Jana Raksha Community Care Program - 10th Anniversary Messages & Testimonials
Message from Swami Tadatmananda, Founder & Resident Teacher, Arsha Bodha Center
Those who find themselves utterly alone and completely isolated in life often grow weak and wither away – emotionally, if not physically. But, when they receive support from their families and communities, they grow strong and thrive. We all need support at certain times in our lives. And as members of a community, we all share the responsibility to provide that support to those in need. But before we can help others, we first have to listen to their needs. We have to understand their situations, their mindsets, and their feelings so we can help them in the best way possible.
Over the years, I have met many people who come here to Arsha Bodha Center seeking inner peace and spiritual solace. It’s so rewarding to see them grow more mature, content, and resilient through the wisdom of the ancient sages, as taught in the Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures. Yet, those teachings don’t directly address certain difficulties that people face. The rishis never addressed modern problems like struggling with divorce, raising teenagers, or facing a pandemic. Nor did they speak about chronic depression, alcohol and drug abuse, or unhealed emotional wounds. Such problems affect many, including those in our ashram community and beyond. And they need help of a nature that’s not available through spiritual discourses and guided meditation. That’s why we launched the Jana Raksha Community Care Program ten years ago, to provide the care and support they need, wherever they may live.
I am delighted that our trained volunteers have been able to help over 250 people the past decade. I especially thank and congratulate program directors Vasanthi Sunil and Anjani Gharpure, as well as clinical supervisor Dr. Vasudev Makhija. Their effort, together with that of many other volunteers, has provided a crucial service to the community, and continues to do so.
Message from Dr. Vasudev Makhija, MD, DLFAPA, Clinical Supervisor, Jana Raksha Community Care Program; Founder & President, SAMHIN; Past President, NJPA
Ten years ago, the vision of Swami Tadatmanandaji at Arsha Bodha Center was realized, and a new program, Jana Raksha Community Care Program was launched. A group of volunteers was trained to provide a muchneeded service to the community. In ten years, these volunteers have helped countless individuals and families dealing with a broad range of struggles. This program has helped in filling the gaps in services for the growing community in the Central Jersey area. Even though the program started off with the Hindu community of Central New Jersey in mind, it receives calls from other areas of New Jersey and other states, as well as, from non-Hindu individuals. No one is turned away and help is equally provided to all.
Volunteers received comprehensive training in listening skills, how to assess the issue/situation and offer assistance and support. They were also trained to understand the manifestations of common mental disorders and substance use disorders. If a mental illness is identified, volunteers provide the support and guidance and give referrals to seek professional help. Guidelines were established on the intake process and subsequent follow-up by the volunteers. The volunteers have ongoing supervision as they help their recipients.
I feel honored to have served as a clinical supervisor of the program since its inception. I have had the opportunity to see first-hand the compassion and dedication of our volunteer team in helping others. Volunteers make themselves available for their recipients in a variety of ways. They offer companionship and friendship, recite prayers and chant, help with physical tasks like cooking and cleaning and assist the elderly or those who are ill. The interaction between a volunteer and recipient can be via phone and email, or in person, at the recipient’s home, at a public place or at the ashram.
People reach out to the Jana Raksha Community Care Program with a broad range of struggles and needs; some call for services for themselves, while others call to get help for a loved one – child (minor or adult), parent, sibling, or a friend. Some require physical help, while others require help to deal with mental illness and addiction. Mental health challenges include suicidal and aggressive behaviors, paranoid thinking, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse. Some have experienced domestic violence and marital discord or are looking for support and guidance during a difficult transitional phase in life. Still others need support and referral to help cope with the stress and burden of being a caregiver to a loved one with severe and chronic illnesses.
As one of the volunteers and clinical supervisor of the program, it has been a gratifying experience for me, knowing that we have helped so many in the past ten years and will continue to do so going forward. I welcome the Jana Raksha Community Care program in our community and appreciate the role it has played for the past decade and will continue to do so for several decades to come.
Testimonials from Recipients
In the winter of 2011, I was a caregiver for my elderly mother who was experiencing many health issues. She wound up in the hospital and rehab centers several times. It was a very trying year for me and, aside from aides that came to help her, I was on my own with her health care. And I had an elderly dog at the time that also had health issues. It was a very stressful time and I did not have any family members or friends to help me. During this time, I broke a bone in my heel that prevented me from walking or driving and that caused me a lot of pain. I had to take taxi cabs to visit my mother first in the hospital and then in the rehab center. It was definitely not an easy time!
