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Veerayatan Volunteering Trip 2018 By Anya Shah

Date: 23 Oct, 2018  No Comments

Modern day life has been very much centred on ‘taking’ rather than ‘giving’. We live a life that is dominated by social media where constant likes, photos, messages and video chats prevail; a complicated life controlled by busy schedules and constant material needs.

All that changed, albeit for a brief two-week period, when we were introduced to a group of people whose lives were not governed by the lure of social media and technology and to an individual whom I can only describe as one of the most inspirational people I have ever met: Welcome to Veerayatan and Acharya Shri Chandanaji. Veerayatan is an organisation that was formed from this great lady’s vision for the betterment of humanity. Schools, projects, museums; when Acharya Shri Chandanaji has a dream, it inevitably becomes a reality. Our group consisting of teenagers from the UK and Kenya embarked on this Seva trip during the summer of 2018, to experience the life of Acharyaji, to forget materialism, and to pursue a higher purpose.

I was extremely excited about the trip, but still had no idea about what to expect or what was expected of me. Would there be a big language barrier? Would they find our lessons interesting? Or even, inconsequential things like would we be fed Shaak Rotli every day? Question upon Question! Within a few days any reservations we may have had were dispersed, as at the Veerayatan Vidyapeeth School in Kutch, we were hit by a cyclone of enthusiasm and love from the children. From teaching them fractions, showing them imitation snow, to explaining that the Eiffel Tower was in France not Italy, the children never lost their infectious smiles, and were always willing to learn, even though our Gujarati was terrible at times!

Whilst the teaching was a delight, it was what happened after classes that really scored our hearts. A personal highlight was when I was walking down the road to the guest accommodation and all of the hostel girls came running up surrounding me shouting ‘Anya didi will you dance and sing with us?’ Their constant energy and excitement made me realise how much impact our presence had for the children.

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One of the most daunting tasks was teaching English to a class of 18 year olds – two years my senior. However, they were extremely welcoming and interactive which increased my self confidence immensely. After three days of tuition, there was great camaraderie with jokes and banter permeating everywhere, which made me feel very much part of the Veerayatan family. The friendship bands that they gifted us, whilst a truly wonderful gesture, would never fully attest to the bonds that were formed between us.

The Veerayatan School in Palitana was a different experience as we were teaching younger children. Regardless, this was just as rewarding as they shared the same enthusiasm for knowledge. As in Kutch, our time at the school also included serving the children snacks, which became another personal highlight, as seeing their eager, smiling faces when they recognised me from the teaching class was very special. During our stay we also went to more religious sites such as Hastagiri and the majestic Jain temples of Palitana – surely one of the wonders of the modern world. Whilst I had already been on a Jatra at Palitana two years earlier, this Jatra was no less fulfilling and I have begun to appreciate why Jains all around the world continue to be drawn to this, the holiest of pilgrimage sites.

In one of the many talks we had with Acharyaji, Sadhviji Shilpaji and Sadhviji Sumitraji, they talked about Veerayatan not being an organisation but a family where people from different cultures and backgrounds, come together to become one family. Words cannot describe the huge impact this trip has had on me and my spiritual journey and I would like to personally thank all the people connected with Veerayatan both in the UK and India for giving me this wonderful opportunity.

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