Adopt a Soul program helps children grow in an atmosphere of peace and love
In the morning, golden sunlight pours through the broad-leafed trees lighting up simple, white buildings, masses of vivid red tropical blooms, profusions of delicate butterflies, wide expanses of scrubby meadow and flaxen wheat fields. In the distance, the rolling hills of Chilla National Park fade into a misty hue. Birds fill the trees cackling, calling, singing and chirping. At any time, you can hear four or five distinct songs. The feeling is peace, harmony with nature and sweet sacredness. Here, you can hear yourself think, feel your heart’s stirrings and sense the movements of your soul. Here, the divine force lives almost unimpeded by man’s systems and notions.
I have written many times about my spiritual home, Aurovalley Ashram in north India. You can read my original post on Travelblog.org here, Peace on earth – this is the one that compelled at least three people that I know of to come to Aurovalley. Two of them are here now, Andrea (Ireland) and Charlotte (The Netherlands). Or, you can read the post I wrote last year, when I was here, Aurovalley Ashram: A haven of peace and conscious living.
But Aurovalley is not just a beautiful retreat, a haven of peace for spiritual seekers and a fountain of yoga knowledge for sincere students. It is also a community, and a part of the local community, Rishidwar, which includes several villages such as Raiwala. Aurovalley founder Swami Brahmdev (Swamiji) takes his responsibility to his community to heart, and he has established many worthwhile projects over the 25+ years he has been here.
Notably, for the past 15 years, Aurovalley Ashram has run a school for local children on the ashram grounds. These are children who might not otherwise have the opportunity for education. The education system in India is spotty, and if you can’t afford to send your children to a private school, you are sometimes out of luck.
Please contribute to Adopt a Soul
To fund and expand the educational opportunities for local children, Aurovalley Ashram initiated the Adopt a Soul program. For $20 USD per month ($240 per year), you can pay the expenses for a single child at the Aurovalley school. Under the Adopt a Soul program, donations provide a bus service, uniforms, books, toys, supplies and the salaries of several teachers, young women from the community. Aurovalley made the decision not to allow donators to sponsor just one child, but to share the benefit among all the children. Aurovalley volunteer teacher Adriana Gonzalez explains that, “It can create problems to sponsor only a certain child. It creates a ‘chosen child,’ who is often shunned by the community. Then, if the donations stop for whatever reason, the child loses the opportunities and his or her community.”
With the guidance of Swamiji, Adriana, 31, manages Adopt a Soul. Originally from Mexico, Adriana grew up in Austria and traveled to India on a journey of self-discovery. She spent time at the Aurobindo ashram in Pondicherry and the Mother´s Mirambika School in Delhi, before arriving at Aurovalley in 2009. Adriana is a trained teacher, but found she needed to abandon her preconceived notions about teaching to really be with the children.
At Aurovalley school, children are encouraged to follow their own interests and find their own rhythm, and their own strengths. And, of course, spiritual growth is included. The objective is not to make children ‘artificial,’ but to draw out what is best in them. Aurovalley school seeks to create an atmosphere in which the children can learn.
The children are from simple families,” Adriana says. “They grew up with no toys; they played with each other, using stones, whatever was available. They are very open, very free.”
Aurovalley school is currently teaching children from 2 ½ years to 13. The school gives them opportunities they would otherwise not have: dance classes, sports, art, yoga.
“Under this program, we recently built a new play room, and we have plans for a new art room, playground and sports uniforms – a revolutionary idea for these simple people,” Adriana says.
The day I was with the children, Adriana and the teachers spent time with them, taking them around the light-filled room, showing them how to take care of all the toys and art supplies; how to treat them and put them away. These are all new materials, and all new concepts, to these kids.
Afterwards, we all trooped off to another part of the ashram grounds, where the kids chanted the Gayatri Mantra ( a central prayer of the Hindu faith, somewhat like the Lord’s Prayer in Christianity). Then, because it was Saturday, they ran to Swamiji’s house where he handed them each a candy.
The children looked happy, loved and at home. “We view these children as souls trying to grow,” Adriana says. “And that includes me and the other teachers. In fact, I don’t identify as a teacher. I just think we’re all growing together.”
Under the Adopt a Soul program, Swamiji would like to raise funds to build a new playground and, ultimately, a new school. People who donate to the Adopt a Soul program can rest assured that every rupee goes to the project – there are no administrative or marketing costs.
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