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July 2020
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Religious Youth Service

Chennai Hosts Regional Religious Youth Service Project

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Chennai, India—On September 23, 2005, 40 young, enthusiastic volunteers from various organizations representing five religions and five countries put their shoulders together for the sake of building peace and harmony. The service project was to build rest rooms with sanitation at the orphanage in Chennai, India. And for all the youngsters assembled at SBOA School, Chennai, which hosted the three-day Value Education workshop, it was like a fresh dawn.

Rev. John Gehring, Mrs. Rajeswari Menon, and Dr. N.R. Menon headed the Values Education Workshop on the theme of “Youth for Peace.” Each day an early morning session started with mediation and prayers representing various religions, and the volunteers shared the spirit of oneness and being together all times.

There were 80 participants enrolled in the Values Education workshop, but at one session, local participants numbered 155 — an overwhelming crowd — and Rev. John Gehring managed to interact with almost all of them. Topics such as Values in Our life, Friendship, Personal Responsibility, Respect for All Faiths, Teamwork and Co-operation, left a strong impression. The session on AIDS Awareness taught all participants about the values of moral life and purity.

Miss Kavitha, a graduate student in commerce and participant in the Religious Youth Service (RYS) Project said, “It is a different world for me altogether as I have never been to this kind of a camp. I feel fortunate to mingle with such good friends who think alike and share their experiences in the same way as I do, which is unique by itself.”

Sachin, a student from SBOA High School and participant in the RYS Project added, “Wow! It is so thrilling to be here with so many new friends. I was able to know my inner strength while working with the deprived children in the orphanage.”

Miss Laura, a participant from Malaysia commended, “I thought that the people will be different in India — unlike my country, Malaysia, but I finally discovered that though our countries have borders separating us, we have no barriers in being together and sharing together as one race or humanity speaking different languages.”

Miss Preethi, a graduate student in arts added, “I have no words to express my joy as I never felt before, eating together, praying together, working together and sharing so many things in common through our religions which I came to know after attending this camp. I understood that no one is superior than any one and no one is inferior to any one.”

After three days in the Value Education workshop at the SBOA School, our team of 40 participants moved for four days of manual work which involved building restrooms with sanitation for 140 orphan children. Most of their parents were victims of the tsunami or affecting by leprosy; in some cases, the parents were serving a sentence of life imprisonment.

Mr. Gayan, an athlete and RYS alumni from Sri Lanka, commented, “Man, move out — let me handle this for you! I carried loads of sand and bricks bonding friendship with my camp fellows. It was great that we were never tired of working and the orphanage kids had a great time with us.”

Much excited by the RYS project, Anand, a student from SBOA High School, said, “It was a great feeling to give a helping hand in all the activities. I was normally a shy person, but this camp experience made me speak for others and myself too. This will linger long in my memories and I will never forget what my leaders have taught me, and the recognition given to me as one amongst them."

Participants in the project enjoyed the feeling of home away from home as they eagerly awaited each new day with busy schedules, putting their best foot forward in helping one another.

Dr. N.R. Menon, Senior Advisor for RYS in Kerala, said, “Today I am happy that having traveled all the way from Kerala, I have had a wonderful time and opportunity to know my new friends and youngsters who have come forward with a vigorous attitude to study and help the orphan children and to know about themselves and how to face the world outside. Truly I see so many youths of various faiths come together as one body and one soul, and I feel great hope for tomorrow. ”

The final day the children of the orphanage refused to be left alone after having been together with our participants for four days. They expressed their joy in tears. Every one had a heavy heart, when the children were asked: “What do they want” they innocently replied: “We wish you, friends, to be with us forever and ever.”

Mrs. Rajeswari Menon, Senior Principal of SBOA Schools, added, “All the efforts and activities during this camp have been so fulfilling. This camp has been a lively playground to train these youngsters who will be the leaders of the future.”

In short, the experience was a great bounty of knowledge to all the participants who spent their time learning to know each other, sharing with each other and visiting various places of worship and landmarks. All the participants were active in mind, body, soul and spirit, experiencing a transformation through this wonderful RYS project.

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