Rongomai and Pomare Community Adoption Programmes, New Zealand
Community Adoption Program - Rongomai Community
Rongomai is a community in suburban Auckland and considered a low socio-economic area. The SSIO has worked in this community for many years with the hope of transforming the lives of the needy families.
Sathya Sai Pre-School: This school began 20 years ago and provides EHV (education in human values) for children ages 2–5, with a capacity of up to 40 children. These children from the community are mainly immigrants from Pacific Island communities such as Samoa and Tonga. The parents are mostly unemployed and depend on government aid. The school aims to draw out the human values inherent in the children and help families practise these values at home. Over the years many children have shown a marked transformation, which has also resulted in improvement in their home life.
The SSIO also holds medical camps once a year in Rongomai. Although there is adequate state medical help in this area, the SSIO medical professionals spend quality time with each patient and reinforce preventive medical education, including proper diet and eating habits.
The SSIO also runs a food bank for the community to help the parents of the school children. The food bank helps ensure a healthy diet and supports the basic food requirements of the needy families.
On a regular basis, the SSIO organises winter clothing for the community, according to need, especially for small children and babies. This clothing drive takes place at the school and also on the Annual Community Day held in the area.
Weekly, on Saturday evenings, an SSIO food truck goes into this community and offers free, fresh vegetarian meals. On average, 50–60 people receive meals prepared and served with love.
The SSIO group plans to start money management classes in this community, as most people live on social welfare and have limited resources. Basic money management is a vital skill that can help these people use their limited resources efficiently.
Drug abuse and alcoholism are also a significant problem in this community. The SSIO plans to start a drug and alcohol education and prevention programme.
The Sathya Sai Pre-School will serve as a focal point for these various community programmes. The human values emphasis at the school will hopefully spread into the community and transform the lives of one and all.
Communities Adoption Program (CAP) - Pomare Community
The Sai Centre of Hutt supports three primary schools in low socio-economic areas in the Wellington Region. One of those schools is Pomare Primary School in the suburb of Hutt Valley. The Centre supports this school by providing stationery for disadvantaged children at the beginning of the school year. The Centre also provides Christmas hampers for 15 deserving families of students identified by the school management. In addition, the Centre provides a weekly breakfast for needy, hungry children, as identified by teachers.
Some SSIO volunteers provide one-on-one mathematics tuition/tutoring for children who need help with mathematics. These students are identified by their teachers. This term, two volunteers provided math tuition for ten students twice a week during school hours. During these classes, human values and self-confidence are instilled in the students by the volunteers.
During regular communication and discussions with the Pomare school management, it came to the attention of the volunteers that many children come from “rough and tough” environments and unhappy homes and thus are not able to focus in studies. Due to the trust and bond the Sai Centre members have developed with the school, the management has requested assistance to help the children and families come together and bring about a transformation in the lives of the children and their families. With this goal in mind, Centre volunteers have been assisting the school, the children and their Whanau (extended families) to celebrate “Parents Appreciation Day” yearly, where families and children are able to celebrate togetherness in a supportive environment, with games and activities organised for children to interact with parents. Children also read out messages and poems, enact skits and express their love and appreciation to their parents. These celebrations have brought about a significant positive change in the relationship between children and parents.
Sai Medical Clinics
The SSIO organises free medical clinics monthly on weekends at the Union Medical Health facility in Pomare. Two SSIO medical doctors (one psychiatrist and a general practitioner) provide services with the assistance of two volunteer nurses and a receptionist who work at the health facility during the week. The two doctors attend to about 25 to 30 patients during these clinics. The patients greatly appreciate the care, effort and kindness the doctors give them during the consultations. The patients have said on many occasions that without the clinic they would have ignored their health issues until they had significantly progressed. The clinics also provide opportunities for junior doctors who are SSIO volunteers to provide health services under the supervision of experienced medical practitioners.
Protect the Planet
Members of the Sai Centre of Hutt have taken steps to deal with the overuse of plastics by refusing, reducing, reusing and recycling plastic at their own homes and work places, centre-organised Sai events, and community events where they can influence changes in habits dealing with plastic waste. Swami’s discourses on plastics, the damage to the environment and how Sai followers can limit plastic use are discussed at the Thursday spiritual evenings and at the Centre study circles. Members have been encouraged to refuse “one-time” use of plastic bags during shopping and to use their own cloth or jute bags instead. Reduction in the use of plastic plates, cups, containers, fork and spoons, and the use of reusable plates that can be hygienically cleaned and reused at centre-organised functions, as well as recycling of plastic waste wherever possible has been encouraged. Recently, Centre leadership was able to influence the local community organising committee at the Tumeke Taita Festival (Summer Festival) at the Walter Nash Stadium in Taita, Lower Hutt, with the recycling of plastic waste by arranging colour-coded recycling bins for plastic waste, paper and carboard waste, organic and food waste and general waste, in collaboration with a local waste management company. This waste otherwise would have ended up in the local landfill.