My cardiologist, who was a member of the Arsha Bodha Center, told me about a group there that might be able to help me and offer some comfort. I went online and learned about the Jana Raksha Community Care Program. I called and spoke to one of the wonderful volunteers. She came to visit me the next week and even took my garbage can to the curb! She was very kind and compassionate. Concerned about my well-being, she continued to call me to check to see how I was doing. So sweet and generous, she truly is a woman of great service, and to this day, we continue to keep in touch.
I remember another time when my mother was released to a new rehab facility; this volunteer came to visit her and sat with us at the dinner table. She called my mother Auntie with so much affection! I also recall one day being so sick and lying in bed with a fever when the volunteer called to see how I was doing – her call meant so much to me! And with her there, I felt less alone. We had many philosophical discussions about life and its contrast. She always helped me feel better emotionally after our talks. This was someone who had a full-time job and took precious time from her busy schedule to do this.
As a result of connecting with this volunteer, I attended a number of weekend services at the center and was comforted by Swamiji’s wise discourses. I also enjoyed a number of celebrations there and the lovely sharing of “Prasad” following services. There were also so many gracious members who welcomed me and made me feel at home in their beautiful center.
After all these years later, this volunteer is still someone I love and know I can reach out to for comfort and advice if I ever needed to. What an extraordinary service this program offers to the lucky community in Central NJ that it serves. I now live in California, but still keep Arsha Bodha Center, my friend and the Jana Raksha Community Care Program in my prayers. I still am so grateful for the help and encouragement and company this volunteer offered from her gracious and giving heart.
I was feeling extremely helpless and suicidal due to the health situation of my mom, who was my whole world. My mom had three strokes, was kept in a hospital, taken to rehab, came home, rushed to the hospital again, and now was intubated in a coma for the past month at a long term care facility. The attending physician had requested me to take my mom off life support. This was an extremely difficult period in my life, and work was my only escape from making this impossible decision. To add to this, I was suspended from work for two weeks due to incompetent job performance by the HR manager. I couldn’t stop crying, and crying just left me empty with the knowledge, that nothing would come out of it; emptying all my tears will not change the situation one bit.
Finally, I called the Jana Raksha Community Care Program and left a message that I needed help as soon as possible. I received a call the very next day from a volunteer who was extremely calming and started talking to me in a soothing manner. After a long time, I felt like I was talking to someone who understood me and that I could get help. This volunteer even offered to meet me and come with me to the hospital. In the days to follow, I kept receiving regular phone calls from this volunteer.
When she had to go to India, another volunteer took over almost immediately. Shortly thereafter, sadly, my mother passed away. This volunteer was a ray of sunshine in my dark world. I constantly felt alone and suffered from severe PTSD. There were times when I just could not stop crying. The volunteer always spoke with me in a calm, patient, soothing manner, and constantly calmed me down while taking me off the ledge. Eventually, years passed, and I still kept reaching out to her whenever I needed guidance for work-related matters, problems with my extended family, and/or marrying my loving husband. It has been eight years since I lost my mom, and to this day, this volunteer remains the stable rock in my life that I can turn to at any time for any crisis.
Today, I am in a much better emotional place, and I owe a huge part of it to the volunteers of the Jana Raksha Program. I will never forget their kind and loving support in my greatest time of need. I definitely recommend anyone going through a crisis to call them with the full assurance that they will definitely receive help.
It was around 2014 when I first reached out to the Jana Raksha Community Care Program at Arsha Bodha Center. It was a synergy of many events in my life that was leaving me emotionally overwhelmed. My husband had been laid off from his job and my son had graduated from Rutgers but seemed lost. I began to feel the pressure of earning more and began to overwork myself. I felt my family relationships coming loose and undone. In short, family, finances, and health…everything was taking a hit and I was lost!
The volunteer at the Jana Raksha Program gradually helped me untangle each part of my problem, by talking me through it each time we met. She usually began by asking me what I wanted to talk about. Gradually I was able to voice my fears and doubts. I was able to tell her about my son’s drug problems, and my husband’s depression and joblessness. She was able to give me suggestions and be my confidante when I had nowhere to turn.
