AYUDH grows organic food for good in Netherlands

AYUDH Netherlands took part in the the biggest volunteer event in the Netherlands, ‘NLdoet’. During the weekend Saturday, March 22, over 325.000 volunteers were active all over the Netherlands. For AYUDH it was a great opportunity to lend a hand.

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This time AYUDH helped planting fruit trees and bushes in the fruit- and vegetable garden ‘Food for Good’. In this garden members of the community and people from vulnerable sections of society work together to grow vegetables and herbs. Part of the harvest goes to the people who help in the garden, the other part to the food bank. This way they provide the neighbourhood with healthy organic food.

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AYUDH helped planting quince trees, medlars, white, red, and black currants, raspberry bushes, and preparing the soil in the greenhouse where they will plant cucumbers, tomatoes, paprikas and other vegetables.

10th European AYUDH Youth Initiative: Awareness in Action

Awareness in Action!

The 10th European AYUDH Youth Initiative, “Awareness in Action,” was an overwhelming success. Nearly 300 youth between the ages of 15 and 30 from nearly 23 countries gathered from 13th – 20th July 2014 at M.A. Center Germany, Brombachtal, to take part in the event. The general theme of the initiative was how to use awareness as a tool to develop better physical and mental health, as well as to improve the health of society and nature.

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One of the highlights of the week-long program was the visit of Swami Amritaswarupananda, the Vice Chairman of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math, for the Youth Initiative. Swamiji’s talk, question-and-answer session and bhajans, held on July 16 at M.A. Center, was very well received by the youngsters. The other speakers were Br. Shubamrita Chaitanya, Bri. Dipamrita Chaitanya and Mr. Jani Toivola (Member of Parliament from Finland).

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of AYUDH in Europe, the youth visited the EU Parliament in Strasbourg on September 17th. The conference, titled “Strengthening Europe Through Youth Empowerment,” was a great success. The event highlighted the success of AYUDH in implementing the EU’s youth strategy, specifically through the “Youth in Action” program of the European Commission, which has supported AYUDH since 2007. After the event the youth went to the city center of Strasbourg to do a flash mob, conveying the ideals of AYUDH through song and dance.

To deepen the topic of “awareness” in practical and creative ways, participants could choose from 16 workshops: archery, kung-fu, acting, permaculture, photography, artwork, dance, singing, self-awareness through interaction with horses, sensitive living, tai-chi, IAM-Meditation for youth, yoga, In-Deed sustainability campaign for school children and clowning.

Christina Tourin, an internationally renowned harpist and pioneer in harp-therapy, led an exclusive workshop in therapeutic harp. In continuation with the workshop, six youth were enrolled in AYUDH’s HOPE (Harps Of PEace) project. Under this project they will receive a free harp and online lessons for the duration of one year. Together with their local AYUDH groups, they can visit care homes for senior citizens and apply the healing benefits of music to body and spirit.

Upon the invitation of the city of Michelstadt, AYUDH went to a new permaculture demonstration site to create six large vegetable beds and plant five walnut trees, representing the five continents. With a lot of joy and enthusiasm the youth also prepared beds for 23 fruit-trees, symbolic for the 23 nationalities present at the summit. Since the current season is not conducive to the planting of fruit trees, they will be planted during Amma’s visit to Germany later this year. Mr. Stefan Kelbert, honorable Mayor of Michelstadt, welcomed the youth and expressed his gratitude and admiration for the successful collaboration between AYUDH and the city of Michelstadt over the past years.

Daily sessions in mediation, bhajans, tai chi and yoga offered the youth an opportunity to deepen their self-awareness and find more inner balance and inspiration. As one of the EU’s 2014 priorities is “sports and healthy lifestyle,” the youth organized a sports tournament including soccer, volleyball, acrobatics, running, dance and archery.
Directed by Jani Toivola, the youth also shot a music video clip to the new AYUDH song “Be the First.” Each workshop group choreographed a scene in the video to display the diversity of activities during the summit. A talent show was organized on July 19th, wherein the youth showed their skills in performing arts. It was a true celebration of the talent, cultural diversity and joy of AYUDH.

On July 20, Mr. Willi Kredel, the Mayor of Brombachtal, attended the summit and handed over certificates of participation to all those present. This AYUDH summit reached a new dimension of intercultural exchange, personal empowerment and project development.

