When You Give You Receive: Ramana’s Garden Children’s Home
“ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!”. The chorus rang out as over 40 kids joined in a circle, belting the Beatles’ message out exuberantly while I strummed my guitar. These special kids are joined in so much more than chorus though. They are joined in a brotherhood and sisterhood that floors me to bear witness. The nightly scene at Ramana’s Garden Children’s Home in Rishikesh involves chanting mantras, singing upbeat songs in both Hindi and English, and tons of good vibes.
When I arrived in the holy city of Rishikesh I met up with Claire and Julia who happened to be staying next to Ramana’s Garden, a cafe and school for at risk children, many of whom have lost one or both of their parents. They invited me to a play the children were putting on that day about saving the sacred Ganges river. The play was both insightful and hilarious; I sincerely laughed harder than I have at any Bollywood movie I’ve seen. That night we joined the kids for their nightly satsang and I was blown away by the looks of serenity on the kids as they recited the entire Hanuman Chalisa by heart (it takes over 5 minutes to recite!).
I have been back along with my guitar almost every night for the past two weeks, joining in their songs and smiles. I am usually greeted by a series of bear hugs from some of the kids while others immediately unzip my guitar case and start strumming and dancing about. One afternoon we did a kid’s yoga class followed by a trip down to the frigid Ganges river to cool off. I served as a back flip launch pad and a human ferry, swimming with kids draped around my back for a free ride. They are some of the best swimmers I’ve seen in India regardless of age. Watching little Taj, who has one hand, determinedly glide across the water was truly inspiring.
But this post isn’t just about me, it’s about the incredible work that the school is doing.
The school runs Ramana’s Organic Cafe, a source of delicious organic meals from which all of the proceeds go directly towards the kids. Over 60 kids reside at the school, enjoying daily organic meals, access to medicine, shelter, the camaraderie of their fellow brothers and sisters, and the genuine love from their teachers and volunteers free of charge. Over 100 additional at risk kids attend schooling for free, sponsored all the way through college!
The kids who are old enough take turns helping out at the cafe by cooking, taking orders, and clearing plates. They speak fluent English and Hindi and engage with people from around the world on a daily basis. The sense of community at the school is one of the strongest I have ever witnessed as everyone supports one another, no matter how old or young. These kids are embodying the ideals of loving one another and treating others the way you want to be treated that so many of us have drifted away from as we’ve grown older. And they’re having so much fun while doing it!
This summer I will be bicycling through Europe and plan to take to spirit of Ramana’s with me. I will be raising money to donate to the children’s school as well as starting a program called Well Worn Souls to share meals, clothes, shelter, etc. with the underprivileged I encounter and to share their stories with the world.
Please consider donating to my campaign or directly to Ramana’s to help them continue their life-changing work. The great writer of children’s fables Aesop proclaimed, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Ramana’s is performing grand acts of kindness and could use our support, no matter how small.
Just like the kids sing, “All you need is love”.