Service Initiatives during COVID-19 pandemic
With arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sathya Sai Centers in the USA have had to adapt their practices, following the advice from the SSIO to comply with local, state and national guidelines with regards to social distancing. While devotional and educational programs transitioned to online gatherings, adapting service activities required some forethought and planning, and consideration of the recipient agencies' needs and requirements. For instance, many shelters and soup pantries were no longer accepting prepared meals from Sai volunteers nor did they allow Sai volunteers to serve on site. Clearly, adjustments had to be made.
Around the country, Sathya Sai Centers adapted service projects to meet the COVID-19 guidelines for social distancing in the following ways.
- They modified members’ participation in food service. Some centers prepared meals onsite but let the food be served by the staff. If meals were prepared at home, volunteers wore masks, gloves and frequently sanitized. Meals were individually packaged for distribution at the shelters/soup kitchens.
- Many shelters were no longer accepting home-prepared food. A few Sai Centers ordered food such as pizza and had them delivered to the site. In other instances, SSIO members collected and dropped off nonperishable food items at the shelters.
- Families living below the poverty line were supplied with staples to help sustain them at least for a month.
- Some Sathya Sai Centers supported local restaurants by ordering food from their menu to be delivered to shelters or to health care professionals in hospital or clinical settings as a way to express their gratitude.
- Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) children prepared thank you cards for health care personnel and essential workers.
- Young Adults (YAs) helped deliver groceries and medications to the elderly who were confined to their home.
- YAs also started a physical fitness initiative to help people stay healthy during the lockdown.
- Tutoring programs transitioned to an online format to ensure students continue to receive educational assistance while schools were closed during the pandemic.
- Several regions set up helplines for those who needed guidance and direction to resources due to the COVID-19 crisis.
- While all medical camps were canceled, the Colorado and Ashland Free clinics transitioned to tele-health and appointments were handled over the phone.
New service initiatives were also adopted in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When it became apparent that there was a national shortage of face masks for healthcare workers as well as the public in general, the Homemade Mask and PPE service project was initiated. The SSIO-USA launched a webpage with a list of resources for Sathya Sai Centers to make face masks to donate to healthcare professionals and patients in local hospitals, the elderly in nursing homes and vulnerable populations in shelters and prisons. Sathya Sai Centers researched several different styles of masks, and then provided step-by-step instructions, sometimes including videos that showed how various models of masks could be made. When the receiving institutions provided their own requirements regarding mask construction, those instructions were strictly adhered to. Very soon, the project was expanded to include other types of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) including face shields and protective gowns, which are being delivered on an ongoing basis. By the end of June 2020, the SSIO-USA had delivered more than 34,000 face masks, 1, 525 face shields and 700 gowns.
Since the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in significant sudden disruptions in everyone’s lives all over the world, causing intense stress and anxiety, it was clear there is a need to address psychological and mental health issues. The Stress Alleviation Intervention (S.A.I) Protocol had been developed by the SSIO-USA Mental Health team to deal with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) during natural disasters. It is currently considered a powerful healing tool and a valuable resource for both SSIO members as well as members of their communities during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides distributing the protocol to the Sai community, the SSIO-USA Mental Health team has also compiled several articles on mental health strategies for the general public , as well as specific strategies for parents to help their children and teens cope with stress and anxiety during this time of panic. For COVID-19 resources, please click here.