Meanwhile, my son was admitted to a detox center, and then to a rehab facility. By God’s grace he underwent full treatment and is doing well now. The volunteer met with me weekly as I navigated the ups and downs of being a mom of a “user”. Every day was different and traumatic, to say the least. My relationship with my husband suffered because we both felt guilty about our son’s condition, but also blamed each other. Added to this were our financial problems due to him not working, and me working 24/7 to make ends meet. We tried going for NA meetings but found them too difficult and too foreign to handle.
This volunteer helped me simply by being non-judgmental and soothing my fears by talking to me. At the ashram, I felt calm to be seated in the presence of the Divine with such a kind and gentle volunteer. I was able to show my vulnerability instead of being forced to put on a “brave face” like I did at work. She teased out my problems, so I was able to develop new perspectives each time and become a little more confident after each session. Now, several years later, I have developed a joy in life which I did not have before! I have learned to appreciate every little thing because I know how hard life was before I was nurtured by this Jana Raksha Program volunteer who continues to keep in touch with me.
My husband and I came to USA in search of new opportunities and to learn, work, and live our lives the way we thought was best for us. We worked hard to make a mark in our fields and accomplished many things. Yet there were many times we found ourselves lonely, confused, and unsure of how to handle life events, career circumstances, and interpersonal relationships.
Both my husband and I recalled that as kids when we were faced with any challenges, we would go to mom, dad, siblings, uncles or aunts for help. When we moved to the USA, we realized that our parents and relatives lived thousands of miles away. They had their own lives and concerns, so we felt that we should not share our worries, anxieties, or insecurities with them. We just worked hard, struggled silently, and made it appear that all was well. Over time, we realized that we had not only stopped sharing our lives with our family members back home, but we had also built walls around ourselves.
I learned about the Jana Raksha Community Care Program when I visited the ashram for the first time. It struck me as a wonderful service for the community. After my father-in-law passed away, my mother-in-law came to stay with us for some time. We were all grieving in different ways and did not know how to cope with his loss. This was the first time we reached out for help. We appreciated the continued calls from the program volunteers to check-in on us to see how we were doing, more than a year after our first meeting.
As time went by, changing career circumstances and raising a family when we ourselves felt lonely and unhappy was becoming really hard. I would talk about some of these things with my mother but when she passed away, things became even more difficult. My husband and I came back to the ashram for help and guidance. Through the Jana Raksha Program we were able to find someone to talk to who first heard us out and then encouraged us to open up and share our thoughts, feelings, and concerns with each other. The calm and welcoming environment of the ashram inspired us to start coming regularly to hear and learn about Vedantic teachings from Swamiji. Over several months, my husband and I were able to slowly open up to each other. Although this process is ongoing and not easy, we are grateful that we are making progress in the direction of understanding and accepting each other. The Arsha Bodha Center, Jana Raksha Program and Vedantic teachings are helping to provide us the space and opportunity to figure out solutions together – we no longer feel lonely. Thank you!
I was introduced to Arsha Bodha by a friend and it is during its weekly classes that I learnt about the Jana Raksha Community Care Program. I was in a tumultuous phase of my life between marriage counseling (that eventually ended in a painful divorce), brutal recall of past trauma, other family discord and significant professional challenges, all of which left me distraught and exhausted. As I battled anxiety, sadness, confusion and a deep sense of loss (of my relationships), it is the friendly volunteers of Jana Raksha that helped me tide over my limitations without judgement or commentary, extended care by offering to meet often as I requested, provided an emotional support at a time of extensive anguish and eventually helped me find a local psychologist fit to my need.
Transition to professional counseling made me aware of deep seated emotions, helped me have a better understanding of my strengths and limitations, gave me purpose to learn healthy coping strategies and become kinder to myself and those around me. Attending the classes at the ashram in parallel helped me become more aware of my greater reality, lay the foundation for my spiritual growth, gave me a chance to meet many wonderful students and provided me with a sense of community that I didn’t think I could have or was deserving of.
For the past several years, I have been a student of the ashram and have also continued my counseling to support my spiritual, emotional and psychological growth. I cannot thank the Jana Raksha Program volunteer enough for the significant and active support she has provided me, mindful of my journey and respectful of all the highs and lows I continue to experience. Sometimes I still feel low and at other times, I am filled with joy and a sense of gratitude.
