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Love and Light

UK Flood Relief

Unloading items for Flood Relief at ‘Centre for Donations’ at the Old Summerfield Distribution Centre in Bridgwater.

"Through service you realise that all beings are waves of the Ocean of Divinity. No other spiritual discipline can bring you into the incessant contemplation of the One-ness of all living beings. You feel another's pain as your own; you share another's success as your own. To see every one else as yourself and yourself in every one, that is the core of the discipline of service."
- Sri Sathya Sai Baba, 14th November 1975

The recent storms in UK had a big impact upon the lives of significant number of people throughout Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and the Thames Valley regions due to continued flooding and power outages. Many of us watched or read about the courage of local communities in dealing with this adversity, as well as the untiring relief and rescue efforts by various governmental and voluntary agencies. The Sathya Sai Organisation in the UK also joined the relief efforts by launching an appeal for blankets, duvets, sleeping bags, biscuits, crisps, dry snacks and water. Devotees from around UK rallied to the appeal responding enthusiastically and participated in a spirit of oneness with fellow beings and as their offering of love and gratitude to our beloved Lord.

Two regional hubs were identified; Leicester (Region 4, Midlands) and Harrow (Region 2, London) where items collected from the regions were stored.

Volunteers from Region 4 and 5 delivering items from Region 4, 5 & 8 to Storage Hub in Leicester, Region 4.

The first shipment of items collected took place on the 17th February 2014 which was destined for the Salvation Army at the Westfield Church, Bridgwater, Somerset. Few families from the flood afflicted areas visited the centre when items were unloaded. One of the family members approached us to thank us profusely for the duvets and blankets since the children were sleeping on curtains over the past few nights. Another person with his eyes watering approached us, again expressing his thanks for the generosity.

8th March saw our 2nd delivery in vans from 2 separate locations, Leicester and London.

The van with collections from the Leicester hub had donations from as far places such as Scotland, Leeds, Bradford and other places of the midlands. Items included, sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, food items, cleaning items such as heavy duty brushes, cleaning fluids and cleaning cloths.

Our first drop of the day was the Food Bank in Tewkesbury where we met Jack Lowe, who works for the Food Bank, covering Tewkesbury, Gloucester and Cheltenham. It was lovely to see our organisation assisting such charities that are engaged in helping those in need. Jack was very appreciative of the donations and commented in his subsequent mail response, “It was great to see you and I will see your generosity being used in the good cause of what we do. May God bless all the kind people who donated all the food and sleeping bags.”

‘Centre for Donations’ at the Old Summerfield Distribution Centre in Bridgwater. Rows and rows of food, clothing, childrens toys and items to help with next phase of cleaning.

The second drop was at the ‘Centre for Donations’ at the Old Summerfield Distribution Centre in Bridgwater.

Items collected in London and Region 6 were stored at the hub in Harrow and homes of devotees. These were finally packed and loaded onto a van. The journey from London to the Centre for Donations in Bridgwater took approximately 3 hours; both vans from the 2 locations congregated together around the same time.

It was fascinating to see their process in operation where the affected members of the public showed their ID and then could walk down isles (similar to supermarket setting) and pick up items of clothing, food, toys for children, books etc as needed. Here at the Centre of Donations, volunteers had been working from 9am to 5pm every day as well as another team coming in overnight, tidying up and sorting through donated items. For people who could not come in to collect items due to problems of access arising from the floods, volunteers having four wheel drive cars delivered directly to their homes.

Items collected and delivered to ‘Centre for Donations’ at the Old Summerfield Distribution Centre in Bridgwater.

Whilst speaking to the local volunteers, we picked up several stories. One such which sticks in our minds, involved a lady that had just visited the centre a few hours before, When she saw the help offered by this centre to those in need, she burst into tears; she commented that she couldn’t believe the help she was receiving, she had lost everything, the basics and here she could go round and pick up items as needed.

Flooding observed during driving through Somerset & Volunteers of the Salvation Army in Westfield Church, Bridgwater - serving in the spirit 'God is Love'

Westfield Church in Bridgwater, Somerset used by Salvation Army to coordinate Flood Relief efforts & Delivery of the first shipment in Westfield Church, Bridgwater.

Gigantic Pumps from Holland used to divert water in Bridgwater

After spending some time with the volunteers, we learned that they were coming to the end of the first phase of supplying food, clothes etc. Plans were being drawn to look at the cleaning of the homes, work places etc after the devastation caused by the floods. Some of the properties were so badly damaged that the properties had to be knocked down and rebuilt due to damage caused by water to the foundations. Some people will not be able to go back in to their homes until Christmas this year, that’s nearly a year after being evacuated due to the scale of floods!

Items being collected in Region 1 and 2 and being offered at the Lotus Feet of our Beloved Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

It was an eye opener for us to see first-hand the service that was being provided on the ground to those affected by the floods. We had an uncle that travelled with us from Leicester; he was 71 years of age and had been associated with the Sai Organisation for the past 25 years. His experience was that this was the first time that he saw devotees from around UK - SSE Children, Youth, Adults and the Elderly that had got together, united in Love to help with disaster relief at our own doorstep. He had remarked that children in the Centres, through Ceiling on Desires had given up chocolates and crisps and had offered the money saved to purchase items for the flood victims. Very moving indeed! This reminded us of the delightful story that our Beloved Lord, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba had mentioned about a young boy who out of his love for Baba didn’t give his clothes to the dhobi (washman) for three months and washed them himself; the 100 rupees (£1) that he had saved, he offered it to Baba towards the cost of the Super Speciality Hospital that was being built at the time. Baba was so overjoyed with the sense of selflessness that he loving said to the boy "My dear son, this is not just 100 rupees, this note is worth millions and millions of rupees for Me!"

Volunteers at ‘Centre for Donations’ at the Old Summerfield Distribution Centre in Bridgwater.

This is just the start, we have a long way to go, but our Lord has given us an opportunity to unite together to help our fellow brothers and sisters in need. The next step is to help with the second phase, the cleaning of premises. In the meantime, if you wish to participate in the cleaning phase after the floods have receded, then please pass on your names to your Centre/Group Chairs.

Jayesh Patel (R1 Service Coordinator)
Ketan Gokani (ex R4 Chair)