10 August 2006 — Amritapuri

Amma says that if everyone in the world were to spend just one hour a day in selfless service, we could change the face of the earth. Students attending classes at Amrita University have been taking Amma’s words to heart, and recently they started a collective called Amrita Sanjeevani, with the intention of raising money to sponsor the education of a student from an impoverished family.

It all began earlier this year when some Amrita students asked Amma what they could do to help her humanitarian projects. Amma said, “Children, first you need to study, but if you want to help you can. Do something creative, but spend no more than one hour a day on it. Devote the rest of your time to your studies.” Amma then suggested that maybe the students could make something beautiful out of waste material and sell it.

The initiative grew rapidly, and currently nearly 50 students are participating in the daily “serve-an-hour” seva.

One thing the Amrita Sanjeevani participants are doing is making incense stands from waste paper that they collect from the Ashram’s printing press. “We add water and rice-powder and turn it into pulp, and then from that we make little incense stands, which we then decorate,” explains 18-year-old Balaji, a first-year technical student. “We come together every afternoon to do this. We also make friendship bands and little jewellery boxes and greeting cards, which we sell during Amma’s darshan programs.”

Twenty-two-year-old Sri Lekha helps make the friendship bands. “Today we sold almost 60 bands!” she says. “Making them is fun in itself, but knowing that we can help one student in this way makes it feel even better! Today [August 7th] is International Friendship Day, so everybody is buying them.” The students sold even more bands on Raksha Bandan [August 9th], the day in India when sisters tie bracelets around their brothers’ wrists, for their protection and friendship.

Although Amrita Sanjeevani has inspired a new wave of service from the Amrita University students, the students in fact have been helping with Ashram seva projects all along. For example, after the 2004 tsunami, many students helped with the Ashram’s tsunami-relief project {news}.

“We spent most of our Saturdays and Sundays carrying building materials and digging foundations,” {news} says third-year computer student Arati.

In fact, Arati knows for herself what it is like to be unable to afford a college education. She was only able to attend higher studies by taking a bank loan. “My parents did not have the money to pay for my college education,” she says, “but when I asked Amma if I could attend the computer college, Amma told me that she would take care of it. Amma is my great love every since I met her almost 10 years ago. I hope that when I graduate I can give something back. Amma gave me this opportunity, so I know that she will also help me find a job. Then I can pay back the bank loan and also give some money to Amma’s projects.”

Arati says she has had many inspiring moments helping with the Ashram’s seva projects. “Right after the tsunami, Amma asked us to go to the villages to play with the children because they were so tense and in shock,” she says. “It was Deepavali {news—> Celebrating Deepavali}, so we went with lights and candles. In the beginning the children were afraid, but soon we were all singing and dancing and hugging. It was so beautiful to be able to do something from the heart during that time of suffering.”

Pravin Kumar continues: “Our motto is ‘Pray with your heart, serve with your hands.'”

Says Kartika, “Our goal is to raise Rs. 350,000. For each year of the four-year curriculum, a student needs to pay for tuition and for room and board. Then there is money for the school uniform, laboratory costs and, of course, some pocket money. We want to raise enough to pay this entire amount for at least one student!”

The students say that they are happy that they chose to attend Amrita University for it inculcates both discipline and moral values. “One cannot become a good human being just by reading textbooks. Getting involved in seva is very important and also very satisfying and great fun!” says Arati.

Since Amma returned from her U.S. Tour, the students have been selling their handicrafts on both sides of the darshan hall. With nearly 150 items sold and more than Rs. 20,000 raised in just two days, the student are well on their way to fulfilling their goal.

—Dass

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Category : Social Service
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