Centre activities were greatly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Our regular Sunday Bhajans were stopped due to the closure of our venue – Soar valley College – from Sunday 15 March. We sent the following message to all our devotees to inform them of the actions we were taking:
Jai Sai Ram
“Cancellation of Leicester Sai Centre Activities and Events in Light of Coronavirus Situation.
In light of the current situation in the UK regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, in the interest of the health of all devotees (in particular, the elderly and vulnerable), Leicester Sai centre Sunday morning bhajans, SSE and other events will be cancelled from and including Sunday 15th March 2020 until further notice.
This has not been an easy decision. But after an emergency conference call with the centre active members, we decided unanimously that the best course of action, in the interest of the health of our devotees is to cancel all centre activities.
We are hoping to set-up a YouTube channel to broadcast live on Sunday morning at 9am where we will continue Leicester bhajans virtually. While this is being organised, we encourage all devotees to continue bhajans in their home at 9am so that the spirit of Leicester bhajans remains live.
We are having a separate conference call to agree how we can maintain our service activities which serve the most vulnerable in society who need us the most at this difficult time. We are also conscious that we need to have a plan to keep in touch and support the elderly in our centre who will be the most isolated at this time. We will share more details once these plans are agreed.
These are unprecedented and uncertain times. But we know that Swami will continue to guide and protect us all. Thank you all for your understanding and support.”
Jai Sai Ram
13 March 2020 – 09:00
Power of Prayer
It is good to remember Swami’s guidance to remain calm in all situations and the power of prayer. The Sai Gayatri mantra as well as the Gayatri mantra is being chanted by Sai devotees around the world for the welfare of humanity. Let us all be united and pray with intensity as often as possible. This is an important spiritual practice which can alleviate this global health threat due to the Coronavirus.
A number of initiatives were implemented to ensure that we continued with as many of the existing activities as possible during this period, and we list below some of the actions we undertook. This is not an exhaustive list and there may be other activities that continued during this time not included here.
The thrill of waking up on the 6th of May and lacing up trainers ready for the children’s SSE activities and sport to begin has always been a highlight to the year. With adults embracing their inner child at heart, everyone gets involved in the fun to celebrate Easwaramma Day and reflect on her values as the ‘Chosen Mother’. Little did we know that this year we would be having to spend this day from the comfort of our own homes away from each other – only to be united by our screens and Swami’s grace and love for all. Nevertheless, it has still been a great success with all the children taking part through the wonders of technology and group 4 piecing it all together. Each member of group 4 was set a task in which they had to piece a video clip together for it to then go live on the Sunday morning.
Each of us were set specific tasks that we had to complete in a time limit for the first review by the rest of the team. Each task was reviewed on a conference call to the greatest detail several times with some clips having to be redone but this was all worth it. Each item was thoroughly amended and edited as a whole to and fro. Each time we would be adding or taking out pieces to either extend or decrease the timing with calls late into the night. This whole process was done on top of all our work including preparations for the day with Zainesh and Nikesh as back up in case of any setbacks in order to prepare for the worst. Prityben our guru, who kickstarted the whole process of our involvement, pushed each of us to perform to the best of our abilities non-stop until perfection was reached – as Swami says we should “excel in everything”. For Swami, we worked until everything was perfect inside and out. Immersing ourselves in this work has connected us more with Swami and helped us recognise the qualities in Easwaramma the chosen mother that we should strive to have.
Pre hand consists of collecting pre-recorded bhajans and finding out what videos and information that need to be played on the day. As with every Sunday, I set up a YouTube link before hand and send it out to everyone before I finally do a speed test for the internet.
For the livestream, I make sure everything that needed to be played was set up and in the order, it needs to be played. I include a fade and cut between scenes when they need to be played with a timetable of the order of Thursday from 7:45-9:00 and Sunday from 8:50-10:00. I then begin the livestream from YouTube while watching the comments for any spam and deleting them and end the livestream when all the videos have been played.
This, however is not the end as there is still work to be done in the postproduction of re-watching all the videos for any mistakes which are edited on YouTube so that others can watch it later. I then send out the edited version of the video and finally add the video to the playlist of all previous streams.
Zainesh and Nikesh:
For Easwaramma Day, there were many items that needed putting together. One of the main items were the bhajans sung by the SSE children. Past recordings were played this year where all the children sang. The bhajans were mixed with Swami’s darshan video as we play darshan videos every Sunday.
Another item that was part of the programme was ‘The Guru’s Prayer’. This was a prayer written by the SSE Guru’s about the Coronavirus pandemic and included a plea to Mother Easwaramma. The prayer was recorded and turned into a short movie which had the prayer, some light calming music and the words to the prayer.
I received artwork from many SSE children through the gurus and their musical offerings to Swami. I then edited the artwork into a video by adding effects and putting it with the music. After the work was reviewed with the committee, I cut the music to reduce the video length with the help of Karan. Finally, I re-edited the artwork to fit with the new music and rendered the video for the final program.