Life continues to evolve and move forward – all but with one exception – I am now blessed to belong to a community of fellow students of Advaita Vedanta who are accepting of each other as natural creations of the universe, more tolerant of one another and more observant of their own emotions and corresponding responses. Arsha Bodha Center, through the Jana Raksha program, continues to thrive and support those in need, and live up to its mission to help.
I had been going to Arsha Bodha Center since 2010. Studies of the scriptures under the guidance of Swami Tadatmananda-ji had given me a purpose in life. It put me on a path which would take me beyond this mundane worldly life. When my adult son suddenly passed away over six years back, I could not make any sense of it. It was difficult for me to comprehend out why I had to cremate him; it should have been the other way around. Since I had already been going to the ashram, I knew about the Jana Raksha Community Care Program and I reached out to them to get through the grief of the loss of my son. I was immediately put in touch with a volunteer who helped me tremendously. This volunteer met me and gave me comforting support. She had gone through tragedy in her life and was able to understand and relate to my grief. I spoke able to speak with her in total confidence. After some heart to heart conversations, she suggested that I should seek out help from a professional and gave me information of a counselor close to where I lived. That was the best help anyone could have given me. Subsequent to spending some time with the counselor, I was on the road to recovery.
Even though I knew and understood the teachings of Vedanta, the death of my son caused deep emotional turmoil. If I had not gotten the support of the Jana Raksha Community Care Program, I would not have been able to pull myself out of the ocean of grief and would have been stuck on an emotional roller coaster ride. I am very thankful to Arsha Bodha Center for offering the Jana Raksha program which is a wonderful service to the community.
I am a survivor of domestic violence. I had called the Jana Raksha Community Care Program and left a message that I was in a very bad situation in my life and needed support. Within a short time, I got a call from them and was assigned a volunteer who was to help me. I felt alone, by myself, sinking with no hope left in my life. This volunteer gave me tremendous moral support and guidance. She gave me the contact number for Manavi and connected me with a lawyer. She also arranged for me to meet with Swamiji who poured faith of God in me. She showed me the bright side of life, as I was passing through the worst darkness in my life facing extremely difficult situations and needing to make very hard decisions. She was a life support and taught me how to deal with situations while letting me know that she was there for me. This volunteer kept in touch with me via the phone, encouraging and guiding me like a ray of sunshine and hope. I am alive because of her and am ever so thankful to her! Even now, I reach out to her and call her first when I am in a difficult situation. A recent difficulty I had was surgery to remove an eye that was damaged during domestic violence. I feel comfortable opening up with this volunteer and sharing the worst times of life.
I am very thankful to Swamiji, and all volunteers every moment of my life. I am especially grateful to the volunteer, who I call “ma”, for continuing to call and support me. The Jana Raksha Program is extremely helpful, and I am very thankful to all the volunteers from bottom of my heart. Thank you!
I had been attending Saturday morning sessions for quite some time. One day, I noticed a brochure describing the Jana Raksha Community Care Program and how it could help people deal with issues related to family/conflicts and depression. I picked up the brochure and thought about seeking the help of this program.
I have a wonderful and caring family, family-oriented children and a loving spouse. When my son got married to a girl from another community, things started to get bit tense at home. My otherwise quite understanding spouse was not happy with the cultural and language differences and was unable to have open and free conversations. This issue was on our minds a lot, causing the entire family to be unhappy and uneasy.
It took me several months to finally call the telephone number on the brochure. Initially, I spoke with a volunteer for about 30 minutes and felt at ease a little bit. After several discussions with this volunteer, I met with another volunteer, initially by myself, to discuss the family situation and how it was adversely affecting my mental as well as physical health. My main issue was that I was unable to accept the fact that in spite of having done everything right for my family, raising my children carefully so as to be a close-knit, well-bonded family, we were in a difficult situation. I had several meetings to discuss this situation with this volunteer, first by myself, and later on, along with my spouse. Discussing the situation with an open heart made us feel at ease. The volunteer understood our situation well and validated it as being normal among Indian families in the US, and she suggested different ways to bridge the relationship with other family members. And although it was not easy, we were able to resolve the differences to a great extent.
My experience overall, with Jana Raksha Program was very positive. It made me realize that it is very important to seek external help from someone you can trust and confide in. Without any reservation, I can say that the conversations and meetings with the volunteer have helped our family tremendously. We still have some more work to do – this process is gradual and takes time.
