In October 2017, an estimated 50,000 people in Sonoma County, California, evacuated their homes due to raging wildfires. Recorded as the deadliest fire in the state’s history, the catastrophic fires took lives of more than 40 people and damaged thousands of homes. Firefighters took many days to contain the various wildfires that devastated entire neighbourhoods, some of which were completely charred to the ground. Even though many residents escaped physically unscathed, their hearts were deeply scorched by the devastating loss of their homes, which represented a sizeable portion of their personal wealth and held their most cherished possessions and family memories. The Sathya Sai Centres from Northern California provided care packages to the afflicted, of essential hygiene items, combs and hand-made soaps in envelopes containing messages of hope. In addition, volunteers baked about a thousand cookies with messages of gratitude and delivered them to the firefighters, thanking them for their selfless service. Several volunteers cooked, transported and served meals of vegetarian chili soup, bread rolls, baked potatoes and cookies to evacuees sheltered at a community centre. After dinner, the volunteers sang songs of hope and peace for the survivors, which elicited observations of deep gratitude from many of the recipients. Participation in this service project and witnessing the resilience of the survivors was a transformative experience for many. For instance, one child expressed how inspiring it was to see children who had survived the trauma of the wildfires still running around in high spirits, with smiles on their faces.
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