4th of October 2015 marked the day when thousands of good-hearted volunteers got together around the country to make a difference. Approximately 850 of those volunteers were members of National Hindu Student’s Forum (UK) volunteering on behalf of university chapters from up North, such as Leeds, to down South in Exeter. Collectively with 37 chapters taking part nationally and 2550 Sewa hours recorded, it was truly a record-breaking day.
The following is a brief summary of the Sewa activities that chapters took part in on Sewa Day.
In Central Zone:
University of Nottingham
University of Nottingham started the day with a card making and friendship band making session. This was a productive morning where over one hundred cards were made. This was followed by a visit to a nearby Nursing Home which was also a great success, as residents of the home, the staff and the volunteers requested further trips. The day ended with some team building games to allow the team get to know one another. Nottingham aim to organise more Sewa orientated events in the upcoming year such as soup runs, yoga sessions and visiting wards in a nearby hospital.
Keele Hindu Society
Keele Hindu Society took part in Sewa Day by distributing food and drink around their local town centre to rough sleepers. This consisted of homemade vegetarian sandwiches, crisps, juice and water.
Members of Warwick University went to Sebright house in Leamington spa (a nursing home specialising with people with dementia) and did several chores which relieved pressure on the nursing home. While half of them painted the beach house and did several gardening activities, the other half decorated 2 hallways to make them look colourful and representable. The decorations were personalised by using pictures of the elderly to make the corridors feel more homely, as well as decorating them according to specific themes.
Universty of Leicester
In Leicester, a food collection was organised at the Halls of Residence in Oadby! Members went around knocking on people’s doors and thanks to everyone’s generosity in just a few hours they had collected plenty of food – more than they were able to carry! Members aimed to collect foods which had a long shelf-life such as tinned fruit and vegetables, pasta, rice, soups and breakfast cereals; as these would all make more ideal donations. The donated food was given to an organisation called charity-link, who run a food bank based in Leicester City Centre. DMU
“The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.” Sewa is at the heart of everyone at DMU Hindu Society and is one of the multiple factors that should be taken on whole heartedly allowing the greater good to come out of the event. DMU Hindu Society went to Asra Residential Care Home on Sewa Day to spend time with the elderly. The elderly are in fact the reason why we are all here today; they spent hours upon hours working hard to try and create a good foundation for the future generations to come. There were about 15 students, committee members and even members that spent time with the elderly. Spending time with the elderly allowed many of us to understand the hardship that they went through. Members talked to the elderly about their past and a couple of us were helping them to make Diwali cards; to decorate the care home.
University of Birmingham
For Sewa Day this year, the Hindu Society from the University of Birmingham did a little temple run. The participants managed to cover two Mandirs spending a minimum of 2 hours at each of them.
Members spent the morning in Sree Venkateswara Balaji temple by helping them wash kitchen trays that were used to make Prasad. A tour around the temple was given where participants learned about the activities organised by the temple as well as upcoming projects such as the Gandhi room where people can do meditation.
After lunch, a visit to Shree Geeta Bhavan temple was made where they helped by polishing tiles, cleaning the ceiling as well as vacuuming the carpets. The day was self-fulfilling and rewarding.
On Sewa Day, NHSF Aston took 12 members to Shree Ram Mandir where they had the opportunity to take part in puja and help out around the Mandir. Participants did some cleaning ready for their event the following day. They later went to feed the homeless with the Gurudwara, even though we were only able to take 5 people, it was a fantastic experience.
In North Zone:
In Liverpool, the Sewa co-ordinators conducted a morning session, which gave the attendees an opportunity to mingle. In this morning session, the Sewa co-ordinators delivered a session on the importance of Sewa Bhav and they then split into two groups. The first group went to do Sewa at a Tamil Mandir in Kirby and the second group went to the student union to do some gardening work. At around 3pm both groups came back to the same place and collected small gifts and goodies for a shoe box appeal. People collected various items for children and they were given shoe boxes to fill with these items for children less fortunate.