For one year leading up to the summit, AYUDH members across Europe had periodically met to discuss the topics they felt deserved more awareness in European society. They identified 10 categories, which included topics like nutrition, lifestyle, participation in society and ecological sustainability. These topics were explored in detail, with the assistance of professionals from the respective fields. Based on these discussions the youth developed concrete action plans, which will be implemented as follow-up projects in their respective home countries.

As a new social outreach project the AYUDH members decided to sponsor 200 sticks for a school for blind children in Thika, Kenya. The ultimate goal of AYUDH is to extend the sponsorship program to all five existing schools for blind children in Kenya.

For the eighth time, the AYUDH youth initiative has been recognized by the European Union’s “Youth in Action” program. Over the years, AYUDH has been acknowledged as one of the best youth projects in Germany, which inspires a sense of active citizenship, solidarity and tolerance among young Europeans and involves them in shaping the Union’s future.

– Dass

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300 AYUDH members meet at European Parliament

EU Parliament, Strasbourg, France – 17 July 2014

Several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) joined AYUDH Europe (Amrita Yuva Dharma Dhara), the youth wing of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM), for its 10th Anniversary Celebrations at the European Parliament at Strasbourg in France.

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The event titled “Strengthening Europe through Youth Empowerment”, engaged nearly 300 young participants from 23 countries. Inspired by the life and teachings of Amma, AYUDH has reached out to thousands of young people across Europe during the last ten years with its programmes in intercultural exchange, voluntary service, sustainable development and leadership building.

The dignitaries who participated in the event included MEPs Frank Engel (Luxembourg), Deirdre Clune (Ireland), Miltiadis Kyrkos (Greece) and Jani Toivola (Finland) besides Martine Reicherts, European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.

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MAM Vice-Chairman Swami Amritaswarupananda, in his keynote address, emphasized on the importance to inculcate values in our educational system and ways of teaching. About the alarming increase in the rate of school dropouts, use of drugs, violence, abuse of nature and crime rates among youngsters, he cited examples from Europe and other parts of the world. “The main reason for these dangerous situation is that education is not valued,” he said. “Life itself is not valued and true awareness and action are not valued.”

Swami Amritswarupananda further elaborated on the point saying, the goal was to help young people understand their relationship with the world in which they live, nature and the law of the universe. “In a democratic society, each individual should be endowed with various talents and proficiencies. One among them is the inner capacity to deal with people from different cultures,” he noted. “Based on this value system, they should be able to take objective and impartial decisions. Democratic societies must therefore take an interest that such skills be encouraged.”

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Ms Clune applauded all those who joined AYUDH movement. “I am sure you will carry the positive experiences from this for the rest of your life,” she said, and stressed on the certain measures taken by the EU on youth employment and ecological protection.

Mr Engel, who leads the Luxembourg delegation to the Parliament, said this continent which had been the home of war and destruction, now is a continent of peace and construction. “We have values that we cherish and the way to ensure that they are retained is through the youth carrying them ahead,” he said.

Martine Reicherts said a life in politics and a spiritual life are both possible. “Never go below your dignity. Keep up the values and don’t make it cheap,” she noted.

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The AYUDH youth also presented a five-point statement requesting the European leaders to consider taking the following steps: incorporate participation in voluntary and community service into formal education through recognized academic credit or curriculum design; encourage young people to take up the protection of biodiversity and community farming through the provision of awards and grants; establish high-quality, accessible care dedicated to improving mental health and wellbeing of youth, with particular emphasis on enhancing emotional and spiritual intelligence; provide young people with learning environments which nurture and support holistic lifestyles and creative self-expression; implement proactive, innovative measures to address the issue of youth unemployment through job creation, education, investment and dialogue.

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The event concluded with Swami Amritaswarupananda and Ms Reicherts taking questions from the youngsters. The focus was on different problems faced by youth in society today and their resolution.

Since 2007, AYUDH has been working closely with European Commission for Education and Culture under its ‘Youth in Action’ programme. The Commission selected AYUDH as ‘Best Practice Project’ in 2009 for ‘Reaching New Heights’, a musical on the challenges of young people in today’s world and in 2013 for the project ‘Our World. Our Vision. Our Future’, which focused on non-formal education of school children on ecological sustainability.

