During the SSSIO Mid-Central Region’s 2022 retreat that took place over the Memorial Day weekend, Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) students and young adults packed more than 50 tote bags of groceries for Afghan refugee families. They collaborated with the Little Angels Foundation, St. Louis, MO to combat food insecurity in vulnerable groups such as refugees.

The SSE students were educated about the difficulties faced by refugee families such as shortage of food supply and problems navigating cultural and language barriers. Understanding the plight of refugee families made the SSE students sympathetic and even more eager to help. They packed 56 tote bags with over 40 lbs. of groceries each, including bags of rice, sugar, tea bags, vegetable oil, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and flour. The volunteers formed an assembly line, with a few preparing the tote bags, others filling them with food items, several more restocking the items and yet others loading the filled tote bags in the truck. With the volunteers’ dedication and efficiency, a task that was supposed to take two hours was completed within an hour. Some SSE students also painted frames with the words “Welcome to America” and “You are Loved” in English and Arabic.

When asked how they felt about the service, one of the SSE students expressed, “I love how we worked as a team with so much love. It felt really nice. I hope the refugee families feel the same way we did when they receive the bags.” While the young adults shared similar sentiments, it was equally inspiring for them to see the enthusiasm and eagerness of the younger SSE students to serve.

In total, the groceries helped feed 197 Afghan refugees for a month. However, in keeping with Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s mission, the volunteers know that one service project at one retreat does not satisfy their collective role in serving the needy within society. They are inspired to continue finding more opportunities to help the most in need in their community.