With COVID-19 shelter-in-place order in many parts of the U.S, Sathya Sai Centers have adjusted in order to meet the spiritual needs of their members. Virtual programming has enabled devotional sessions to reach a wider audience and engage inspiring speakers from all over the country and the globe. Indeed, Sai Center members have had more opportunities than before to participate in a variety of spiritual activities almost daily.

Service: In honor of Sathya Sai Baba’s 95th Birthday on November 23, 2020, the SSIO initiated a program to adopt 95 communities worldwide. The Pacific South Region (Region 8) has adopted one such community by providing groceries and essential items to needy families of school children in Santa Ana, California.

After COVID-19 quarantine orders were put in place, Region 8 Sai volunteers expanded their project to include the delivery of staple food items to over thirty families in Santa Ana who are affiliated with Olive Crest, a non-profit organization helping abused and neglected children.

In compliance with SSIO guidelines for social distancing, SSIO volunteers have adopted innovative ways to deliver staple food items to twenty-four families through Instacart, a grocery order and delivery service. Sri Jeevaprakash, Region 8 President, explained, “Because of COVID-19, families are suffering the repercussions from illness, job loss, and home displacement. The demographic we serve has a profound need for food. We are grateful for the opportunity to help these struggling families.”

In honor of Aradhana Day 2020, the Centers of Glendale and Arcadia maintained social distancing in providing groceries to 130 needy families in Huntington Park, by collecting and organizing the food items while leaving the City Council to distribute the packages.

Sai Spiritual Education: With the national pivot to virtual SSE programs, Region 8 also switched to online SSE classes and participated in national SSE initiatives such as the national Stay-at-Home Service Challenge.  SSE students in San Diego made cards for ThermoFisher Scientific employees in Carlsbad, thanking them for manufacturing COVID-19 test kits. SSE students also made beautiful cards for doctors and nurses at Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside in appreciation for treating COVID-19 patients.

The Northeast San Diego Center celebrated their SSE Annual Day online over four Sundays through music, games, presentations, and a movie regarding purity of thought, word and deed in the context of COVID-19. Each SSE teacher shared success stories of students applying Sai teachings.  Regional SSE Coordinator, Kandarp Patel, stated “Children have used this quarantine experience to grow in their awareness, compassion, and love.”

Devotion: As a response to the shelter-in-place order, Region 8 Sai Centers held devotional programs via Zoom and YouTube. As a result, Centers have been able to invite dynamic speakers from across the country and even across the globe. For example, the Hollywood Center hosted Sam Sandweiss, MD (San Diego, California), Leonardo Gutter (Buenos Aires, Argentina), and Surendra Upadhyaya, MD (London, UK).  Young Adult (YA) representative, Juan Alfaro, chimed in, “During quarantine, the Sathya Sai Young Adults have been more connected than ever through hosting virtual meetings, game nights, and study circles.”

Technology has enabled Region 8 to host a weekly virtual devotional program each Tuesday and a joint regional Aradhana program, each featuring speakers from around the country. In addition, Region 8 participated with four other regions in hosting an inspiring joint Virtual Retreat on May 23-24, 2020. Regional Vice President Eric Wing explained, “Many Centers have seen an increase in attendance via Zoom. Technology during the quarantine has allowed some devotees to participate who otherwise might not be able to attend in-person meetings.”