The Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) Student Council of the Sri Sathya Sai International Organization - USA (SSSIO-USA) North-Central Region held an Arts and Crafts service project for SSE students attending the Labor Day retreat in September 2022. The Student Council, comprising representatives from SSE Group 3 and 4 students (ages 12 to 18 years) from Sri Sathya Sai Centers across the region, began brainstorming for ideas in March 2022. They held a series of zoom calls and debates on several factors such as the feasibility of the project, its impact on the environment, and its meaningfulness to the SSE children. Inspired by past environmental projects such as the E-waste collection drive and plastic bag collection drive, the Student Council landed on a project for man’s best friend- the dog, and thus, began the Dog Toy Service Project.  

The Council researched extensively and decided on the idea of transforming old clean t-shirts into durable braided dog toys to donate to an animal shelter. The council members began to craft a plan of action and researched specific techniques and materials needed to create these dog toys. By June 2022, the council members disseminated the information amongst the various Sai Centers in the region and began a drive for collecting old t-shirts.  

Amidst the old t-shirt collection drive, the council held several zoom sessions during August 2022 to identify the best way to cut and braid the dog toy, which could be both efficient and simple enough for SSE students of all ages to understand and execute. They separated the process into four different stations: station one – cutting off sleeves, station two – cutting the t-shirts in half, station three- cutting half-shirt into six strips, and station four- braiding.

During the Retreat, at the allotted time, the council members went into the Arts and Crafts room to set up the stations and found an overwhelming amount of donations of t-shirts from all over the region. They decided to try to cut and braid as many shirts as possible but would donate any leftover uncut shirts.  

After a brief icebreaker, the service activity began. During the75-minute arts and crafts session, SSE students (of all ages) from across the region were completely immersed as they joyously cut, braided and created 91 dog toys that were finally donated to the Elmbrook Humane Society in the Milwaukee area. The shelter also received 25 new puppies the day after the donation, so the SSE children’s effort was put to great use. This journey of creating and executing the idea of making dog toys was long and meticulous, but in the end it was worthwhile and gratifying.