Volunteers Colin Luthwood and Sam Moland came to visit us.
What a great time we all had.. from the littlest child to the oldest of us all.. (that’s me Shazar)! These two volunteers jumped right in from the moment they arrived and the kids just loved them. Two masters of Taekwondo – 3rd Dan black belts no less – the kids were clearly very interested in their muscles and very quickly the two very well built Australian men became wonderful role models for all our children. Back in Australia they run a very busy Martial Arts School with over 400 students – the Joondalup Martial Arts Academy.
”How many push ups do I need to do to build my muscles like that?!!”
They stayed for a week and during that time they took martial arts lessons with all the children and worked solidly with our four young Shaolin trainees.. all of whom were the proud owners of a Taekwondo red belt grading on the last day. Colin said of our boys that they were in prime condition and that their prowess with martial arts was highly commended. We were very proud of them.
Here is what Colin had to say when he left – clearly they both had a very good time – and we did too!
If you are considering coming to volunteer please get in touch with us.. we love having people stay with us and will welcome you too whatever your skills and talents.
Beginning my first visit to India to volunteer at Shikshan Gram, I touched down in Mumbai expecting to be overwhelmed by the number of people, the volume of noise, and the sheer scale of the vast and varied country I had read so much about.
And certainly that was my experience on the two and a half hour drive to Shikshan Gram, along an express-way where signalling is rare and appropriate ‘stopping distance’ is an apparently unknown concept!
Nonetheless, Shazar’s calming presence served to assure me that nothing was wrong, and that the constant beeping of horns and white-knuckle overtaking was all actually quite normal…
The environment I woke up to was, however, entirely different. My first few days in the Shelter have been incredibly peaceful. Of course the kids are dynamic, excitable, and constantly chattering. But out in the hills, their pace of life is slow, and considered- everything that needs to be done is done, but not with the urgency and impatience I’m used to. It’s definitely an adjustment I will enjoy making!
Already I can see how valuable the relationship between the children and the Shaolin students is. It’s great for the kids to have such kind and disciplined role models.
And it was a lot of fun to watch them lead Kung-Fu practice this evening around the volleyball net! I have felt welcomed by everyone in the Shelter, and I am so grateful to have been taken into a family when I am so far from home.
Note from the editor:If you would like to volunteer here with us at Shikshan Gram.. you would b every welcome. We love having overseas volunteers for a short stay or a long stay. Contact us today to find out more about volunteering and helping our children.
The Pune Mirror has covered the Shaolin Masters from China at Shikshan Gram. Their article which is worth reading can be found here.
The Shaolin Masters are here to work with the 1000 children from all over India who have gathered together for a Shaolin Summer Camp at Shikshan Gram. They will also be inaugurating the construction of the Shaolin India Temple which will be built at the site of the new Shelter.
This Shaolin Summer Camp has been the vision of Satish and Yogita Moon.. who have worked ceaselessly over the past couple of months to bring this wonderful event together.
From tomorrow 11th May – the Shikshan Gram Shelter will become a place of celebration, high activity and an experience 1000 underprivileged children will never forget!
I am here in Australia and I can feel the excitement from here!!
If learning Kung Fu from the real Shaolin Masters is something that you have always wanted to do – your opportunity is coming. The Shaolin India Temple will be opening for live-in residential Kung Fu Shaolin Training within the next few months. They will take both Indian and International students. It will be a training that will become world renowned.
Yesterday we waved Renee Lighton goodbye as she headed back to Capetown. It was very hard to stop the tears flowing as we had a last hug outside the departures gate of the Mumbai Airport.
What a wonderful journey we had.. yes with only one participant but the value we found from Renee’s visit was profound.. and she gave so much and there with no thought of the weather being too hot, or being too tired, or any other excuse for delaying an action that was to benefit the whole.
