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Region 1 - Young Adult Programme (YAP): Youth in Service

YAP (Young Adults Programme), is a regular Youth Satsang held across the country. In Region 1, youth meet every third Friday of the month to discuss Sai Teachings and how we can implement in our daily lives.

YAP is a platform where Youth can come and discuss topics dear to them, in an open environment. In our Region, we always have the kind loving support from the Sai Mandir at the Ganapathy Temple to allow us to use their venue to host our YAP sessions.

After taking in all the feedback from our youth, we decided to dedicate this month’s YAP on a topic where a lot of interest was shown: Seva (Service). We aimed to echo the interest that had been shown on the topic of service, by taking action on this interest. The evening proved to be a very successful method of providing a guide for the future, for our youth to set realistic targets for our spiritual progress.

Just like all YAP sessions, we started by introducing ourselves and had an ice breaker. We all recalled something new that we had done in the last 3 months. It was very interesting that we forget about the various new aspects in our lives in such a short space of time. We all probably do something new each and every day, but when we try to recall it, our monkey mind finds it difficult to focus.

From here we then decided to address the fundamental aspects of service, or lack of service. So we had an open discussion about; What is service? Why do we do service? How do we feel when doing service? What motivates us to do service?

“What is Service?” came to a quick consensus, that any act done with love and self-sacrifice can be considered as service, and sometimes we take for granted the finer aspects of service.

“Why we do service? Interlinked with the succeeding questions of; how do we feel when doing service and what motivates us to do service. Generally everyone felt that service was done to help other people unconditionally, but through further discussion, we realised that it is also to help ourselves spiritually progress. We felt that instead of thinking about how we have helped the other party, we should also be introspecting and realising how our action, has changed us. We concluded that we should not expect any reward for the actions we do, however praise is inevitable, but we should make sure it does not add to our egos. We strongly agreed that service to man is service to God, and we should permanently imprint that in our mind, while doing any act of service.

We then split up into two groups, to discuss: What service activities does our centre/region currently do? Why do we do them? What problems do we face in maintaining the project? What service activities do we actually want to do?

Both groups covered all the service activities which the region do, on a centre level as well as regional, ranging from general centre activities, to Bingo for the elderly, to collecting Christmas presents for children’ hospitals, plus many more activities. However we realised that these service activities are either one-off projects, such as collections for various holidays, or they are not very recognised service projects throughout the region. From this we tried to find out the reason why people got involved with these service activities; which resulted in personal fulfillment, the opportunity to give back the wonderful values we have learnt, the desire to help people who need it and the aspect of conquering a challenge.

Furthermore, we also established that these activities would start, but eventually the buzz would slowly fade away. This was due to various other commitments; both personally and within the centre/regions and nationally. It was also felt by some, that some of the service activities become too monotonous/boring and results in less engagement to participate.

Some of these aspects are difficult to address, but a lot of them funneled down to greater levels of organisation required, including communication at all levels from centre to regional to national. This tied in with the fact that with the lack of communication, we cease to see the end result, or the ongoing benefits of a service activity. When a service project becomes boring or monotonous, we shouldn’t continue to do the activity in that way, but at the same time we shouldn’t stop the activity. The best solution seemed to be to add a different aspect to the service project, to make it different to the regular weekly/monthly visits to the elderly homes and try to mix it up with a different activity to do with the elderly people. Swami has said Himself “life is a game, play it”; why don’t we make every aspect of our life an enjoyable game like, creating a game to find out who can find out the most interesting thing, one of the elderly citizens has done in their life. Creating a long term benefit can always help, by setting a target to work towards with any service project. Having realistic milestones set, provides motivation for everyone to work together to achieve them. Another thing we observed is that the youth work very well when we endeavor to undertake a large scale project.

The session provided a lot of information for us to work with over the coming months, but to keep the energy charged, we have decided to immediately partake in a few activities. First being Spires, a homeless shelter in South London, which is an ongoing project where each centre in the reigon collect food ingredients, and then two youth from each centre will help prepare the food to be distributed. This is an ongoing quarterly based project, that the youth will be taking lead in throughout the region. Secondly, the youth will be leading the Food Bank program where all the centres will donate non-perishable food items, and then these items are collected and provided to the Trussell trust, who run the UK Foodbanks.

Another project we are currently working on, is to go to Evelina Childrens Hospital at St Thomas hospital, and host various party events for the kids. We have a team of youth who are liaising with the hospital currently, and arranging specific dates where our Youth can go and help put a smile on these lovely children, who are undergoing various treatments. This is a very exciting project which we hope will become a regular occurrence.

We were also very lucky to have had the Regional Service Coordinator, Rajendrabhai Manandhar and Regional Chair, Yoges uncle attend our YAP session, where they have showed great interest in our plans and initiatives for the future, and have agreed to help us in any possible way. They also encouraged us to get more involved and aspire for more, as we underestimate our own capabilities.

The best way to conclude this article is by finishing with Swami’s own message on Service:

“Many social workers visit hospitals to do service. Most of the work done, like fanning patients, writing letters for them and singing bhajans, appears mechanical. It is done as that is what is defined as service and done without paying heed to what the patient really needs! That is incorrect. Service must be done with the full cooperation of the mind, gladly, intelligently, and reverentially. The patient should not feel disgusted at the fussiness of the social worker, but indeed look forward to their arrival, as that of someone near and dear! If you do not like one type of service, do not engage in it. Do not burden your mind by the unpleasantness of a task. Work done mechanically is like the flame of an oil-less wick. Your mental enthusiasm is the oil, pour it and the lamp will burn clear and long".
- Divine Discourse, Mar 25, 1958.

Written by Region 1 Youth Team