DIDI RASAMAYII of Ananda Marga talks to Marie Benoît about her way of looking at the world, the Centru Tbexbix in Cospicua, and within it the Sunrise English Club for children which starts on 2 July and needs volunteers.
Didi Rasamayii is Dutch and her name in Sanskrit means sister. She is a nun in Ananda Marga, a worldwide network of volunteers which bases its ideology on the theory that total human development can only be achieved through both personal development and social service to the community. In fact the meaning of Ananda Marga is ?path of bliss? ? ?ananda? meaning bliss and ?marga? path. ?I have dedicated my life to teaching spiritual practices, that is yoga and meditation and to social service. Without the responsibilities of a unit family one can dedicate all one?s time and energy to the universal family and that is where my inspiration for this path comes from.?
Didi explains further: ?Underlying the initiative and activities at the Sunrise English Club is the philosophy of neohumanism. This is a social philosophy of love and respect towards all humans, animals, plants and the whole of creation.? Didi explains that it is a philosophy propounded by the Indian philosopher P.R. Sarkar, the founding father of Ananda Marga, who was also a social revolutionary, poet and linguist. He is usually remembered for his role as one of the foremost spiritual teachers of Tantra and Yoga of the 20th century. He left behind a vast body of work that includes theories aimed at increasing human welfare as well as the concept of neo-humanism.
Didi continues: ?The work of Ananda Marga is based on the worldview that every entity is connected in the web of life, while neo humanism stands for expansive love and respect for all creation. In this interconnectedness, the wellbeing of each and every individual is vital for the well-being of the collective. For this reason neohumanism encourages everyone to develop in all spheres of life: physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual. And it is to provide this all-round development that the Centru Tbexbix was created in 1999.?
From this way of seeing the world, a different approach to, for example education emerges. ?In terms of all-round development, in terms of values, practical learning, sustainable living, and so on,? Didi explains.
How did she end up in Malta? ?Well, when I was working and studying in London ? Financial Mathematics ? I took up the practice of yoga and meditation. Before that I was already involved in voluntary work from time to time. However, the combination of both within the philosophy of Ananda Marga, that is progress as a result of a balance of inner and outer development, of self development and service, was just for me.?
Didi found that the more she got to know or understand herself ?and the more I felt the growing love for others, the creation and the Creator, the stronger the urge to do something meaningful for society.?
So she changed ?careers.? ?After several years of training and experience help was needed for the project here, and I came over.?
To help children, to let them enjoy learning, gain confidence, to develop themselves to their full potential is a wonderful task to be involved in, she believes. She comments: ?We have to create an environment in which children can blossom, with the guidance and love they all deserve along the way.?
Didi then recounts a story. ?One boy was very reluctant to speak English, or even to try. He would turn to the Maltese teachers or just try his Maltese on me, hoping I would understand. A few weeks later though he is far more confident and last Saturday he didn?t hesitate a single moment when he asked me: ?Didi, can I drink my tree please?? I was so happy, he is trying and open to learning, and answered: ?Sure, you can water your plant.?
The inauguration of Centru Tbexbix in Cospicua took place in January 2006, and a month later the Sunrise English Club was launched. An after school club for children aged 5-13, it aims to expose children to the English language through games, songs, drama etc. Says Didi: ?With enjoyable activities in a supportive environment children are more motivated and inspired to learn, they are encouraged to achieve their personal best, and they gain confidence along the way.?
Every session is lead by several volunteer teachers, so that there can be personal attention and maximum guidance.
The aim is to give children a positive learning experience, so that they become life-long learners, developing and learning well beyond their school years.
The child will feel empowered to continue the journey into adult life, equipped with skills and confidence to tackle all obstacles that may occur. Values are an important aspect of education, Didi comments, and rather than being imposed they are to be nourished for they are present in each child?s heart. ?The right circumstances and guiding process, the right example and attention can bring out the best nature of each, so that what one learns in school and society will be used for the benefit of oneself and others.? An important part of neo humanistic education is practical learning.
Didi recalls a trip to the Gaia Foundation, one Saturday in November last year. ?When we arrived some children were, out of habit, kicking some bushes that were hanging over the path. After a tour of the nursery and learning about the tiny seeds and the large trees they become all the children engaged in some hands-on work. The four-year-olds were able to protect the soil from drying out by putting pebbles on top of it, and they took their responsibility rather seriously. The older children collected seeds from dried plants and bushes. They were surprised to find seeds inside the pine cones, and what first seemed valueless to them became their treasure. It was so beautiful to see the shift in their perception of nature.?
All the staff at Centru Tbexbix are volunteers, and the Sunrise English Club project is entirely funded by private donations and fundraising activities, like everything else at the Centru. Children are not required to pay for the activities, although parents may give a donation, either a monetary donation or in kind.
Volunteers are needed too, for the expansion of current programmes and new initiatives including English classes for adults, computer courses for both children and adults, gardening for the children, and so on.
?The volunteers are enthusiastic about working here, the atmosphere is very positive and the work rewarding. It is not unusual to hear comments that this work gives energy rather than costs energy and that it is more enjoyable than their daytime job.
?Committed volunteers are the key to success of Centru Tbexbix and they make the place what it is, a learning centre with a difference.?
As to the Summer Club, Didi explains that each day starts with some gentle yoga exercises and relaxation, followed by songs and some sharing in which all the children are encouraged to recount something to the group. ?Next is some art or craft activity which every week will have a different theme. For break time two children prepare a snack for the others, teaching them kitchen skills as well as etiquette and they are almost fighting over the privilege of this duty! Kids also take turns to water the plants in the yard, which is the favourite duty of all. The last part of the morning we play games with an emphasis on cooperation.?