Recording the pledge was a difficult task as instead of having children repeating after me, I was repeating after myself. The task consisted of cutting and piecing the audio together with uplifting music in the background. At first I had not had the idea of repeating each sentence however once being reviewed and the idea of it was suggested, I got to work and started cutting the audio and recorded myself again with the previous recording so that it had the impression of a chorus. This took some time as technology is not my strong suit, but with Swami working through me, I managed to get it done and it turned out to be a success!
Virtual Classes – We organised virtual SSE lessons for our SSE Children. If you are interested in participating – email us for more information.
Bridge – Homeless Charity activities
Due to the Coronavirus lockdown rules, we had to stop our regular activities for Bridge during this time as the Bridge venue was closed. This is the message we received on 13 March from David Fawcett.
Coronavirus Urgent Information
Please see below the following E-mail from David Fawcett regarding the immediate delivery of our services.
In view of the uncertainty we’re facing with the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), in order to protect the health of our volunteers, we have taken the step of closing all our services from Tuesday 17th March, with the exception of the breakfast service. The breakfast service will be run by staff and we would advise all volunteers, from that date to desist from coming to The Bridge. Don’t hesitate to call me if you wish to discuss.
We recognise that the breakfast is the key part of the day for our guests, which is why we’re continuing with this and we are committed to do everything within our power to keep this service running for as long as possible.
Please be sure we haven’t taken this decision lightly; it has been taken in consultation with the relevant professionals and of course will be subject to change as the situation / advice on this matter changes.
We value all the support you give to The Bridge and its guests and wouldn’t want any of you to be put at any unnecessary risk. We will look to resume all services as soon as we’re safely able and hope that you’ll be available to support us at that time.
Executive Operations Manager
Shortly afterwards (27 March), the breakfast service was also stopped and the venue was closed until further notice.
As a centre, our devotees continued to provide food items (baked beans, cereals, biscuits, spreads, etc) for the breakfast service whilst it was running.
Midland Langar support/MORE restaurant
We had an opportunity to do seva with Midlands Langar Seva Society and MORE restaurant who provided their kitchen and other facilities for preparation & cooking meals for the homeless – see note below from Sanjaybhai, our centre President, on 13 May 2020.
Jai Sai Ram – we have the opportunity to support the Midlands Langar Seva Society (MLSS) which is doing some amazing service at this time.
MLSS is producing 400 food packages a DAY, 7 DAYS a week for the homeless and shielded FREE OF CHARGE (approximately 110 meals are delivered to the homeless directly each day).
The food package contains one hot meal (usually rice and curry or pasta); a drink, a piece of fruit and crisps.
They need help with getting raw ingredients to make the hot meals in particular:
– Dry Pasta
– Ready made pasta sauce
– Rice Bags
– Tomato tins
In addition to that they also need the following non-food items for their team do to this service:
– Disposable gloves (large or XL only)
– Disposable/reusable face masks
– Hand sanitiser
If you can donate any of these items, you can deliver them to More Restaurant (62a London Road, Leicester LE2 0QD), Monday to Friday between 4pm-6pm.
Please only do this if you are able to do this safely and not put yourself at any risk. There is no obligation or need for you to donate.
Finally, please let Jagdishbhai our centre service coordinator know what items you are delivering if you are providing any donations.
Thank you and Sai Ram.
Below are photos of food donations from our Centre devotees which were delivered to MLSS.
HealthCare Professionals PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)
This was an opportunity to provide much needed PPE to the front line health care professionals. Various items were desperately needed – face visors, head bands, face masks and nurses’ scrub uniform – and it was agreed that some of these could be made at home by our devotees. Arrangements were made to obtain the correct resources for these items and detailed instructions on how to make them were provided to the devotees.
Here are some details of the items we provided:
1. Face Visors
2. Head Bands
We provided these to the nurses as they found that having to leave the mask on for very long periods continuously made their ears sore. They were made following the instructions below:
” Cotton fabric to be washed at 60 degrees.
Follow the pattern and cut 2 of the main headband pieces and 1 of the small rectangle to cover the elastic.
Take the two main pieces and place right sides together.
Press a 1/4 inch seam on the short end of all four ends.
Sew 1/4 inch seam along the long edge on both sides.
Turn right sides out and press (I used the safety pin trick).
Fold rectangle in half lengthways and sew 1/4 inch seam along the long edge.
Turn right sides out.
Place elastic into tube.
Sew along one end of tube securing the elastic into that.
Gather up the fabric and repeat at the opposite end securing the elastic into the seam.
Take the finished elastic tube and place it into the main headband, pin and sew. Repeat for the other side.
Sew a button to each side where your ears are. This will allow the face mask to be hooked on.”