I strongly recommend any one to seek this help, especially if you are dealing with mental health issues or depression; it is often not easy to discuss with other family or friends, but someone with proper understanding and resources can be of great help. I am so happy that Swamiji at Arsha Bodha Center started this program a decade ago, a service which is invaluable to so many that it is hard to determine its sociological impact for families growing up in the US. I would also like to thank the ashram for providing help on an individual basis and for weekly group meditation and other programs.
I heard about Arsha Bodha Center from a friend. I visited the ashram where I met a volunteer whom I knew from work, and whom I felt drawn to; she had a positive effect on me, even though I did not know her well. I began coming to Saturday’s meditation class and since then, the Center has been a gift to my wellbeing. The sincerity and simplicity of Swamiji’s words echoed both during meditation classes and in my conversations with this volunteer deeply resonate with me long after I leave the ashram.
At that time my sister was dealing with cancer and I was desperately looking for help. This volunteer offered her help through the Jana Raksha Community Care Program and I soon started coming to individual private meetings with her to talk about my sister and other worries I had about my kids. The caring thoughtfulness of this volunteer and the warmth of the ashram have kept me coming back week after week and has improved my spiritual understanding of life in many ways. Thank you all for being there!
When a major health related problem hits one spouse, the other spouse is totally caught off guard and does not know where to turn to for help, especially, when the spouse providing the care for the unwell spouse, must continue to work to support the house. This was the situation in my case – my healthy, vibrant, workaholic spouse who was dealing with cancer, was diagnosed with dementia and was forced to quit work and stay home alone, while I had to go to work.
Through networking I was able to connect with an amazing individual at the Jana Raksha Community Care Program. She quickly found me a volunteer who was willing to come to my house once a week for an hour to give company to my husband and provide the much needed respite care for me. I am very grateful for this timely help and, sincerely encourage others involved with the Jana Raksha Program to continue providing such services. Thank you!
The Jana Raksha Community Care Program was very helpful to me. I lost my husband in 2012 and was feeling down, unable to concentrate at work and other daily activities. One of my friends who is very involved with Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in PA and helped me when my husband was sick, suggested that I call Arsha Bodha Center since they had a program called Jana Raksha Community Care designed to help people going through difficulties in life. She assured me that everything would be kept confidential.
After thinking about her suggestion for a while, I called the program and was assigned to a volunteer. This volunteer called me immediately and listened to what I had to say. Then she called back the next day, and soon thereafter, and continued to call me regularly. She too had lost her husband but made me see that one can be strong. She made me laugh and brought positivity in my life; we are good friends now. Through her, I met another student of the ashram who I have become good friends with, and with whom I talk very often. This helps me a lot since I live far from the ashram and do not get to meet them in person very often. I have also met and confided in another volunteer who is kind, very knowledgeable and helpful, answering my e-mails and calls.
The Jana Raksha program has helped me a lot and I will recommend this program to others any time.
We have been devotees of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in PA for many years and love the institution. We moved to Somerset a year and a half ago from our previous home of almost thirty five years due to medical issues and other personal problems. When we moved to Somerset, we found out that Arsha Bodha Center was close by and it was a great incentive for my husband to start attending classes there. He picked up a pamphlet from the ashram describing the Jana Raksha Community Care Program. We called them to speak to someone to see if we could get some help, as we needed the help very much. We spoke to a volunteer who was extremely kind and very understanding and gave us a referral to a professional family counselor in the area.
We have been very fortunate to find such a group of wonderful people who continue to help us. We recommend the Jana Raksha Program which is run in a professional manner and offers such high quality help to anyone who needs it.
I reached out to the Jana Raksha Community Care Program when I was struggling in my relationships. The volunteer assigned to me truly helped me. With her positive outlook, she provided comforting encouragement, with the real life examples from her own life and channeled me in a positive direction. This volunteer is a wonderful listener and helped me through the situation by suggesting alternative ways of thinking. Her guidance resonated with me because that is what my mom’s advice would be, and I really respect and value it. I’m not only grateful to her but always look forward to speaking with her. Arsha Bodha Center is blessed to have such a volunteer as part of their Jana Raksha Program which provides such a great service to the community. I wish the program and all its volunteers the very best – thank you!
