The inspiring story of a new healthcare initiative in Mexico City which, though small, could be the harbinger of a Sai Medicare Revolution in Latin America.
Inspired by Bhagavan Baba's personal example of universal love and selfless service, His Mexican devotees recently reached yet another milestone in their community outreach initiatives by starting a Sai Service Centre in the heart of an economically deprived neighbourhood on the fringe of Mexico City.
While free medical services have been successfully delivered by the Sai organization in Mexico City's Guanajuato Street Centre for over 15 years now, more recently, a group of devotees was inspired to take the outreach project right into the heart of a slum area on the outskirts of the sprawling metropolis.
The initiative proved to be an eye-opener for everyone involved. Apart from those that were served, it was the devotees serving in the camp that benefited the most from the experience, receiving Baba's priceless reaffirmation that the service to fellow beings is the shortest cut to reach and experience God and His pure love.
As with all things good and noble, the project began as a medical clinic and soon grew to provide a variety of services for medical relief, empowering and educating the poor and neglected Mexicans living in the squalor of the slum. Throughout the journey, from the time the idea was conceived till to its current success, the devotees experienced the loving guidance of the Lord in all their endeavours.
Taking Sai Service to the Slums
The initiative to move the service into the eye of the storm, so to speak, and deliver it to those in need in their home turf, the slum itself, was proposed by a Sai devotee, Luis Tovar and his sister, who live close-by. They offered to spare some space where one doctor and a nurse were able to discharge their duties. Little did they know then that with divine grace and blessings, the project would grow into a full-service Sai centre, meeting the physical, dental, mental, emotional, economic and spiritual needs of the slum dwellers - a gratifying experience made possible only due to the mysterious workings of the Divine Hand.
The slum areas in Mexico city
No one to take care of...yet sporting a smile
However, before proceeding with the one-day camp, the nascent team decided to pay an exploratory visit to Masahua village and interview the villagers to find out about their health needs. The trip provided the volunteers with the much needed experience to bond with each other and develop the spirit necessary for working effectively for a higher purpose.
The travel time to and from the village proved to be an ideal satsang opportunity as team members shared experiences of how they were drawn by Swami to become His instruments and sang bhajans along the way. A common sense of purpose and love for Swami's universal teachings proved to be the uniting factor that brought about a sense of oneness to the otherwise diverse group.
Upon reaching the village, they were welcomed by Mr. and Mrs. Humberto Vilchis, a young Catholic couple, who played host to the group. The Vilchis are a broad-minded family who have embraced the universal teachings of Baba and His humanitarian service projects. They took it upon themselves to prepare and provide food for the group, and introduced them to the villagers in order to prepare them for the service activities. At the end of the first day, a bond had been forged between diverse groups – professionals and individuals, with their love and commitment to Sai teachings binding them all into one whole.
The dedicated Sai team
As a result of this interaction, the team conceived the idea of holding a one-day service camp in the village itself before starting the proposed service centre in the slum.
One-Day Camp - The Perfect Prelude
April 28, 2007 saw the Vilchis family once again offering their love, support and services to coordinate the one-day service camp. They even attended planning meetings and offered a truck to transport all the clothes, food, and equipment as well as the medicines meant for distribution. A total of 16 Sai Workers, including the Vilchis family made up the harmonious team of:
- 3 General Doctors
- 1 Dentist
- 2 Social Workers
- 8 Sai Volunteers
- Mr. and Mrs. Vilchis and their children
Thanks to the spirit of unity and love that prevailed throughout the day, the small but cohesive group was able to achieve some impressive results:
- Nearly 90 families were served.
- 600 kilos of grains were distributed.
- Everyone received adequate clothing and other provisions.
- 90 medical check-ups were conducted and free medicines and vitamins were distributed.
- Topical fluoride application was provided for more than 100 children's teeth.
- Piñatas were broken to celebrate children's day.
- Most significantly, tons of unconditional love was in circulation, charging the atmosphere with joy and optimism.
All the villagers received enough grains such as beans, rice, lentils and chickpeas, clothes, shoes, toys, besides vitamins and medicines for their health problems.
