Sathya Sai Centres across the USA embarked on a variety of service projects during October–November 2016 related to the global initiative, Serve the Planet, under the theme, “Love for Animals.”
In the Mid-Atlantic region, the Bridgewater Centre in New Jersey collected and donated dog and cat food, treats, blankets, sheets, towels, and bleach to an independent, non-profit animal shelter in the greater Princeton area. The Sathya Sai Centre of Flushing, New York, hosted a talk by the president of the non-profit group, Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, and a zoologist who has worked tirelessly to stop animal abuse. The speakers addressed 30 Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) children on the importance of love, compassion, and empathy for animals. The SSE children, in turn, held a toy sale to support an animal rescue and adoption centre, and collected items for a thrift shop that helps to pay medical bills for pets whose owners are indigent.
In the Mid-Central region, Sathya Sai children and members of the St. Louis, Missouri, and Southern Illinois Sathya Sai Centres participated in an open house at the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, Missouri, which supports biological diversity and threatened bird species. Volunteers donated two-and-a-half months’ supply of bird seeds, cleaned displays, dismantled an enclosure, raked leaves, and helped to identify needs of the animal hospital. They also donated various items to a local branch of the Humane Society. Members of the SSIO in Louisville, Kentucky, and in Jackson, Mississippi, volunteered at their local, non-profit, “no-kill policy” animal adoption agencies by cleaning the animal shelters, donating pet food and other supplies, and helping with the shelters’ annual fundraisers.
In the North-Central region, SSE children of the Sathya Sai Centre of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, along with others, attended an interactive workshop on “Protecting the Ocean.” The workshop aimed to increase awareness of the importance of the ocean eco-system, the destruction of ocean life by pollution, and the major role we can play in protecting ocean life. Workshop attendees were informed that garbage, particularly plastic products such as grocery bags, threatens ocean life such as fish, coral reefs, underwater plants, and amphibians. Participants were inspired to become change agents by taking on a 21-day “No Plastic” challenge and carrying reusable bags when shopping.
In Northern California, SSIO members and their families served at a coastal conservation and restoration project at Pilkington Creek, Santa Cruz. The volunteers pruned bushes, trimmed hedges, and spread mulch at the Fowler Creek Community Park. Members also participated in the Arroyo Mocho Stanley Reach Riparian Restoration Project, helping to remove invasive plants and protect native plants, to restore the natural habitat, benefitting both animals and birds. A few Sathya Sai Centres donated items on animal shelter wish lists.
In Southern California, the Sathya Sai Centre of Mission Viejo provided services for animals at a county animal shelter on 27th October 2016. Sathya Sai volunteers donated several clean, soft blankets and towels for animals that had been sleeping on the hard concrete floor. The volunteers who delivered the blankets felt comforted that some of the animals would sleep warmer that night. The Centre is considering serving animals on an ongoing basis.
In the Southwest region, SSIO members served at the Sedona Vedic Eco Village, dedicated to natural and sustainable agriculture and cow protection. Elsewhere, Sathya Sai volunteers in the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado fed animals at shelters, at the Longmont Humane Society, and at a wildlife sanctuary in South-eastern Colorado.
In the Northeast region, five Sathya Sai Centres in eastern Massachusetts and Maine continued to integrate the Serve the Planet message during Global Akhanda Bhajans, which was attended by more than 300 Sathya Sai followers. A Green Team was assembled to make the event environmentally-friendly and reduce its carbon footprint. A pre-event site visit helped to map waste streams and facilities for clean-up. Reusable dinnerware, cloth napkins, and leftover food containers were utilised, while Centre members were reminded to adopt green practices such as carpooling and bringing their own reusable utensils. Additionally, posters for raising awareness of reverence toward Mother Nature were displayed. SSE children, who had explored these topics in their classes, also brought in recycled items for display. After the event, Centre members took home the food scraps for composting. The event was a culmination of local greening efforts by the Greater Boston area Sathya Sai Centres that had started over a decade ago.