I was born and raised in India and moved to USA because of work. Later, I got married and had two children. During a mental health crisis, I found the Jana Raksha Community Care Program, through a turn of events, and have been getting support from a volunteer for the past 10 years. This volunteer has become a friend and aunt to me, giving me guidance. Prior to meeting her, I didn’t have any friends who I could talk to openly about my issues and not feel judged. That is why my relationship with this volunteer is so valuable and special. She is not a mental health professional, but she has dealt with similar situations in her life and has a lot of care and compassion.
I am so thankful that I found the Jana Raksha Program – it gives me chills to even think of what would have happened to me had I not gotten the much needed support I needed that was given by this volunteer! I have gotten tremendous support from the Jana Raksha Program; it has provided me with a lot of resources that have helped me walk through my challenging life. I would encourage others to get to know the program and seek help from it or get involved to provide support to others.
In 2010, I was going through a crisis in my life. I had lost my job and was struggling to find another one but was unable to. I was very much depressed and was seeking some mental solace and help. This is when I called the Jana Raksha Community Care Program which was very helpful. I met with a volunteer who did a lot of hand holding and comforting. He shared with me his own personal experiences that showed me a path to follow; this was an eye opener for me. His guidance paid off and I was eventually able to get back to my normal activities.
I want to thank the group for coming to my help when I needed it the most.
I was very hesitant and reluctant to seek outside help when I was struggling thinking I could do it all myself. I felt that a psychiatrist or psychotherapist would not understand me. Not knowing where to turn to, and not having a family to fall back to, I stumbled upon a pamphlet describing the Jana Raksha Community Care Program. It took me another couple of weeks to make the call into the program. The call was immediately answered, and I was able to get help via phone from a trained volunteer who assured me that everything that I shared would be confidential.
A few years later when I needed help again urgently, I reached out to this volunteer directly, and I was treated with utmost care and affection. I have been very blessed to find the Jana Raksha Program that helped me cross the darkest periods in my life with the assurance of comfort and trust. I have become good friends with the volunteer who guided and supported me, and I am grateful to Swamiji and Arsha Bodha Center to provide this service to the community. This kind of program whereby we can receive a certain comfort in knowing that we have a friend who is also a student of Vedanta, is one of a kind.
The Jana Raksha Community Care Program has been like God sent to me! I was suffering from terrible back pain and had to drive an hour each way to work with excruciating back pain. I tried many medicines, some of which drove me into depression, and made it very difficult for me to keep my job. A friend told me about this Jana Raksha program, and I called right away. I was introduced to a volunteer who helped to calm me and helped deal with my pain. I was fortunate to be able to get help in the time of need and ultimately, I had surgery and I am okay now. This volunteer is still my friend; to know that there is someone to help me when I am in need is a great comfort. Thanks to our Swamiji for starting this program. I am not sure where I would be today without his help.
I called the Jana Raksha Community Care program and was relieved by talking to volunteer. She helped me figure out what I need to do and how this program can help. She also gave me resources, many of which I was not aware of. She talked to me at length, many times and soon became a friend.
Many families need help but are afraid to ask for it because of stigma. I feel we should have more programs like the Jana Raksha Program. I hope and pray that such programs continue to be available for our future generations. Thank you and God bless!
My firsthand experience of the Jana Raksha Community Care Program is very positive. The volunteers of the program create a safe and secure environment for anyone struggling with life’s issues. I met a wonderful human being (an angel) through the program and have gained a mentor and friend for life! The care and nonjudgmental support that I received from this volunteer helped to lift my spirits. The volunteer also created an atmosphere that was conducive to my emotional stability.
The Jana Raksha program is an extremely critical and valuable program that ensures that people who need emotional, mental and physical support through a period of crisis or a difficult period in life can get access to it at the right time. The value of such an important program can be realized only by talking to those people whose life it has touched.
Congratulations to Arsha Bodha Center on its 20th anniversary and to the Jana Raksha Community Care Program on completing 10 years! My prayer is that you will be able to offer this service for many years to come. I have warm memories and much respect for the volunteers who came to offer their support to my husband whose health was deteriorating. They were thoughtful and caring and were at his side for almost eight years of his illness before he passed away. May God bless the program and all the volunteers!
Testimonials from Volunteers
I have had the honor and privilege of volunteering for the Jana Raksha Community Care Program – Friends Helping Friends – for the past decade. Following the lead of our beloved teacher Swami Tadatmanandaji and a respected psychologist and psychiatrist in our community, several students of the ashram went through a rigorous and thoughtful training program. Among the most important things we learned in this training was how to really listen to each other’s struggles without judgement so that we can become caring and supportive, not only of others, but of ourselves too. Helping each other starts through building meaningful relationships, and only when we are able to really listen, can we begin to address those challenges together as a community, beyond just our immediate family network. More specifically, through this program, we get to know and confide in each other, becoming friends. This allows the recipient to know that they are not alone in their strife and that there is a network of care available to them.
