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From Dorset to Delhi
Submitted by admin on 23 April, 2007 - 12:04
A few years ago, IHEU established a ‘twinning’ programme where member groups were encouraged to establish partnerships with groups outside their own country. The aim of the ‘twinning’ programme was to expand co-operation between member organisations, and to make available advice and assistance in setting up practical projects to groups that needed it. Members of Dorset Humanists, an affiliate of the British Humanist Association, have since been in contact with the International School of Humanitarian Thoughts and Practice in India. David Warden reports on his latest trip to Kurukshetra: ‘It is a lovely place to visit because of their warm hospitality and the delightful children … unforgettable … it is good for Western Humanists to visit Humanists in the developing world because it gives you an outside perspective on our materialistic culture’
October 2006 was my second visit to Swami Manavatavadi’s ‘International School of Humanitarian Thoughts and Practice’ in Kurukshetra. In the Indian epic The Mahabharatha, Kurukshetra was the battle-field for the great 18-day war; it is now a Hindu pilgrim town. It is 156 kilometres north of Delhi, and 3 hours by car from the airport.
The purpose of my trip was to attend a conference entitled ‘Humanism as the Solution to Contemporary Problems of Humanity’, and to find out how Swami Manavatavadi’s ‘Kid’s Kingdom’ orphanage was progressing.
Some 100 persons attended the conference, including guests and children – Manavatavadi has many loyal supporters and friends who have been associated with his organisation for many years, including academics from Kurukshetra University. I was also very impressed to find a smart new building which could provide basic accommodation for a substantial number of orphans. A few years ago a devastating earthquake ruined the lives of thousands of people in the Kashmir valley and currently three boys from the Kashmir region too are living in the orphanage and being well-cared for by Swami Manavatavadi’s assistant, Sadhvi Asha Manav. Asha Manav has inspired about 50 local children to get an education rather than be street beggars.
The three boys from Kashmir, Firdosh (14), Akib (13) and Irfan (12), all lost their fathers in the earthquake and were living in very precarious conditions before their arrival in Kurukshetra, with scarcely enough food to survive. The boys are from a Muslim background and they are still in telephone contact with surviving family members. Conditions in the orphanage are basic but their main happiness lies in being regularly fed with large quantities of home-cooked food. During the day they learn Hindi script, play games, and do odd jobs around the compound, including washing their own clothes on a stone slab with soap and brush. At night they sleep on the floor. Swami Manavatavadi is gently encouraging them to develop their critical reasoning ability – the children are educated in secular, rational ways of thinking.
The foundation stone of Kids’ Kingdom was unveiled by Dr Kidwai, Governor of Haryana State, in March 2006. The plan is to erect a four- storey building on the site with excellent facilities for the orphanage and a school. Many international Humanists and local supporters have already provided support to Kids’ Kingdom despite local opposition and constant harassment in a predominantly Hindu pilgrim town.
Dorset Humanists (based in Bournemouth, England) have been providing friendship and ‘twinning’ support to the School, an IHEU member, since 2003 as a result of a contact made via International Humanist News. We heartily endorse Kids’ Kingdom and urge other groups and individuals to consider what help they can give, particularly as an influx of Kashmir earthquake victims is expected in the near future. Kids’ Kingdom is Humanism in action at the sharp end of human disaster.