Implementing SSEHV in a women's shelter
SSEHV at the Good Samaritan Center
In December 2005, we learned that the Good Samaritan Center for Homeless Women and their Children was in dire need of volunteers to assist with filling in gaps of services being provided to the homeless population. Much work was needed, said the executive director, in building self-esteem and hope and in helping them and their children become mainstreamed into our society.
We provided the executive director with an overview of Sathya Sai Education in Human Values (SSEHV), its philosophy of “everything we need is already within us,” and the program being a great source of assistance with learning to tap into these innate qualities that all human beings possess. The executive director was astounded, because the program sounded exactly like what she had dreamed of for herself, her staff, and the homeless women and children!
After additional meetings, in April 2006, we conducted an SSEHV training for 35 Good Samaritan case managers and staff and a team of volunteers that included Sai Center members and others, as well as people from the University of Missouri and our local Public Broadcasting Station (TV). A needs-assessment conducted with Good Samaritan staff and clientele provided a basis for the SSEHV program’s inculcation into workshops for the women on health issues, etiquette, parenting skills, budgeting, tutoring classes, and other needs domains.
The project was then launched in May 2006. A number of St. Louis Sai Young Adults were also trained in SSEHV and joined our team of volunteers. They diligently developed SSEHV lesson plans and assisted lovingly with presenting the program to the children of the women. The well-received project continued at the Good Samaritan location until Fall 2009.
SSEHV at the Women’s Safe House
The same kind of program was then begun at the Women’s Safe House, an emergency shelter for abused women and their dependent children. Some of the residents leave their homes without the tools that are essential to regaining their independence and becoming self-sufficient. This is due to a variety of factors, including lack of education or job experience, low wages, job loss, illness or injuries from domestic violence, and being in controlling relationships. The Women’s Safe House was and still is in great need of volunteers.
After the required volunteer applications and background-check forms were completed and an on-site orientation took place, the SSEHV Project began at the Women’s Safe Hours in February 2010. We continue to hold sessions on the second Saturday of each month from 9:00 am to 11:30 am. About 20 women and 15–35 children attend consistently each month. Usually, we provide these volunteer services to the same women and children only one time, since the clientele can remain at Women’s Safe House only a limited amount of time, which varies slightly for each family.
This SSHEV project is primarily the same as it was at Good Samaritan. We provide:
- SSEHV integrated into workshops for the women.
- SSEHV classes for the children.
Donations are given of hygienic items such as shampoo, lotion, bar and gel soap, deodorant, women’s personal items, and household items such as towels, face wash clothes, twin bed sheets, and seasonal clothing.
We have been able to provide other help as well. For example, we have had:
- workshops on women’s health issues, meditation, and stress relief.
- workshops by a psychologist on holistic healing.
- distribution of laminated cards with Sathya Sai Baba’s morning and evening prayers.
The core of the spiritual discipline of selfless service is to see everyone as yourself and yourself in everyone...
Sathya Sai Baba, 14 Nov 1975
Comments on the program
Comments from Sai organization volunteers
How can we ever repay the love that Sai Baba has given and poured on each and every one of us! When I was in the 80th birthday celebrations, I was touched and reminded when Sai Baba spoke about ideal Sai women. Our role is to be supportive of each other and supportive of family, kids, and friends, but how can we ever forget the women who are so lonely, so lost, and so shattered, and taken out of all their self-confidence and self-respect!
We are so fortunate and blessed that we are on this side of the fence. It takes no time to be on the other side! So I felt it would be wonderful to spend some time in support of women who really need the love from Sai Baba through us!
Every month we spend hours with abused women and their children. We discuss and present a topic with women and guide them through silent sitting and a positive thought! A topic of their interest is previously chosen, and we have a topic presenter who guides them through a discussion. This allows the women to share and get support from each other. The power of that positive energy and bonding is amazing! You can feel Sai Baba’s love and energy vibrating through each session.
We also conduct SSEHV with children. We share lessons on Right Action, Perseverance, Never Give Up, Love, and Truth! The love we get from these children is immeasurable! Even during these toughest times, kids have the love energy flowing through them!
Sai Baba shows us that when we think we are serving others, we are serving ourselves! This time that we spend with the women and kids has been the most rewarding experience for me!
We are blessed to be able to serve in the name of Sathya Sai Baba – through service projects arranged through our Sai Center. The needs in all the projects are different – the members of the Center come together to obtain the supplies needed – and then a handful actually make it to do the service project on the designated day.
What is exchanged between the person serving and those served is the human connection – the love that Sai Baba says we are – and this love is what makes those serving in person so privileged. This is especially felt in the Safe House project. This shelter houses women who are suffering from a lack of love, and when we go and share knowledge about various topics – but underline it with the feeling that we are together – we are one with them – our own hearts are expanded, and we feel God’s love. It is true that the happiness we feel is in direct proportion to the love we give. Being part of the Safe House project brings joy, from this very exchange of love; the server and the served are part of the same equation.
I feel very blessed to be involved with this worthy project ... seeing how brave and strong these women are and how they take the courageous step toward self-sufficiency and self-worth is very inspiring for a volunteer like me. It shows me that each one of us is precious, each one of us is divine, and that each one of us has a bright and glorious future, once we decide to create our own reality. The strength, compassion, patience, and perseverance of these women who have experienced some of the worst forms of abuse and neglect, shows me that the Lord’s love and grace is alive and working in today’s difficult times, and it is very humbling and empowering to have the opportunity to be a part of Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s loving and caring mission for women.
I would say, “It is a great blessing to be an instrument in divine hands and a great satisfaction to be part of Sai Baba’s divine mission. One is fortunate to be there. It is hard to express the feeling in words; it is beyond words.”
Comments from staff members
The lives of these families are plagued with so many crises. The Sathya Sai Education in Human Values service project looks at true core values families need to help them avoid and/or better deal with the issues, through singing, stories, writings, and the informational workshops. The holistic approach helps to reinforce these important values to the families. These positive and uplifting volunteers are greatly appreciated.
Comments from women participants
The workshop was excellent! I really enjoyed and learned from all the information given.
I think it is a good program. It lets you get stuff off your chest, and if you don’t talk about anything, it allows you to listen to what others are saying.
You all are doing a dynamic job.
I like the silent sitting and listening to the music. Even though I don’t share a lot, listening to everyone else who are in the same situation helps.
I feel the information is very useful and motivational. It helped me see what I need to do to better myself and reach my goals.
I think it is wonderful. It helped me be at peace and think of good thoughts. It relaxed my mind.
Very peaceful, and we all need peace.
I think it was very helpful, especially for the mind and soul. There need to be more classes like this.
I want to continue to feed the mind for a healthy body. I was inspired to never give up!
We are very appreciative. We feel like God is blessing us. We are very thankful.
God bless you all.
You are not doing service to others. You are doing it always to yourself, to the God in you, the God who is equally present in others.
Sathya Sai Baba, 21 Nov 1981
Sathya Sai Center of West County, St. Louis, MO.
The author serves as National Coordinator for Community SSEHV, a faculty at the Institute of Sathya Sai Education (ISSE) USA, and as a member of the Sri Sathya Sai World Foundation, Education Committee.