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Region 3 - January 2013 Update

Region 3 Christmas Event – Visit to the Newham University Hospital

Christmas is a special time of the year. Devotees in Region 3 were blessed to celebrate this special occasion spreading and sharing much joy and merry with people who were less fortunate. The Region 3 Christmas program was a heart-warming event, where we went out and found God smiling at us in the eyes of the happy people, whom we were gifted to spend an afternoon with.

As part of the Christmas celebrations in Region 3, we joined hands with a local Franciscan friary named Helping Hands in Plaistow in East London. Brother Julian from the Society of St. Francis, who heads Helping Hands, arranged for devotees from Region 3 to spend an afternoon at the Newham University Hospital in Plaistow, singing Christmas carols and talking with the patients who have had to stay at the hospital over Christmas.

Even the lead up to the hospital visit was a heartening experience. The plan for the visit was that the Region 3 devotees as part of the group would sing carols at the various wards, give each patient a Christmas card and spend a few minutes talking to them and help them feel a little bit of the merry that we were bubbling with. However, there were so many who wanted to come on this visit but could not make it, especially all the children in Region 3 SSE school. Nonetheless, they wanted to make a difference. For over two weeks prior to the visit, the children, teachers and helpers at the SSE school made as many wonderful cards they could for the patients we were visiting at the hospital. Each card fashioned with much care, shone as a sweet sign of love that the children wanted to share with the patients that they were meant for.

On Sunday the 23rd of December, the group of devotees gathered at the reception of the Newham University Hospital. The group consisted of many SSE children, Sai youth and elders eagerly waiting to take part in the activity. The group was lead by brother Julian, first to the wards for the elderly. There were 3 wards with many large dormitories and smaller individual rooms. The group split into two going into the various wards, dormitories and rooms with carol sheets and Christmas cards. Singing joyful carols, sometimes as per some of the patient’s request, the groups lifted the spirits of one and all. Some of the luckier patients were even gifted with hand made origami artworks made by one of our Region 3 youth.

It was truly a sight to behold. For as observers we were left baffled as to who brought joy to whom. Some of the patients were so happy to hear the merry notes that they sat up and spoke at length thanking the small band of singer at their bedside. Little did we realize that even the nurses and the helpers greatly appreciated our presence there. Each and every nurse, thanked brother Julian and the group for coming on this visit and surcharging the whole atmosphere in the wards with all the smiles and singing.

Encouraged by the way the whole visit was going we were requested if we can also visit the wards for young children and emergency patients. Glad to be spreading more of Swami’s love, the group went on to sing at more wards. At one dormitory, one of the patients broke down into tears saying how the carols reminded her of her childhood and thanked the group profusely for this selfless act. Nurses and helpers who couldn’t help but stop to wonder at the group, walked us from wards to ward, sometimes joining us in the carols.

The whole visit was a truly rewarding experience that Swami had so beautifully crafted for us. The visit came to an end with parting group photograph with brother Julian and many loving parting thanks and greeting. In the coming year we hope to have more of such fulfilling and divine Sai activities that devotees can participate and benefit from.

Karthik Prasanth – Region 3 Spiritual Co-ordinator

Manor Park Sai Centre - Christmas Day Seva

On this auspicious day – Manor Park Sai Centre serves the local residents of East London with Christmas lunch and entertainment. Jesus Christ taught us to serve all with compassion and love, he showed by example by washing the feet of his disciples and then sitting with them for a meal.

The venue on Christmas Day was the Froud Centre on Romford Road, whilst Manor Park has been doing this service for many years; it was originally started by the Aston-Mansfield charity, who is the management committee of the Froud Centre. Due to the lack of volunteers, they asked the Sai Centre if they would undertake this project on Christmas Day. Approximately 20 years later, the Sai Centre is still doing this service today.

Christmas Day is an enjoyable day and the centre requires many devotees to help out throughout the day. This is a time when you see devotees of different ages come together to serve. Swami puts every single devotee in a role(s) suitable for them.

The day is usually very busy and starts around 7.30am. Kitchen staff are ready preparing food for the 27 guests and a further 30 volunteers. A dedicated non Sai devotee has faithfully volunteered his services over the past 20 years to cook Christmas lunch and lead the kitchen. At 9am, the team responsible for decorating the tables arrives, at 10.30 the drivers arrive and are given the names and address of those who wish to be collected and are dispatched at 11.00. Lunch is ready by mid-day and a team of devotees are ready to serve the traditional Christmas lunch.

At 2pm, lunch is finished and it’s time to wash and tidy up. Whilst volunteers are in the kitchen washing up, our guests are being entertained with various games. At 3pm, we all sit down to watch the Queen Speech, during this time mince pies are being warmed up, along with tea and coffee preparation and served at 3.30. At 4pm, Reverend Brian Lewis from the St Michael’s Church (also based in the Froud Centre) addresses our guest.

This is followed by SSE Children singing Christmas Carols. At 4.30pm the volunteer drivers are ready to collect their respective guest(s) and safely take them home, a present is given to each guest as they are leave.

Finally, the day is over and all that remains is the final round of washing up and clearing up.

This fun loving day was enjoyed by the guests and volunteers. We thank Swami for giving us this opportunity to serve.

Anant Patel