SSIO-USA Service Initiatives during COVID-19 pandemic
With arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sathya Sai Centers in the USA, like the rest of society, 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 were transitioned to online gatherings, adapting the service activities of the SSIO required some forethought and planning.
Around the country, Sathya Sai Centers adjusted service projects to meet the COVID-19 guidelines for social distancing in the following ways.
Centers modified their members’ participation in soup kitchens to observe appropriate distancing requirements.
Individually packaged meals were prepared and distributed to the shelters/soup kitchens. Children were served hot meals with inspirational messages attached.
Nonperishable food items were collected and donated to shelters
Families living below the poverty line were supplied with staples to sustain them for one month
Some Sathya Sai Centers supported local restaurants by ordering food from their menu to be delivered to the shelters or to health care professionals as a way to express their gratitude.
Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) children prepared thank you cards for health care personnel.
Young Adults (YAs) helped deliver groceries and medications to the elderly who were confined to their home.
YA’s also started a physical fitness initiative to help people stay healthy during the lockdown.
Online tutoring programs continued at many centers.
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 telehealth and appointments were handled over the phone.
Families carried out tree planting in their backyard.
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 embark on a project 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.
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 has become apparent that there is a need to address issues of psychological and mental health. The Stress Alleviation Intervention (S.A.I) Protocol was developed by the SSIO-USA Mental Health team to deal with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) during natural disasters. During this time of intense stress and anxiety, this set of time-tested stress-reducing exercises has been considered a powerful tool and a valuable resource for both Sai devotees as well as members of their communities. The SSIO-USA Mental Health team subsequently also compiled a document, Coronavirus: General Mental Health Coping Strategies, which provides SSIO members general mental health strategies to cope with stress and anxiety during this pandemic.