It was a surprise to both of us to find that it was time for school holidays and most of the children at the Shelter had headed off on various excursions – but undaunted, Renee threw herself into teaching the young Karate Masters in Training an English class twice daily. What a teacher she is. She held their interest in the palm of her hand, playing games, laughing, singing and helping even those who’s English was non-existent to start with, and in the short space of just over a week, had everyone practicing and trying out their new skill in language. We were all singing “Head,shoulders, knees and toes” – almost in our sleep!
So what did we accomplish in this time:
Brought the level of English language to a remarkable state with only just over a week of instruction.
Reviewed the set up and layout of the existing shelter and provided substantial recommendations for making the school there more effective.
Conducted training sessions with Satish Mankar the teacher at the school.
Purchased furnishings and set up the guest space at the new site to provide accomodation to overseas volunteers.
Researched and purchased books and training manuals for the teachers at the Shelter School.
Donated funds for the continuation of the building project.
Commenced training and collection of necessary materials for the compost heaps at the new site.
Set up new Facebook page for the Shaolin Training – which is to play a large part in assisting the Shelter to become self sustainable.
Conducted marketing training and review of marketing materials for fund raising efforts.
Conducted two introduction meetings with students in Mumbai to promote the Shelter and spread awareness of the work there.
The days were so full – we played and laughed and laughed some more.. and all the while were so privileged to spend time with the young Masters as well as Satish, Yogita and Arybal and his family. We did a road trip extraordinaire to the Ajanta Caves over two long days.. and hiked all over the valley around the new Shikshan Gram site.
What a wonderful three weeks we have had. We thank Renee deeply and I know that she will join me in thanking all those who helped make this time a memorable and extraordinary experience.
The learnings from being in this simple and peaceful space will continue. We know Renee will be back.. and we invite you to come and join us and discover what it is that creates this field of attraction to this place of the heart.
The monsoon rains are still with us today.. the land around the new Shikshan Gram site is vibrantly green – and the crickets are screeching their legs together.. seemingly in joy for the steady beat of the huge rain drops.
A couple of them came into my room the other night – uninvited because as they started their racket neither Satish nor I could hear ourselves speak!
Since I was here last in April – the building is almost unrecognizable .. it has grown so much .. and perched right on the top they have built the guest house for me. Including a bathroom with running water and a flush toilet!
What a luxury ..and what joy it was to return to a welcome that overwhelmed me.
The place is buzzing with energy .. thirty young people are living and working here.. training to become Black Belt Karate Masters – and to support the Strong Village Project – the far reaching vision of Satish that sees the possibility of working with the children of the rural villages to educate them, and give them role models that are strong, healthy and respectful to their rights as human beings.
You will be hearing much more about this project in the coming months as it comes to fruition.
And so I have returned home.. to my Indian family … who live the principles that they teach.. that of respect for all human beings and teaching and living by example. It is with great gratitude that I write today as it is rare to have an opportunity to live and work in a place that is so filled with laughter and joy while going about the work that is here to be done with selfless and total commitment. That commitment is seen in every face and and in the energy they put into every task that is presented.This young man had just completed the gruelling workout required for the grading for brown belt from his
Karate Master Sensai Aryabal – 2nd Dan Black Belt.
Being students of the Shaolin Temple in the Shaolin Martial Arts Training Project is not easy.. they are up at 5.30 .. for a 6am meditation followed by sometimes as much as three hours intensive work out on the training ground.. and then they work on the building project.. these young people are amazing! They are our future leaders.
Watch this space!!
At this time we are unable to accept donations from overseas - however our application for the necessary permission - the FCRA - is in process. Stay posted and we expect to be able to accept your kindness soon.
Attention our Valued Indian Donors
In order to ensure that all your valuable donation reaches us please when possible donate directly to our Indian bank account.
Bank of India, Branch JM Rd PUNE,
a/c Naisargik Shikshan Sanstha
Acct No: 0518 1021 000 000 2
We thank you for your invaluable contribution and pledge to utlise all funds to enhance the lives of our children.