What a valuable learning experience that one day proved to be for the volunteers! Every member realized that one need not to be rich or wealthy, a scholar or a Ph. D to serve those in need. A pure heart and the firm determination to serve others selflessly is all that is necessary. God provides the rest. One participant described it as "a divine experience, difficult to narrate, best to experience."
Participants were so moved by the experience that shortly thereafter, they visited the Sai youth at their annual retreat and made a presentation about the camp and the lessons received there. Dr. Rodriguez shared the pictures taken in the Sai clinic that was set up in the village and its surrounding areas to draw the youth's attention to the needs of the poor people and their problems, while acquainting them with the work done by Sai organization in the past 6 years to alleviate their suffering. The presentation undoubtedly touched the Sai youth and exposed them to the tragic face of rural poverty. Meanwhile devotees continued to work very hard to get the new clinic in shape for its inauguration inside the slum colony.
The youth busy creating the right ambience before the inauguration of the clinic
With Swami's grace, when the opening date of the new clinic, 26th May 2007, arrived, everything was ready and prepared with lots of love by the team. As a befitting start to a sacred project, Mrs. Gail Muñiz prayed first to Lord Ganesha, and then broke a coconut, offering everything to Swami, while guests sang some bhajans. Right after that Dr. Rodriguez addressed the gathering. Also present on the occasion were the President of the Trust, Mr. Muñiz, the President of the Sai Organization Metro-area of Mexico City, the National Service Committee coordinator, Mrs. Maria De Lourdes Martínez, members of the three Sai Centers in the city, and the nurse. Swami's divine presence was felt palpably by all present.
The most sacred gift from Sai for their well-being
The clinic is ready now...tidy and furnished
Mr. and Mrs. Luis Muñiz brought with them the sacred Shiva Lingam that Swami had materialized for Mexico after the earthquake in 1985. He had told her to bathe it and give the water to the people as it would confer peace of mind. On another visit to Prashanti, Swami had changed the colour of the lingam, advising her that this would help with any health problems. It was truly a blessing to have it on that day.
With such an auspicious start, what began as a single room operation due to the generosity of the brother-sister team of devotees meant to accommodate one doctor and a nurse soon grew in its needs. After some time, another small room of the house was used as a classroom.
Ever since then, the Sai Clinic has been able to serve the needs of the poor more effectively. Those who receive the free medical check-up and medication describe the experience as truly great but the love and genuine concern they encounter here is actually the priceless gift they carry in their hearts, as they walk out smiling with satisfaction.
The original medical team that started it all comprised of a Sai devotee, Dr. Ma. Teresa Coria, and a nurse Laura, known as Laurita to the public. Currently, an average of 600 patients are availing this free service every month.
It's Not Only Medicare, It's All-Round Care
After carefully assessing the needs of the slum dwellers, the Sai organisation set up Education in Human Values classes in the same premises for children between 6 and 15 years of age. Using both the direct and the indirect method, the volunteer teachers are helping the young secondary school students to keep up with their school work, and teaching them about human values by narrating stories, and singing; children accessing the Education in Human Values classes also receive breakfast.
Bringing out their inate human qualities is easy!
These are the kids and their teachers
Two Sai Youth members, Alejandra and Patricio, run these classes every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They also hold regular meetings with the parents to explain the EHV program to them, and help them improve their parenting practices through effective communication with their children.
Lots of cuddly toys to play with
Adorning a flower are two other small blossoms
To further empower the slum dweller and render them employable, the Sai group has also been running classes for hair cutting and styling and provides free hair cuts to the users of the medical clinic every Thursday morning.
A handicrafts workshop is also conducted for women to acquire skills that will help them make a living. A devotee volunteer has been teaching the slum women to design and produce such items as fabric covers for small kitchen appliances like blenders and toasters. They also make table accessories like table covers and napkins.
They serve in many ways including hairdressing
They teach the art as a vocation too
Seeing the slum population's need for education and awareness, the Sai volunteers have taken up a very special project which they conduct on Tuesday mornings. The Social Worker holds a session for the gathering that first addresses self-awareness issues such as: self-identity; motivation and intention and then moves on to Education in Human Values for adults. The next item on the agenda is typically related to mental health issues after which she educates them on physical health, covering topics such as: how to prevent strokes; nutrition; preventive techniques for HIV/AIDS; family health, etc. All the classes are well attended, proving the need for such awareness and education.