The Bradford Sewa co-ordinators conducted Sewa at their local Mandir, for this the attendees engaged in cleaning activities. The attendees also decorated allotments for the homeless and refugees.
The Manchester Sewa team organised for a guest speaker to do a talk on homelessness and make people aware of the numbers of people in the UK living rough and the reasons why these people have no choice but to live rough.
In Sheffield, members spent Sewa day at a homeless project in a local Church. This session is held weekly and invites people of all backgrounds to come and socialise as well as enjoy some hot food and drinks. We got involved by setting up the stall, preparing food and serving the guests. It was an eye opening experience as we got to speak to the guests and we hope to visit again regularly.
The Huddersfield Sewa team organised a day of helping out at their local Sita Ram Mandir.
The Sewa team at Hull organised a day of helping out at their local Mandir and they also set up a food and mehndi stall in their student union where they raised money for their local Mandir as a donation.
The Sewa team at Leeds organised a day of helping out at a local Mandir.
In London Zone:
In London, 9 chapters came together for their Sewa Day project as a Zonal Sewa Day on the 18th of October. The event was held at the Hare Krishna mandir in Watford, with the event being hosted by NHSF Hertfordshire.
Approximately 90 students attended on the day, taking part in a various activities to help the Manor. The day started with a guest speaker, Bhavik Patel who spoke about selfless service; what it means and how we can try to achieve it. After the inspirational talk, the teams got to work!
There were 4 activities, one of which was cleaning the Gowshalla. This included sweeping the surrounding area, grinding up corn to feed the Cows and general maintenance of the area.
Another activity was gardening; the manor hosts a large range of beautiful flowers and plants. This group helped the team to plant many types of new flowers.
Another team did Temple cleaning and they worked directly in and around the temple, cleaning windows and making sure the premises was clear of all litter and fallen leaves.
Finally the farming team worked physically hard to uproot and separate all potatoes that were ready for harvest; with 7 acres of land at the Manor, they use significant portion to grow their own vegetables etc.
The day finished with Mantra meditation. This activity was new to many of the members due to its unique nature. But the facilitator, Ravi Pattni, did extremely well to help everyone focus, create a calm environment and beautiful chant the Hare Krishna Mantra.
Thank you to all 9 universities that attended to make a huge impact at the Mandir and also to the Hertfordshire committee who put on this fantastic event for London zone to get involved in.
Additionally a few chapters have embarked on local projects, including Kingston who have done something very new and different; a mental health awareness event. In collaboration with a few other societies from their university they are aiming to share some strong and powerful information about mental health and our human response. St George’s did a day at the hospice on site to help serve the families of those who are in hospital.
In South Zone:
Reading undertook a sponsored walk which was enjoyed by those who could attend.
Approximately 30 members gathered to make sandwiches for the homeless with donated ingredients. As well as donating to the homeless shelter, members took to the street to donate snacks, drinks and crisps.
This year, Southampton decided to hold a fundraising event in the style of a bake-off. They were able to raise £304.10 for a charity of their choice.
Members of NHSF UWE visited the local Mandir in Bristol, where they had the opportunity to attend a Havan and serve food as Prasad to those that attended.
A beach clean-up was organised in which members did litter picking up at Swansea bay beach.
UEA members will be holding an event on the 21st of October, which will aim to raise awareness about Hinduism by holding a question and answer session with multi faith groups attending.
From NHSF (UK)’s perspective, this has perhaps been the most successful Sewa Day. With more members taking part in Sewa initiatives than last year, it’s a clear sign that members are taking a bigger part in the community. NHSF (UK) would not have been able to grow as much as it has in recent years, if not for the support of the society in which they function. With this in mind, it becomes ever more important that NHSF (UK) continues to give back and make a positive impact. Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”. It is this belief that NHSF (UK) thrives on, and therefore continues to encourage everyone to give, give as much as possible and make as many lives as possible. #EveryDayIsSewaDay