The event at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg is a part of a week long youth summit on the topic ‘Awareness in Action’, held in M.A. Center Germany (Frankfurt) from July 13 to 20.

AYUDH Portugal brings HOPE to care homes

During AYUDH’s 2013 youth summit in Germany “Our World, Our Vision, Our Future,” a group of young people were introduced to playing harp as a means of therapy. At the conclusion of the camp, two youth were awarded a harp with the idea that it would be used by them to play at care-homes in their country throughout the year. This is part of AYUDH’s new “HOPE—Harps of Peace” program, mentored by the world-renowned harpist and founder and director of the International Harp Therapy Program, Christina Tourin.

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In March 2014, members of AYUDH visited two care-homes for elderly people in the Lisbon area in order to brighten up their day with the soothing harp sounds and their youthful vibrancy. They brought the harp, as well as some other instruments, including a guitar, hang drum.

At one nursing home, the group spent time speaking with some elderly ladies, getting to know them and listening to their stories. They visited many bedridden people who often get only one or two visitors a year, playing music, singing and talking. In one house, they were attended the birthday party of a lady who just turned 101.

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One lady they visited had recently suffered a stroke. She could not move or talk. Blinking was her only means of communication. “As soon as she saw us, she opened her eyes wide, trying to see what all instruments we had brought,” recollects one of the AYUDH members. “As we played, she started moving her head, trying to somehow get up. Her mouth started to move a little and she made a little sound like, ‘Ah!’ It was an incredible moment for all of us! Even the staff of the care-home were amazed. We all felt such compassion and love in the room. Remembering it gives me a very warm feeling in my heart!”

– Dass

Rise Arjuna: Awake, Arise and Seize the Future

15 June 2013, Tabanan, Bali
The Youth Forum is dedicated to the empowerment of youth in Tabanan, a regency of Bali had a program with Swami Purnamritananda. The theme of the event which Swami graced was “Rise Arjuna: Awake, Arise and Seize the Future”.

 

Surpi, who organized the event, said in her opening speech that the youth worried about their future and wanted guidance and inspiration. Surpi described Amma as “Active Spirituality”, spirituality that does valuable work. She told the youth how lucky they were to have Swamiji, Amma’s disciple, amidst them, to share his valuable thoughts of Amma’s teachings with them.

Color the World with Love

Our World Our Vision Our Future

The ninth European AYUDH Youth Initiative  was conducted from July13th – 20th, 2013 at MA Center Germany, Brombachtal. More than 200 young people between the ages of 15 and 30 participated in the week long camp. For the first time participants from Greece, Denmark and Lebanon took part in the initiative, making it a total of 21 nationalities present.  The initiative included youth from: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, UK, Ireland, Greece, Slovenia, Poland, India, Singapore, USA, Canada, and Lebanon.

“Our World -Our Vision- Our Future” was the theme for this year’s camp. The participants were invited to reflect upon their ambitions and dreams. Interactive talks and workshops by renowned personalities from the fields of spirituality, politics, music, dance, theatre, and media inspired the youth to define their personal vision and take practical steps to reach their goals.

Inspiring talks

Kirty Matabadal, the current Youth Ambassador to the UN (Netherlands) addressed the conference. The feedback that she had collected from the AYUDH participants last year was included in her speech which she gave in front of the UN General Assembly in New York on 8th Oct 2012. This time she challenged participants to debate about the future of the planet in regards to food security: “Today there are 7 billion people on this planet. We produce food for 12 billion people, 1 billion is facing starvation and 1,5 billion are obese. Where do we go wrong?” The answers by the youth ranged from sustainable education for children, awareness campaigns to localized food production. These ideas will be presented at the conference ‘Eat2Feed’ with the Dutch Foreign Minister, organized on World Food Day 2013.

Jani Toivola, a Member of Parliament from Finland, shared his experiences of growing up as a person with African roots in a society that was almost exclusively fair-skinned. Jani told about the misunderstandings, discrimination and fear he faced as a child. Through self-acceptance and tolerance he gained the strength to overcome these obstacles and become a successful actor and later politician in Finland. As a member of parliament Jani today campaigns for minority and immigrant rights, youth employment and development aid.

