Holistic Education for Higher Awareness

The goal of education is to increase awareness not information. Watching our inner responses, knowing that they are there, increases our self-awareness.- His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Prologue:

Since the advent of the encyclopedists and the dawning of the Age of Reason, Education has played a great role in the shaping of Western society, politics and economics. In India, at the end of the colonial period, the traditional Indian system of education was in shambles and almost extinct and the substituted Anglicized form was a poor substitute to suit the temperamentand world view of the Indian with his mother tongues at constant war with the phonics, grammar and syntax of English.

Care for Children- Gift a Future, Gift a Smile Program:

In 1981, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar embarked on opening free schools to provide access to a higher awareness to every child, irrespective of his/ her family’s economic/ social condition. Today, that one school has multiplied to 425 educating more than 53,000 students across India. From tribal forests to city slums, these schools are an oasis of learning in the midst of many apparent “difficulties”.

What makes the schools so unique is the very process that causes the creation of the school in the first place. Be it local villagers, or tribals, or slum dwellers, on completion of a leadership program of Art of Living Foundation, they invariably manifest their latent quality to serve their immediate community. For the most part, these projects end up either being a school or providing water (river rejuvenation etc.), cleaner environments etc.

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Next comes the provision for land. Most of the schools stand on donated land as the community members discuss the value of having a school in their midst. As the land gets donated, the mental alignment of all the stakeholders of that area makes the construction and the physical manifestation of the school possible in record time, with the monetary support of donors from around the world.

With that comes the staffing of these schools where most of the local women and men, established in the meditation and breathing practices of the Art of Living Foundation, on a regular basis with the required academic background, support the education of their young. Given how invested the local community is at every level, the quality of care and attention the children experience is of a different nature.

As we enter these school campuses, the first thing we notice is the wide-eyed, bright, smiling faces of the children. There is an underlying joy that radiates throughout. In one school, when we struck up conversations with some students and asked them what was unique about this school, one of the responses was, “Here, we are respected by our teachers.”

Teachers support these children to discover their latent qualities of human values. It is just not a “job” with salary and benefits. It is part of the process of heightening self-awareness. It resonates with the above quote of Sri Sri, the inspiration behind all of these schools.

By: Meenakshi Srinivasan

California girl’s initiative helps underprivileged kids

Are you a parent who wonders how to raise compassionate kids in a place where they never meet anyone going through poverty and hardship? The story of Amisha, a 7th grade student living in Santa Clara, California is an example of how a kid living in USA can feel connected to and impact underserved parts of the world on another continent. Last year, her dad Nilesh Acharya told her about Care for Children and what it does for underprivileged kids in India who are able to go to school because of the funds raised by Care for Children in the US. After becoming aware of CFC's cause, she realized that the education she and her friends take for granted, is not even available to many kids in other parts of the world. She felt that every child should get an education because knowledge helps children come out of poverty and ignorance, so she felt strongly that she should do something to help the kids.

Brahma Kamal growing this year

Brahma Kamal growing this year

She came up with an idea which she could easily do at home. She started growing exotic plants which are difficult to find at local nurseries. Her mom Nivedita encouraged and helped her in this endeavor. She started with two types of plants: Nishigandha (Tuberose) and Lemongrass. Tuberose is a rare plant hard to find in local stores. Lemongrass is used in Thai food and tea. It also has medicinal value in curing cough and cold. Once the plants were big enough to be sold, she started telling family friends about her cause and posted pictures of the plants on Facebook. She told them about the schools and how they can help by buying her plants. She received good response from her friends and family and was able to sell around 18 plants for a profit of $151. She donated all the proceeds to Care for Children. Encouraged by the results, this year Amisha is even more enthusiastic about growing more plants. She started planting seeds in March and she already has orders for July 2017. This year she is growing more varieties of plants, such as, Brahma Kamal, Soantakka and Michigandha in addition to Tuberose and Lemongrass.

When asked how she feels, she said, “Knowing that I have helped other children feels really great. It makes me happy and proud.” She would like to visit one of the schools one day and meet some of the children.

Soantakka in Amisha's garden

Soantakka in Amisha's garden

She would like to share this message with other children like her all over the world: “We take education for granted. We should realize how lucky we are. When my dad told me about kids who are not so fortunate, it really made me think how we can help those children. After doing my volunteer fundraising, I can say that volunteering and helping others brings confidence, develops leadership qualities and brings meaning to life.”

 

If you would like your child or teen to volunteer for CFC or have an idea to help underprivileged kids, get in touch with us at careforchildren@artofliving.org

By Manisha Verma