHV classes, which provide an opportunity to cultivate peace and hope even under challenging circumstances. The students enjoy lessons on human values, yoga, and role-playing games along with storytelling sessions.
When the small Croatian village of Letovanic was devastated by floods in 2014, the SSSIO joined local and regional officials and NGOs to help. Volunteers assisted with cleanup, restocked the local school with books and supplies. A medical team of visiting doctors, provided urgently needed medical care. Today, the work continues with ongoing SSEHV classes for the local children.
The SSSIO of Germany adopted a village in Ukraine. Volunteers have supplied more than 150 boxes of food, clothing, tools, and school supplies to the village. They also provided other resources to the refugees and the homeless. A service camp was held in a nearby town, where volunteers renovated a boarding school and held a medical camp for local villagers.
The SSSIO of Greece has adopted the remote Nigerian village of Ibanga Tudun Wada, where it built and outfitted a much-needed primary school. The Dalla School now serves 90 pupils.
The SSSIO of Australia has adopted 12 communities. These programmes include service to the elderly and preventive healthcare education, food drives, serving food to the needy, human values classes, tree planting, environmental restoration, and supplying birthing-kits to the needy to reduce maternal-fetal morbidity and mortality. Over the years, more than 6,000 birthing-kits have been provided to the needy. During 13–28 July 2019, hundreds of volunteers including Young Adults and SSE children from various regions across Australia planted about 10,000 trees.
In New Zealand, in low-income areas of greater Auckland and Wellington, the SSSIO provides comprehensive support to families and school children. From nourishing meals to money-management courses, the projects offer the families with the hope and skills to pursue their dreams. Service activities include medical camps, serving food on a weekly basis from the food truck, food bank donations, and distribution of winter clothing. In Hutt Valley, these efforts are complemented by a successful go-green campaign that has drastically reduced the use of plastics in the area. Other support service activities in Hutt Valley include providing stationery for the disadvantaged children, Christmas-gift hampers for needy families, weekly breakfast for impoverished children, tutoring, and organisation of Parents Appreciation Day and medical clinics.