Laura Schneider, an actress and singer from Germany reminded the youth that our vision of success should not only include our personal gain: “I reached my goal of being an actress….”  she said, “but what really matters is the intention behind your vision. If you’re intention is ‘me, me, me’ – I am not sure about that. But if you’re intention is for the benefits of all beings – miracles are going to happen. Doors are going to open. My life is a living proof that is possible.”

A completely different angle on following one’s vision was given by Aart Huijg (Netherlands), who cycled 34,000 kilometers from the North- to the South Pole: “I took the decision to take this 620 day long trip simply for one reason – because I knew that I could! I knew that anything was possible if only I believed in myself.” Aart faced many adverse situations, physical exhaustion and survived on just 5 Euro per day – enough to eat, but not enough to pay for a smartphone!

Br. Shubamrita Chaitanya encouraged the youth to become responsible leaders, practicing the three “R”s: Respect for Self, Respect for others and Responsibility for all our actions. Br. Shubamrita stressed the importance of Compassionate Leadership in the present times to bring about a change in the world. The best example for which is our beloved Amma. He said, “It is easy to keep discussing for days together about the present condition of the world and blame everybody for it. But Amma has a different approach. She does not just talk about it but tries to do something about it. She also tries to make everyone ask himself or herself, ‘What I am doing to make the situation better?’”

Bri. Dipamrita Chaitanya outlined how an optimistic vision of life can greatly enhance our level of happiness, contentment and health. Her talk was interspersed with interesting anecdotes and inspiring videos.

 

15 workshops

In the afternoons participants could choose between a diverse range of workshops: Finding flow in everyday life (psychology), story-telling & improv-theatre, youth-IAM meditation, yoga & chanting, tai chi & healthy nutrition, singing, improv-dance, 5-rhythms-dance, communicating with the horses, building a labyrinth, and artwork.

The photography workshop collected thousands of stunning photos. One workshop group built a labyrinth out of sand and stone in the garden of MA Center. The labyrinth, which was designed after the model of the ancient labyrinth of Chartres, France, has been used in many ancient cultures around the world as a tool for finding one’s personal vision and path in life.

An exclusive harp playing workshop was led by Christina Tourin, an internationally renowned harp player and pioneer in harp-therapy. The workshop participants gave a concert at the local old age home, sharing the gift of music with the elderly residents. Christina Tourin also gifted two harps to participants of her workshop, who will continue the visits of old-age homes in Portugal and Austria.

 

Building a barefoot-path

As every year, AYUDH also wants to make a contribution to the local surroundings. Therefore one workshop group built a barefoot path in the garden of the social care-center in Michelstadt. The bare-footpath is made up with natural materials and is open to people of all ages to train their sense of touch. Stephan Kelbert, the Mayor of Michelstadt, praised the youth’s contribution and hard work while inaugurating it on July 19th.

Sustainability campaign in schools

At least one youth from every nation participated in the In-Deed workshop, which trained them as coaches in sustainable development. Once the youth are back in their home countries they will visit schools and child-care centers to teach the children how to save water, grow their own organic food and protect biodiversity. Upon completing the school visits, participants will be awarded with the “Youth Pass”, a certificate by the European Commission for Education and Culture. “Youth Pass” certifies non-formal learning in the youth field and is acknowledged as part of the professional career of the youth throughout Europe.

Turning the vision within

Sessions of meditation, yoga, tai chi and bhajans, were held everyday and allowed the youth to turn their vision within and integrate the diverse impressions of the day. After dinner, the youth were invited to take part in interactive sessions led by Br. Shubamrita and Bri. Dipamrita to reflect upon their values, personal strengths and the impact they want to have in the world. The brilliant and very mature comments sparked a lively dialogue and ended the day in a reflective mode.

Art-project

The youth undertook a huge group-art-project to literally “color the world with love.” The continents of the world were cut out in wooden pieces, which were then colored with the handprints of each and every participant. In the end, a unique mosaic of colors and shapes were created – a testimony of the youth’s willingness to work with their hands and hearts towards creating a beautiful and colorful world.

Summer festival

The grand conclusion of the week was a summer festival on the eve of Friday 19th July, during which each workshop presented the results of their group work. The diverse range of presentations gave an impressive demonstration of AYUDH’s talent and creativity.

