The theme of the 41st annual retreat of the SSIO USA Mid-Central Region in St. Louis, Missouri on Memorial Day weekend was “Transformation of the Mind Through Service.”  In support of the theme, members of the region focused on various aspects of service to the environment including tree planting, a drive for animal shelter supplies and a Walk for Animals and the Planet.

Each Sai Center in the region planted a tree along a lake at the retreat camp site, Camp Wyman. Prior to the tree planting, all retreat attendees were inspired by an original play by the Young Adults, based on their international environmental program, “Serve the Planet”. Through the play, the Young Adults shared the benefits of tree planting, and how trees create an ecosystem to provide habitat and food for birds and other animals. Retreat attendees also learnt how trees absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, from the air and release oxygen. A little known fact that the Young Adults shared was that one large tree could supply a day's supply of oxygen for four people!


Members of the region also organized an “Animal Shelter Supplies Drive” as a service project at the retreat. Animal shelters everywhere need donations of pet supplies to take care of the animals in their care. These shelters provide animals who are left neglected and abandoned on the street, with a temporary home and help to nurse sick and wounded animals back to health. They also provide them with immunization and nourishment and help these animals find a permanent home. The St. Louis County Pet Adoption Center was no exception and approached the SSIO USA Mid-Central Region with an ever-growing list of supplies to take care of the more than seventy-five animals in their shelter. Members of the Sai Centers in the St. Louis area had a previous collaboration with the Pet Adoption Center when the Pet Adoption Center participated in the annual Sathya Sai Free Health Fair in the Holy Trinity Church, St. Ann, Missouri. They brought their shelter dogs to the Fair to allow adults and children to interact with the dogs and, in the process, encourage pet adoption.

At the retreat, the response from the 165 adults and 30 Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) children was overwhelming. The SSE children made toys for cats and dogs out of ropes and feathers, and posters for the shelter. Participants also brought in store-bought pet toys, pet food, blankets, beds, colorful leashes and collars, which were organized and delivered to the St. Louis County Pet Adoption Center, Saint Louis County Department of Public Health. The coordinator and the care takers at the Adoption Center expressed their immense gratitude for this act of love and kindness to the animals in their shelter.

The adults and the children also participated in a “Walk for Animals and the Planet” on Family Value Night, an event that was recently introduced at the regional retreat. The participants carried hand-made posters and banners and wore animal masks and T-Shirts with logos reflecting the theme of love for animals and the planet. The walk instilled a feeling of “oneness” among the retreat participants. At the end of the retreat, there was a greater interest among Sai members to provide loving service to animals. Some members expressed their desire to conduct tree planting and animal shelter supplies drives in their own cities.