By Srikrishna Kataru
Summer of 2022
Hello. My name is Srikrishna and I am a rising 6th grader. This summer, I attended VTSEVA’s internship that lasted 12 days. I went on this trip without much thought as my older brother and my mom were going on it. However, I ended up having so much fun volunteering, learning some brand new things, and making some lifelong friends. It was my best summer experience. Ever.
The best part is that I learned from everybody I interacted with: our Swamiji, my co-interns, Netra Vidyalaya students, Allampally tribal students, Vedic school students, ashram staff, and doctors at Ayurveda and JIMS, the homeopathic college.
We participated in activities related to all four pillars of VTSeva.
Education for the underprivileged: We volunteered at Netra Vidyalaya and the Allampally tribal schools.
Healthcare for the underprivileged: We shadowed doctors at JIMS integrative medical hospital, Ayurveda hospital. Also went to a medical camp in a nearby village.
Environmental Awareness: We toured forest villages and learned how they respect mother earth and how they live in environmentally friendly ways.
Disaster Relief: We prepared essential grocery packets to be distributed to recent flood relief victims who lost everything.
What follows here is the more detailed version of the work we did relating to the above four pillars.
We didn’t really teach anything to Netra Vidyalaya except for answering their questions about our way of life here in the US. But, we did learn a lot from them. They taught us how to read and write in Braille. They showed how they study for exams, how they take exams without any scribe writing for them, and such. They also showed their talents by singing, mimicry, and playing games. I was so happy to note that they routinely win many sports competitions at the state and national levels too. Recently, one girl got qualified for international-level running competitions to represent India.
While the journey to Allampally was arduous, we were delighted to see all the kids standing outside the school on the rainy night to welcome us. Some students came forward to help me with my luggage. We instantly became friends. Along with other interns, I taught them spoken English and rocketry sessions. Their participation level was off the charts. I realized that they could use some grammar workbooks. That’s going to be my goal to raise some funds to get them some grammar workbooks this year.
During my stay, I also interacted with several Veda Pathasala students of my age group (10 -12 years). I really want to go back next year and teach them spoken English too. They were super curious and enthusiastic to learn English from me.
I learned a ton of brand new things from the lectures on Ayurveda, plant-based medicine, and Homeopathy, the medicine of energies and extracts. We went on a medical camp and learned how homeopathy was helping the patients and filling gaps in healthcare needs for the local population. Even kids as little as 3 years old got treated at the medical camp. We heard many success stories from the patients. We shadowed the doctors in the JIMS hospital and watched how homeopathic medicines are made from extracts and sugar balls. The interesting thing is that the more they dilute the extract, the more its potency increases. We also saw how Ayurvedic treatments helped patients with chronic back pain and some cancers too. We also got to see how the Mahila Arogya Vikas wing is screening women all over India for cancers and distributing medicines.
The lessons of environmental protection from Allampally and nearby village people are priceless. They don’t consider the land their property as they own it. They consider it a gift from God. The land gave them life. They were part of it. They call it their mother. If she was angry with them, she might send harsh summers or plagues of insects. They had to do good things for her and live the way their mother-earth thought was right. She was the mother to everything that lived upon her, so everything was their brother and sisters to them. If they didn’t treat them right, their mother would be angry.
Swamiji taught us that land is alive and sacred. Trees, mountains, and animals are all spirits to help us. We must learn to listen to them, not destroy them. We must smell and taste the dirt. We must go into the sunlight and give thanks for the day. That’s how we listen to them. We should learn to respect all life– all trees and all creatures. I probably absorbed these lessons well because, by the end of the trip, I didn’t get scared of insects and bugs all around me.
Swamiji also taught us that He came across some tribal people who share whatever little they have. They sit and wait before they eat during their lunchtime to see if any strangers pass by who are hungry. In the same sense, Swamiji instructed us to prepare food packets and groceries for the flood relief victims. Along with Veda pathasala students, we packed rice, wheat flour, lentils, sugar, salt, and spices. Packing tamarind was messy and sticky. We had a lot of fun doing this. It was such a satisfying experience to watch our food packets get loaded onto the trucks.
The ashram gardens are so beautiful I could spend days looking at the flora and fauna. I even made two videos of birds chirping and other calming sounds from the ashram gardens, which already garnered thousands of views on my youtube channel - Srikrishna Explores!.
Overall, I feel lucky to have been part of this internship. I like to immensely thank all the VTSeva officials who let me participate in this wonderful trip. I sure want to go on it again if I get an opportunity.