After the show, everyone proceeded to the inauguration of the labyrinth at MA Center. Under the light of the rising moon the youth enjoyed an exclusive classical concert with harp, flute and soprano. In this mystical atmosphere 300 candles were lit, which were then carried by the youth to a nearby lake, where they were set afloat onto the water. During the procession the youth sang the prayer “Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu” – praying for all beings in creation to be peaceful and happy.

– Dass

 

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AYUDH Youth Exchange USA 2012: The Joy of Giving

11-12 August 2012, MA Center, Washington DC
The third annual East Coast AYUDH Youth Exchange, held in M.A. Center in Washington D.C. Thirty four youth from around the United States to come together for this year’s theme of ‘The Joy of Giving’ fostered a transformative weekend of discussion, selfless service, and prayer.

 
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As the sun rose on the horizon, participants began the first day preparing lunch for a local shelter in Bethesda, Maryland.  Everyone’s personal touch added to the splendor of the scrumptious meal. Thereafter a hike alongside the exquisite Potomac River at the nearby Great Falls Park posed a time for connection with nature.   Inward reflection as well as conversation and getting to know one another passed the hour.

During the afternoon’s question and answer session, Br. Dayamrita touched upon an array of topics.  Inquires varied from basic techniques for overcoming stage fright to more complex issues of karmic unfolding during adverse circumstances.  Learning to keep a balance in all endeavors was a central theme.  Participants then shared personal experiences.  Exchanging thoughts and ideas revitalized the group to continue their charitable work.  Creativity came to life as participants each created their unique AYUDH shirt using spray paint.  In the evening, a heart-stirring bhajan session concluded the day with remembrance of the divine.  Musical talent filled the room as Sonia Patel sang ‘Every One in the World,’ an English song highlighting Amma’s dream for a peaceful world.   Interactive theater games ended the long day on a light-hearted note.

The following morning’s activities began with a thought-provoking discussion led by Br. Dayamrita.  Approaches to dealing with societal pressures affecting today’s youth were considered.  Participants debated on how to live in the world as members of society whilst holding on to spiritual values.   After the bhajan class  the group divided into several smaller ones, each composed a paragraph around this year’s theme for AYUDH.  What resulted was a melodious, multilingual conglomeration of voices, instruments, and styles centralized around ‘The Joy of Giving’.

As a finale to the retreat, all traveled to the Potomac Valley Nursing and Wellness Center to perform for the elderly residents. The group had prepared a collection of songs and dances.  As faces filled with smiles, participants shared their numerous talents.  Raju Mishra performed a Bollywood fusion dance.   Tom Marino choreographed an AYUDH group song.  One resident was inspired to participate by singing the 1934 classic, ‘Blue Moon’ for everyone.   As some were fighting to hold back their tears, others joyously joined in the celebration  – with goals set and hearts opened.

 

The Joy of Giving

AYUDH Europe’s 8th Youth Initiative, 15 – 21 July 2012, MA Center, Germany

The 8th European AYUDH Youth Initiative was an unique gathering where participants came from all parts of the continent and even from far off countries like Japan, Ukraine and the United States – 200 youth from 15 countries – came together at the MA Center Germany. The theme of this year was ‘The Joy of Giving.’ The youth focused on how they can use their personal talents and potential for the benefit of society and the environment. Each youth chose one workshop for the duration of the whole week. The workshops were designed to help the youth deepen their understanding of the three main topics of the initiative: ‘Give to Yourself’, ‘Give to Society’ and ‘Give to Nature.’

Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique for Youth taught the participants the simple yet effective meditation technique that can help them to be more balanced, focused and creative in their studies, work and personal life.

Workshps
A psychology workshop introduced the ‘Flow’ phenomena, which helps one to be more efficient, happy and relaxed in one’s work.

The singing, dancing and artwork workshops offered the chance to explore and express creative potential. All songs were written and composed by the participants themselves, ranging from Rap to Jazz to folk music. In two acting workshops the youth developed their improvisation & storytelling skills, while also learning about the discipline of acting.

Practical activities and the insight of a great workshop leader introduced the permaculture group to an alternative sustainable way to work with nature
A body work workshop introduced youth to simple and effective techniques for increased relaxation.