An important thing I have learned from my experience as a volunteer is that in a modern changing world where families are more nuclear and spread out, we need to find new ways to grow as a community. The Jana Raksha Program does that – it not only helps the individual, but also makes our community members stronger and resilient, more joyful and generous. I am very grateful to be a part of this program which I support, but from which I also benefit at so many levels!
I joined the Jana Raksha Community Care Program with the aim of giving something back to the community that had given me so much. Little did I know that instead of giving, how much I would be getting back!
Living in one’s own cocoon, one does not realize the suffering that goes on around you. Through the program, I met the most wonderful, loveable people, facing difficult situations and desperately trying to find solutions; people who were abused, people who felt lonely due to the death of a spouse, young couples trying to adjust and make their marriage work, and others trying to care for a handicapped member of the family.
Through listening to the struggles of others, I have learned to stop whining over petty things and instead, count my blessings. I learned to appreciate what true courage is. Making the best of what has been handed out to you is not easy and yet I saw my recipients do just that. One in particular recipient who was abused comes to mind. She was married, had a son, lived in a joint family and was treated very badly. Her husband at the instigation of his sister in law would often abuse her, physically and emotionally. She tolerated it as long as she could, until it became unbearable. Summoning all her strength and courage, she went to court for placing a restraining order against her husband. And finally, at the cost of alienating her own family for whom divorce was a big taboo, she eventually divorced him. Overcoming all these horrific unthinkable hurdles, she lives with dignity today.
Thanks to Jana Raksha Program that has taught me so much!
When we were in India, we lived amongst our loved ones, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts etc. and their support was immeasurable. We come with big dreams to the US, imagining a luxurious life of big cars, big houses, and good education and of course, our dream job! If everything works out, we are fortunate. But if we get stuck, there is no one we can talk to. We do not know who to trust, and struggle on your own. There is no aunt or uncle to hold our hand. Only after a few punches in the gut, do we realize what we left behind – our support network of our family.
Swami Tadatmanandaji, the founder and chief Acharya of Arsha Bodha Center, realized what the Indian community was going through when students would often come to him with their problems looking for solutions. That is when he launched the Jana Raksha Community Care Program so that more people could get help. He invited about twenty long-time students of the ashram to volunteer, and I was one of the lucky ones to be included. We went through training for six weeks. Swamiji invited psychiatrists, social workers, therapists and other experts who trained us and we learned how to help people in need of support. The problems we dealt with vary; some people face physical or mental challenges, some are socially withdrawn and isolated feeling lonely and need companionship. As volunteers, we did not advise them, but by engaging with them, we help them figure out a solution for their problems by themselves. We also have a list of resources including doctors, therapists, funeral homes, priests etc. who we could share with our recipients when needed.
It has been a learning process for me, and I thank Swamiji for starting the Jana Raksha Program which is helping so many people in our community. I hope the program will continue forever!
A friend from the early-nineties, introduced me to Arsha Bodha Center, and the teachings of Vedanta taught by Swami Tadamanandaji in the summer of 2001. Outside of visiting temples, this was my first exposure to spirituality since arriving in the US. I was in my fifties and a challenging, rewarding, long career in engineering was becoming dull with routine projects. I grew up in an orthodox Brahmin family in India with significant exposure to religious ceremonies and temple activities. As a teen, I participated with my grandfather in chanting Sanskrit Vedic shlokas, stotras and bhajans, without knowing their meaning! My main incentive was receiving dakshina (cash gift) that was very useful in spending for personal pleasures, mainly movies.
When I first heard Swamiji chant the Bhagavad Gita verses in Sanskrit with such a profound authentic pronunciation and explain the meaning of each word, it blew my mind away! And I was hooked from that day on to become a regular student of the ashram.
