New Year noting…

Welcome 2013 !

Just a minute ago, 2012 was given a go-bye, sorry ‘Durga, Durga‘ in our parlance! And in comes a beaming 2013. A very happy, hearty New Year Day aka Kalpataru Day to every one of you!

Brother Swami Saradaprabhanandaji Maharaj joins me too! The officials from headquarters and devotees also wish you a happy New Year and Blessed Kalpataru day!

Marble image of Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna
Marble image of Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna

The New Year 2013 is indeed a memorable year when the 150th glorious birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda is going to to be celebrated. In fact the celebration has earnestly begun right at the start of 2010 itself as multitudes of welfare programs were and have been initiated in India and other countries. So, a very, very happy Swamiji’s Year to every one!

“How was your life in the bygone year?”

Some would hesitantly reply, “Don’t ask! It was not at all encouraging!”

So adverse circumstances were aplenty? Never mind. Think what Swamiji says about Life. He defines Life as  “the unfoldment and development of a being under circumstances tending to press it down.” If you had had problems galore that were ‘pressing’ you ‘down’, thank God, because those were the best opportunity for unfoldment and development.

Life is nothing but a process of Learning.  Situations are indeed window-less, door-less and even wall-less schools. Wealth of knowledge has already been accumulated through our experiences. Tirukkural asks, kattRadanaal aaya payan en kol vaalaRivan nattRaal thozhaar enin” (I.1.2) Of what avail is the Learning if divine feet of Him who possesses perfect wisdom are not worshipped?

So, God-centred Life is what we require in this New Year. Once goal is set up, it becomes easy to navigate the course of life. Did not Master say on the 1st January of 1886, “May your spiritual consciousness be awakened!”?

May the New Year ‘gift’ us further opportunities in the ‘manifestation of Divinity already within’ us!

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Aiding the AIDS campaign

Today is World AIDS Day!

A terminally-ill patient
A terminally-ill patient in SA

I was pleasantly surprised when I received the communication from the Blogcatalog requesting all bloggers to Unite in the campaign against spread of HIV/AIDS. Yes, thats a wonderful idea as today the thinking people all over the world are seized of this killer scourge problem and are trying to widely broadcast the campaign so that it reaches the most affected.

When I was actively serving the Tuberculosis patients in Ranchi TB Sanatorium, the then Doctor Maharaj of the Sanatorium – Swami Satyeshananda – used to impress upon me on how the TB had become intimately related to the HIV infections (while unfortunately the official circles would try to underplay the statistics). I realised the inter-connexion well when I came to South Africa last year and started associating with the welfare activities here, pioneered by a monastic brother Swami Saradananda who has been relentless in conceiving and executing suitable programmes for amelioration especially of the HIV/Aids infected patients in the KwaZulu Natal province which is said to have the highest incidence in this country. 

There are an estimated 33 million people with AIDS worldwide. It affects every country, city, and town in the world. And, the most frightening thing about it is that is going largely unchecked. In fact, that is one of the reason that worldaidscampaign.org is continuing its “leadership” theme, which it developed after learning that many leaders who promised to support AIDS were not keeping their promises. 

What’s the position in South Africa especially of the AIDS affected children?

Ekusizaneni Children's Home, in K Section, Kwa Mashu
Ekusizaneni Children

As per AVERT an international HIV and Aids Charity, having projects in countries where there is a particularly high rate of infection, such as sub-Saharan Africa, or where there is a rapidly increasing rate of infection such as in India, the UNAIDS estimated that there were 1.4 million South African children orphaned by AIDS in 2007, compared to 780,000 in 2003. I am quoting from AVERT:

With many women who are HIV-positive still not receiving drugs that could prevent them passing HIV to their babies, HIV infections are alarmingly common amongst children in South Africa. According to UNAIDS, there were around 280,000 children aged below 15 living with HIV in South Africa in 2007.

Children who are living with HIV are highly vulnerable to illness and death unless they are provided with paediatric antiretroviral treatment. Unfortunately there is still a shortage of such treatment in South Africa. The AIDS Law Project, an NGO based in Johannesburg, estimated that 50,000 children in South Africa were in need of antiretroviral drugs at the beginning of 2006, but that only around 10,000 were receiving them. UNAIDS estimates that at the end of 2005, children accounted for 8% of those receiving antiretroviral drugs in South Africa.

