In March 2020, life as we knew it suddenly came to an abrupt halt due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lockdowns were in place and Sai Center meetings transitioned to virtual devotional sessions. During such a turbulent time, many Center members turned inward, seeking strength in their faith. Soon, inward concerns with one’s vulnerability and fears of uncertainty dissipated and quickly gave way to an outward focus with questions such as “How can we help?” and “How can we make a difference in the lives of others?”

Given the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19, the Young Adults (YAs) of Sathya Sai Center of Rochester in Upstate New York sought service projects they could conduct online. They connected with Grand St. Settlement located in New York City and volunteered with their Early Childhood Program which serves children of low-income families in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side. The program specifically aims to nurture and empower young children from impoverished families, by providing them with comprehensive learning resources.  Due to COVID-19 and school closures, many of the children had lost access to these educational resources.

The YAs and Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) students, aged 12 and older, stepped up to the plate and provided the children with a vital reading resource. They gathered their favorite childhood storybooks filled with positive messages and values, and video-recorded themselves reading these books out aloud. They read with heightened animation and great enthusiasm, and made the stories come alive with dramatic voices while pointing at the words so the young children could follow along. The YAs and SSE students even tried to keep the experience fun and interactive for the children by asking questions at strategic points as they read the book.

The SSE students found the experience very rewarding. The YAs unanimously agreed. “We feel blessed for the opportunity! This is just the beginning and we will continue to read, tutor, and provide educational support to help this underserved community, even more so, during this crisis.” Overall, it was a gratifying experience and a reminder that service is the best way to take us out of our own self-absorbed worrying. Life can surely throw a curve ball but unwavering faith not only gives us strength to overcome difficulties, but to use them for good.