Gradually, my interest grew in other spiritual activities at the center and participated as a volunteer in many programs. This was personally very fulfilling and rewarding. When Swamiji launched the Jana Raksha Community Care Program a decade ago, I was thrilled to be selected as a volunteer. Even though I had some anxiety and uncertainty during the training sessions and during my initial interactions with the first few recipients, this program became a game changer in my life! I was fortunate to have over ten recipients belonging to different religions. When I interact with my recipients, I try very hard to remember and implement the important points from the training classes and some of the key spiritual teachings I learned from Swamiji. Since they have helped me so much, I thought of sharing them with you – be a thoughtful listener and provide plenty of time for additional conversations and interactions with the recipient; create a personal rapport without asking too many personal questions; earn loyalty and trust by being truthful; put yourself in the recipient’s shoes to understand what they are going through; try very hard not to judge the person; provide established resources and consult with the program’s supervisors when needed and above all, be respectful, compassionate and humble.
As a result of volunteering, I have formed close relationships with some recipients that have turned into lifelong friendships. I also feel blessed that my personal life and relationship with my family members and friends is fairly healthy. I recognize that minor emotional issues can easily be controlled and corrected. Helping others without any personal agenda definitely brings true inner happiness. The Jana Raksha Program has helped me accept my own personal ego and emotional issues, and to deal with them. Thanks to Swamiji for giving me an opportunity to stay on the spiritual path.
I have worked as a hospice chaplain for several decades. About 7 years ago, as part of their on-going training, I was asked to give a talk to the volunteers of the Jana Raksha Community Care Program about end-of-life care from the hospice perspective. We discussed palliative care, stages of dying, active and reflective listening with the declining person and family and needless to say, there were many questions raised. To move from curing to caring is a process of understanding that may challenge our spiritual maturity yet draw us deeper into our true nature. This change of attitude may at first sight seem as a giving up and devaluing of the essence of life; but an approach based upon caring support, regardless of results, may open the door to a spiritual intimacy beyond comparison.
In the past year, I was fortunate to share a bedside visit with the 90+ year mother of a volunteer’s dear friend and co-worker in an Assisted Living facility. Though the lady was physically declining, our visit was uplifting and a witness to the undaunted spirit and gift of life. Through active listening, this mother began to share some of her life memories and experiences. She vividly responded to the big band music and lyrics of the 1940’s with conversation and a bright countenance. Our visit made a difference in her life that day, and, perhaps reconnected all of us to the essence that illumines the dance of our lives. Sadly, she passed away a week later.
I suppose Jana Raksha could be translated as “care of living beings” and is an expression of protection and care of our lives as seen through visits and phone support emanating from and through the teachings of Vedanta.
My wife and I volunteered to support the Jana Raksha Community Care Program of Arsha Bodha Center to make a difference in people’s life. The program provides us an opportunity to share our gift of Vedantic teachings, our life time experiences of growing up in large families in India and raising children in the US. We were certainly blessed by all the angels who came to our rescue over our lifetime and we wanted to give back to the community that nurtures us.
I was informed of a need to provide assistance to an elderly couple where one of them had been afflicted with dementia (memory-challenged patient) for many years. The assistance was as easy as spending a few hours at the couple’s home, holding a conversation with the patient, while the other spouse could get a little break from care-giving and attend to other social or religious events away from home. I agreed to help immediately. Some patients with dementia remember their early lives vividly but have difficulty with short-term memory. Conversations with this person in the same native language showed me how well he could relate to my life. However, I was also saddened when I heard from his wife that he would have no memory of me or our conversation.
This experience showed me that the support from kind-hearted, trusted, dedicated and able volunteers of the Jana Raksha Program can enrich older people who may not have help from other sources, or are otherwise dependent on expensive alternatives. Money cannot buy happiness and money cannot buy the kind of services provided by volunteers of the Jana Raksha Program. My best wishes to Arsha Bodha Center and the Jana Raksha program for many years of service to our communities!
It has been about a year since I have been volunteering under the auspices of Jana Raksha Community Care Program. I have been providing supportive care to a person suffering from the early stage of dementia. Having worked in the medical field, I know that dementia is a progressive disease and there is no cure yet. People with dementia can have gradual loss of memory, confusion and anxiety etc. And I see this in my recipient as a progressive deterioration.
By providing respite care to his spouse once a week, my visit with the recipient encourages him to get involved in a healthy interaction with me, resulting in making him feel good. I am glad to see that my volunteer service has some positive impact and the patient’s family does appreciate the services of the Jana Raksha Program. Personally, it is rewarding for me to see that my time spent with the patient is beneficial to him and the family.