Motivational Talks
Each day a renowned speaker inspired the youth with motivational talks, using examples from their own lives. The speakers included Kirsi Ranto, pop-singer from Finland, Krisztina Peremartoni, who was the lead actress of the Hungarian National Theatre for 25 years, who talked to the participants of how singing and acting can also be used to help society and stressed on how much a refined character is important in remaining successful. Kirty Matabadal, UN Ambassador for Youth from the Netherlands shared her aspirations, tasks and responsibilities as UN ambassador with the youth.

The camp also had a very special visit from world-renowned German artist Rebecca Horn. Accompanied by Hayden Chisholm, a musician and composer from New Zealand, the evening began with the screening of the film made by her titled ‘Moon Mirror Journey’. The youngsters experienced the palpable atmosphere created by each piece, including ‘Jungle of Light’, the installation dedicated to Amma. In her speech, Rebecca Horn encouraged the youth to go back to their roots, value their cultural heritage and spread their love in society.

The talks by Br. Shubamrita on ‘Giving to Society’ and Bri. Dipamrita on ‘Giving to Nature’ highlighted on how everybody has the potential to create change in the world and in the restoring harmony between human beings and nature – in big and small ways.

Walk for Education
On the third day of the retreat, the youth took part in a charity walk ‘Walk for Education’ in the picturesque city of Michelstadt.

Back home, each participant had worked for raising awareness and funds for the walk, directed towards helping ‘Embracing the World’ in their educational projects for children. To support the youth in their cause and inform the public, the local bank “Volksbank Odenwald” hosted a one month video and photo exhibition about the educational initiatives of “Embracing the World”.

Along the way, the youth visited an old age home and spent a few hours with the residents there. Some young people visited room-bound elderly people and distributed some gifts hand-made by the participants. The Portuguese group played and sang for the elderly people in their rooms. Afterwards, Spanish TV comedian Antonio Jose Garcia del Valle entertained the residents and youth with a medley of popular songs and skits, bringing both tears and laughter to everyone’s face.

Dil Se De
On the penultimate day afternoon, the youngsters shared the ‘Joy of Giving’ through a multi-cultural youth street theatre performance. All topics explored during the week like benefits of meditation, protecting Mother Nature, conserving water and energy, relaxation techniques, etc, were translated into music, dance and drama. The performance culminated in a 200 strong dance troupe to this year’s theme song ‘Dil Se De’ [video]. Passers-by were impressed by the young people’s talents and sincere concern for environmental and social issues.

Candle Ceremony
Artist Gabriele von Lutzau, visited the M.A. Center to inaugurate a cast of the peace dove carved during the previous year. Each participant joined in the universal peace prayer ‘Om Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu’ and carried a candle to the nearby lake and gently placed it on the waters. It was a beautiful sight to see the 200 lighted candles, floating on the surface of water, with the atmosphere reverberating with the chants for world peace. The serene atmosphere created by the candle ceremony continued into a special exclusive concert with Kirsi Ranto and Antonio Jose Garcia del Valle. Other AYUDH participants shared their musical talents and an overwhelming feeling of pure joy was experienced by all.

On the final day, the Mayor of Brombachtal, Mr. Willi Kredel thanked the youth for travelling to the local region and mentioned how inspired he is by all that AYUDH does. As in previous years, the event was supported by the ‘Youth in Action’ programme of the EU and the city of Michelstadt.

Implementation
Throughout the week, the youth had drafted follow-up ‘Joy of Giving’ projects for implementation in their home countries. Each young person left for home with their hearts filled with fulfillment, happiness and enthusiasm to continue ‘Giving,’ which is such an important part of Amma’s life and teachings.

 

AYUDH participates in inter-religious peace prayer

12 September 2011 – Munich

AYUDH was invited by the catholic church to co-facilitate the inter-religious peace prayer. They also joined dialogue-groups to discuss ways to peace within a multicultural society. The youth read out from Amma’s teachings, sang the bhajan “Everyone in the world” and prayed “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.”

 

In a church centre in the Munich neighbourhood Haidhausen, about 120 representatives of various religions came together at an inter-religious youth meeting and collective prayer for peace.

Through the International Peace Meeting, the hosts, the congregation Sant´Egidio and the archdiocese of Munich and Freising discussed topics about living together with different religions and cultures.