The bulk of the clients visiting the Sai Community Centre are young single mothers, living in poverty-stricken conditions with the various social problems that come with the package: risk of violence; health care problems; teenage pregnancy; drug-addiction; unemployment; illiteracy; lack of opportunities for study, etc.
People line up in anticipation and eagerness
Children and youngsters - they are most benefited
Thanks to the early exploratory investigation into the needs of the community, the Sai team also provides twice a week services of a psychiatrist to the local population, again entirely free of cost.
Not only this, twice a week, a dentist is also on duty, offering free services that include fluoride applications for strengthening their teeth. The doctor's surgery is open from Monday to Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. and closes when the last person is served, usually around 3:00 p.m. In the summer vacation period, the number of clients increase and the doctors finish their work around 5 p.m.
The usefulness of the services is evident from the growing numbers of people who access the Sai Community Centre that is now committed to their physical, mental, dental, emotional, economic and spiritual needs.
What began as a single room operation has grown into a hub that supports an entire community. With a proper and permanent venue for the clinic, the venture is turning out to be the first Sathya Sai Hospital in Mexico and all of Latin America.
The served and the server - both humble
With each passing day, the local population is gravitating towards it, well aware that it truly is a place where they can experience pure love in action. You can't hide a good thing for too long and the efforts of the Mexican devotees are bearing fruits as an entire community of slum dwellers is keenly seeking their support to live a life of dignity and self-respect where they can raise healthy and wholesome children, men and women.
Love Lives by Giving
Needless to say, those committed to the running and upkeep of the services at the Community Centre find the experience uplifting. After its inauguration, the Sai Center still had plenty of donations of clothes, shoes, and toys to give away to all the users of the Clinic and residents in the local area. The doctor and the nurse took it upon themselves to organize the distribution of the items in an orderly and loving manner. Tokens were distributed to the 150 people who were frequent users of the clinic's services in its initial stages and to another 50 needy people who had assembled there. Every adult woman was allowed to visit the clinic with her children and select up to ten items.
It is the big donation day! - they choose and are cheered
Each receives ten items!
The joy of receiving these gifts was evident on every recipient's face and in the remarks that poured forth spontaneously from them. Everybody was very happy and on leaving, people said: "May God bless you all"."Thanks to God"."You all are so kind, thank you so much, God bless you,". "May God be with you and take care of you". "Thank you for helping us". "God bless you".
At the same time, inside the compound, the EHV teachers and children were celebrating a little girl's birthday and the end of the school year. Happiness was so beautifully evident and the kids were running and playing. They also received candies.
This day helped to inform all the new neighbours of the clinic's existence and the services it had to offer. Once again the team bonded in unity and enjoyed the bliss that comes from participating in such noble and soul-lifting exercises. The poorest people were able to take away things that they really needed. Everyone felt deeply gratified to have made a difference in the lives of so many who have so little.
Everything went on in perfect harmony there was no discord. There was only one incident where a woman complained that another lady had taken too many shoes and did not want to share with her and she had only one pair. One of the staff approached this lady and asked her whether her attitude was selfish, or kind? Spontaneously, the lady with the many shoes gave away a pair, smiling to the other woman and apologized, and both of them were happy. At the end, some of them helped clean the place, leaving the premises neat and tidy.
Being a part of such a euphoric and productive day was an experience in inner growth and bonding where the volunteers felt God's presence in the smiles and joy of those they served.
What a joy to see such sweet kids smile!
"Swami has most generously showered His blessings over Mexico and us by allowing us to be a part of His Love Revolution which is fast expanding all over the planet," say the Sai devotees in Mexico. "We are grateful to be part of this blessing from high heavens!" The bliss and beatitude on their faces says it all and makes one feel that this truly is only the beginning, a tiny start, which will one day, by His grace, envelop the whole of Latin America with its sublimity and selfless spirit.
- Heart2Heart Team