As well as many children being infected with HIV in South Africa, many more are suffering from the loss of their parents and family members from AIDS. Once orphaned, these children are more likely to face poverty, poor health and a lack of access to education.

How our Centre in South Africa stepped in…?

Swami Saradananda of SA, a dynamic monk for social change
Swami Saradananda of SA, a dynamic monk for social change

During the 1980’s and early nineties prior to the first, free democratic elections in South Africa, violence in the Kwa Mashu area was at its peak. This resulted in many killings and deaths of parents leaving behind orphaned children. In addition, there were also many orphans due to their parents dying of HIV/Aids and children infected by HIV/Aids.

The Ramakrishna Centre, here under the able leadership of Swami Saradananda mobilised its resources and engaged with Mrs BF Mhlongo from the Ekusizaneni Children’s Home, in K Section, Kwa Mashu to be of some assistance. At that time they had make-shift wooden cabins that were used for the children and during inclement weather posed many problems for them. The Centre immediately saw the need for good, secure and comfortable accommodation for these children and began a project to build two dormitories for boys and girls. 

These dormitories were built and furnished with double bunk beds and handed over to the local committee in 2001, by the kind assistance of our donors and well-wishers. According to Prof Vinod Jogessar, the Chairperson of the Centre’s Health Wing Ramakrishna Clinic, “On  the opening day, 5 patients were admitted.. These patients were in wheel chairs; emaciated, frail, weak and unable to walk. Just being put into comfortable beds with clean sheets and caring nursing staff was something they had not experienced before. The joy expressed on the faces of these patients is indescribable. Some weeks later, two of these patients walked out of the hospice on discharge. Doctors of the Ramakrishna Clinic conduct weekly medical rounds and also provide fresh vegetables and other provisions on a weekly basis. Good nutrition is an important aspect in  the management of patients with AIDS. The medical doctors feel privileged to be able to serve the needy and regard service to man as  worship of God.” 

And for the terminally-ill patients…

Ms N Ngubane, Councillor Mr L Naidoo (Deputy Mayor eThekwini Municipality, KZN), Pastor B A Sibisi (Chairperson, Ramakrishna Abalindi Home), the Hon. Dr Z L Mkhize (Minister for Finance and Economic Development, KZN), Caregiver, Adv H Kessie Naidu SC, Mr P Ishwarlaal and Prof V B Jogessar
From left: Ms N Ngubane, Councillor Mr L Naidoo (Deputy Mayor eThekwini Municipality, KZN), Pastor B A Sibisi (Chairperson, Ramakrishna Abalindi Home), the Hon. Dr Z L Mkhize (Minister for Finance and Economic Development, KZN), Caregiver, Adv H Kessie Naidu SC, Mr P Ishwarlaal (Chairperson of Ramakrishna Centre of SA) and Prof V B Jogessar (Chairperson of Ramakrishna Clinic)

Recently the Centre took up providing indoor facility to terminally-ill patients. On 6 August 2008, the Ramakrishna Abalindi Home (Inanda) was declared open by the Hon. Dr Z L Mkhize (Minister for Finance and Economic Development, KwaZulu-Natal). This facility was built by the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa and handed over on that day to the office-bearers of the Home. The Home, intended for terminally-ill patients, comprises three sections of 45 beds, made up of three wards (15 beds for males, 15 beds for females, 10 beds for children and 5 beds for mothers wanting to stay with their children), offices, stock rooms, ablutions facilities etc. The Home will provide a much needed facility for HIV-AIDS and cancer patients in the area.

eThembeni Home for Terminally ill patients - Female ward
eThembeni Home for Terminally ill patients - Female ward

This is the second Home that the Centre has constructed for terminally-ill patients, the previous one being a 30-bed facility in Kwa Mashu. Minister Mkhize pointed out that the facility was not only a healthcare Home but also a symbol of integrated effort between Indians and Africans that promoted inter-racial, inter-religious and inter-linguistic understanding.