In this time of political immorality, economic chaos, and constant change, we need a fresh light to guide our way. We need inspiration, a reminder that real work starts locally, with individuals reaching out to the people they meet. So we turned to AMURTEL, a service and relief organization who works around the world with volunteers who not only help people out, but change the world as they do it.
AMURTEL Romania: Services & Homes for Needy Children
The Romanian branch of AMURTEL, Asociatia de Ajutor AMURTEL Romania, was founded in 1995 by a group of local and international women volunteers. After analyzing the needs in post-communist Romania, AMURTEL specialized in the areas of inclusive education for children with special needs and social services for abandoned children and youth.
Familia AMURTEL has operated as a children’s home since 1992, offering a loving, creative, and healing home to children in need of temporary or permanent housing and nutritional and educational resources. The home is located in Panatau, a small peaceful rural village in the Eastern Carpathian Mountains, and was designed to offer an alternative to the often overcrowded and negligent Communist state institutions.
Since its beginning, the home has welcomed 32 children. Gopi (or “Mommy”, as the children call her), has retired after working for twenty years on the project, but continues to offer support indirectly, by providing work opportunities for the young adults at a hotel she opened nearby, along with financial support and guidance to the board. In 2015, commemorating the project’s 20th anniversary, she said in her opening speech: “The beginning was magical. For me, the whole project, so far, is something magical. It started with an idea, we had nothing but inspiration.”
After raising a full family of children to adulthood, Familia AMURTEL has taken in another group of eight children in the last year, and a small group of youth continues to live there.
Vistara Social Integration Project
The Vistara Social Integration Project supports young people who have reached the age of 18 and have grown up in the house, but who still need support in the process of transition to an independent adult life. It is a process of integration, divided into gradual stages, which includes transitional experiences of work and housing. For this, AMURTEL uses an apartment in Bucharest, as well as a house near the children’s home that cares for adults who grew at home, and who have some mental deficiency. “Through small successes, they gain confidence and become better prepared for the future,” reports the AMURTEL Romania website.
The kindergarten, inaugurated in 1991, serves 35 children from 2 to 6 years of age. Using a neohumanistic education curriculum, the school proposes to children, during the year, projects in three main areas: “I discover the world”, which encourages curiosity and exploration of the natural world and the man-made world; “I love everything,” which encourages love, empathy and connection, as well as ecological and pro-diversity attitudes; and “I can help,” which encourages children to find ways to contribute and participate in the community.
Fountain of Hope Afterschool Program
The Fountain of Hope After-school Center, which opened in September 2007, supports about 30 students in their homework, as well as offering artistic activities, sports, foreign language instruction, non-formal learning and vegetarian eating. The idea is for children to discover that learning can be fun and complete their studies. Another focus is the development of citizen awareness and active community participation: students engage in volunteer activities that benefit the environment and the neighborhood.
Morning Star Holistic Center
The Morning Star Holistic Center, inaugurated in 2014, offers a varied range of courses: stress management, yoga, meditation, tai chi, qigong, African drumming, vegetarian cuisine and detox programs. The center was created because Didi wanted AMURTEL to be a reference for yoga in Romania. Yoga is just beginning to take root and flourish in Romania as the contact with Western Europe increases, where it is already very popular. The revenue earned from the courses is used for AMURTEL’s administration expenses.
Read more about AMURTEL Romania Projects at: http://amurtel.ro/en/
Thanks to the Dharma for All Journal for contributing to this article. https://journal.d4all.org/
Acharya Ananda Devapriya has been an acharya (yogic nun) of Ananda Marga since 2001. She works in Romania coordinating all of these AMURTEL Romania projects. She says: “I found my spiritual path, or perhaps better to say – it found me – in Chicago in October of 1995. Something had been calling me from within for some time – a restlessness, and yet a knowing – that I needed to find what I was meant to do. I spent my evenings and weekends exploring various spiritual paths – Zen, Hare Krsna, an American guru – finding deep connections in each place, yet something was missing. I kept asking in each darshan or seminar “There are so many different paths – how will I know which is the right path?” In desperation, I closed my eyes, and internally addressed God, “I have no idea what name to give you, which way you want to guide me – so please show me the way – but don’t give me subtle hints, just shine a very bright light on the path so I will know. ”That same evening, I found a poster reading “Self-Realization and Social Service”. It immediately sent a rush of electricity through me – this was it! For months I had been agonizing whether to sign up for a volunteer program like Peace Corps or Greenpeace – or rather retreat to a yogic ashram and go deep into spirituality….There it was – no conflict – both of the two things I valued most – together!”