 

Before the communal peace prayer, the individual religions prayed in accordance to their respective traditions, lit a peace candle together and placed flowers in a vase to create a colorful bouquet. Afterwards, the participants met for a dialogue where representatives of the different religions shared their own views and perspectives on ways of being in the world in respect to peace.

“In everyday religion, normally we don’t meet like this, rather everyone prays in their own way. This meeting offered the opportunity to get a taste of the different traditions, to discover what they have in common, and to remove prejudices. The building blocks of religion should be used to build bridges rather than walls” commented a participant, Nath Hirsch from AYUDH

– Das

Reaching new heights by AYUDH of USA

August 12-14, 2011 M.A. Center, Washington, DC.

Under the guidance of Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya, forty youth came together for the second annual AYUDH East Coast Youth Exchange for the theme ‘Reaching New Heights’. The zealous youth from across the United States and Canada gathered at the picturesque ashram to share ideas, pray together, and join hands in performing selfless service.

 

The participants arose early the first morning to cook and serve lunch for the Bethesda Cares shelter in Maryland. Apart from the joy of partaking in teamwork to churn out a meal within an hour, some participants remarked that it was their first time serving at a shelter, and it was a transformative experience. “It was eye-opening to see firsthand how others appreciated so dearly what many of us take for granted every day,” commented Amit Sookdeo.

 

In a question-and-answer session with Br. Dayamrita, participants learned how to handle stress, especially with demanding academic curricula.

One of the retreat’s highlights was the screening of Bag-It, a documentary highlighting the gross waste of plastic and the subsequent effects on our ecosystems. Inspired by AYUDH members’ service projects around the world, the Amrita University students’ efforts to clean roadside trash in India, and Amma’s message that “Nature is our Mother,” the participants each pledged to make one change in their lives. The pledges ranged from carrying reusable bags to the grocery store to growing plants in one’s backyard, stopping the personal purchase of plastic water bottles to serving at a homeless shelter twice a month, and even recommending a composting system for one’s college dining hall to wasting less water on a daily basis.

“Even though we pledged to do simple things like grow plants in our house or be more conscious about the environment, these little actions will add up in the end and we will see genuine change,” said Jaya Vallis.

The rain cleared up the evening, as AYUDH members swam in the Ashram’s pool, played tennis and basketball, enjoyed a slip-and-slide, and roasted marshmallows in a bonfire.

The following day, participants were treated to a lively bhajan class on the song “Akhilandeshwari Ambe,” involving a conglomeration of instruments, music styles, a rap, and singing variations between boys and girls. AYUDH had a satsang with Swami Amritaswarupananda via webcast from Amritapuri, who gave the camp members a guide to reach new heights and embrace what he coined the Law of Grace. He also spoke of how love is a product of Amma’s grace, the elimination of emotional distress, and the three C’s: Calmness, Cheerfulness, and Confidence.

 

The final event of the retreat was one that had many participants fighting back tears. AYUDH had the opportunity to do a one-hour performance before the elderly residents of the Potomac Valley Nursing and Wellness Center. Titled “East Meets West,” the performance had a medley of songs and dances, such as “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Hari Pancha, “Kal Ho Na Ho” by Amritesh Thoppil, “My Favorite Things” on saxophone by Karthik Krishnan, and a Wushu martial arts demonstration by Poorna Sreekumar.

Several AYUDH members from DC choreographed and performed a fusion dance with raas, bhangra, Bollywood, and hip-hop, followed by an interactive “Lean on Me” led by Tom Marino for which all of AYUDH and many of the Center’s residents sang along. Throughout the entire set, several residents in the front row displayed their enthusiasm by clapping and laughing aloud at the jokes. The most memorable part was a spontaneous, heartwarming rendition of “Amazing Grace” by Fran, a care home resident who sung in her church choir from the age of two.

Said Tom Marino, “This lesson was made tangible at our visit to the nursing home: At first I was nervous and doubtful. Through Grace, the three C’s gradually replaced my distress. The result was love, which had saturated the entire hall and is still present in my heart.” After spending some time with the residents who expressed their appreciation for the performance and after promising to come back soon, AYUDH members wheeled residents back to their rooms and returned to the DC Ashram, invigorated and touched by the bliss received in performing seva.

 

– KaliDas