3. Cleaning Bags
The nurses needed bags to store their clothes for cleaning and we made some of these, with our SSE children helping with the designs on the bags!!
4. Nurse’s Scrubs uniform
There was also need for nurse’s scrubs (these are costumes nurses wear in the operating theatres. We started making these using patterns provided to us, but unfortunately we soon realised that making these scrubs required industrial sewing machines and it was going to be very difficult on the domestic sewing machines that the devotees were using.
5. Face Masks
Following government’s latest guidelines on wearing of face masks in public places, our Centre devotees started making masks for our own Centre devotees and their families.
Centre events celebrated – Virtually! – during the lockdown period
1. Vaisakhi & Easter on Thursday 9 April 2020 & Sunday 12 April 2020
Comment from a devotee – “Program was very engaging, enjoyed Pastor Thomas’s talk and nice kirtan from Sarbjit singh with a short message and good bhajans.”
2. Mahasamadhi Bhajans on Friday 24 April 2020
Comments on the programme –
• “Enjoyed bhajans and nice videos.”
• “Amazing talk by Giridharbhai which everyone enjoyed – was very energetic and simple.”
3. Lakhsharcharan on Saturday 25 April 2020
Comments on the programme –
• “Great response, brilliant program – 500 people tuned in.”
• “Thanks to Chiragbhai for doing such a brilliant job.”
• “Nice format to the program, with bhajans in between.”
• “Performing this online, helped many friends and family get involved.”
4. Easwaramma Day celebrations on Sunday 3 May 2020
Comments on the programme –
• “Children and guru’s did an outstanding job preparing the program.”
• “Loved the variety of the program – story, pictures, musical pieces.”
• “Approximately 1,000 people tuned into this program – reached those who probably wouldn’t have made it to the centre.”
5. Eid Celebrations on Sunday 24 May 2020
Ramadhan and Eid festivities have been very different this year for our Muslim brothers and sisters due to Covid-19 lockdown position. This has not prevented our centre in arranging and producing a brilliant virtual Eid celebrations on Sunday 24th May the actual day of Eid. For those who have missed this amazing program please use the link below to watch the program on you tube:
Our Eid program comprised of beautiful meditation, Islamic prayer, great speech from Imam of Leicester Mosque Mr Zartasht Latif who reminded the audience on the significance of Ramadhan fasting and Eid. This was then followed by vibrant bhajans and uplifting ghazals and Qawwalis. Massive well done to the entire bhajan team. Our Eid program concluded with wonderful contribution from the students of SSE who came up with fantastic stories and narrations on the significance of Ramadhan and Eid and re-confirming Swami’s message. Last but not least our youths on audio visual PA team did a fantastic job to deliver a slick wonderfully enjoyable Eid program. Well done to them.
Comments on the programme –
• “Great to hear the message of Eid and Ramadan from the Imam and good to hear the significance by the SSE. Lovely bhajans, well done all. ”
• “lovely bhajans and a very profound msg of EID n Ramadan n lovely to hear from the SSE . Well done.”
“Very interesting talks.”
Meals on Wheels
Arrangements made to continue this service via suppliers, to protect our devotees from having to go out for shopping and to deliver the meals.
Initially Santosh Centre provided the meals and when they stopped the service at the weekends, we arranged meals with Sai Saburi. This has worked well as were able to protect our devotees whilst continuing to provide meals to our guests.
From Saturday 6 June, we will start again on our standard rota for providing home cooked meals to our guests. All the suppliers of meals during the Coronavirus lockdown period have now stopped offering meals from the end of May.
Stay in Touch calls
We were conscious that we needed to have a plan to keep in touch and support the elderly in our centre who will be the most isolated at this time. We agreed on a plan to make calls every week (at least once a week) to assess any special requirements they may have and would provide any shopping needs – for food items & medication.
Experience to date has shown that this is a very beneficial service (for both the volunteers & the guests), and our guests have appreciated the calls.
Virtual Study circle
Despite the current lockdown position due to Covid-19 our centre activities have continued with vigour and without much interruptions. Vijayanbhai and Jaybhai, our spiritual coordinators, have carried out virtual study circle sessions during April and May. These sessions have been carried out via Google Hangouts on Sunday evenings. Average weekly attendance ranged from 10-12 per session and the subject under discussion was Unity.
Sincere thanks goes to our devotees for
a) taking part in the regular weekly discussions, and
b) getting used to new style of delivery and technology.
The group has had lively discussions on the important subject of Unity and from early June will move on to the new subject of Purity. Our devotees have thanked and also welcomed the opportunity to enhance their spiritual knowledge despite very difficult current circumstances we are all facing.
Paduka Puja on Saturday 30 May 2020
Every year, from March to November, we organise home bhajans at devotees homes on Sunday evening. Unfortunately, due the lockdown, we were unable to commence in March as planned, and we hope to start from whenever the lockdown rules are relaxed to allow this to start.
Yoga – Online Session