Colours Of Life
The Yongs' Pic Album since 1998
World Seva 2011
Robyn's Diary
About the Yongs


13th Year: 2011
- Piano Recital by Robyn, Mosaic Art Portrait & CNY Reunion Lunch
- Chinese New Year, PA Got Talents, Alvin's Birthday & Opening of Clay-Street New Studio
- Bye-bye Heni
Seva Wk 01: Art of Living Ashram, Bangalore
Seva Wk 02: 1st Seva with Divine Karnataka Project & On Course
Seva Wk 03: Sponsoring Rural Village Sport Clubs & Bridge at Chikmagalur
Seva Wk 04:
'WHY DKP' Corporate Fund Raising
Seva Wk 05: DKP Helps Rural Farmers, Gadag & Koppal, Karnataka
Seva Wk 06: Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar, Konark, Puri & Sri Sri University
Seva Wk 07: Tribal School Project, Jharkhand
Seva Wk 08:
Tribal School Arts Festival on Facebook
Seva Wk 09: Tribal School @ Dumuria & Ranchi
Seva Wk 10: Tribal School Digital Contest & Kolkata
Seva Wk 11: Kolkata to Delhi to Himachal Pradesh
Seva Wk 12: Shoghi, Shimla & Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh

Seva Wk 13: Homestay @ Tirthan, Kullu Valley
Seva Wk 14: Sangla, Peo, Nako, Kinnaur Valley
Seva Wk 15: Tabo, Kaza, Kye, Spiti Valley
Seva Wk 16: Demul to Komic on Yaks, Spiti Valley

Seva Wk 17: Kaza to Manali to Gurgaon, Delhi
Seva Wk 18: Gurgaon & Barefoot College,Tilonia
Seva Wk 19: Jaipur & back to Bangalore
Seva Wk 20 & 21: With the Murthys in Bangalore

Seva Wk 22-24: Meridian 101 Ambassadors for India & Bye Bye India
Seva Wk 25: Seva in Africa - Jumbo Kenya!
Seva Wk 26: Seva at the Children's Garden Home
Seva Wk 27: More Seva Projects at CGH
Seva Wk 28: Self-drive Safari to Masai Mara, Lake Naivasha, Hell's Gate
Seva Wk 29: Short Break to Arusha, Tanzania
Seva Wk 30: Safari at Nairobi National Park & Children's Day Celebration
Seva Wk 31: Launching BEADwear for Christmas
Seva Wk 32: Robyn turns 13 in Kampala, Uganda
Seva Wk 33: Rafting the White Nile, Jinja, Uganda
Seva Wk 34: Sipi Falls, Uganda & African Child Mega Dance in Kenya
Seva Wk 35: Nairobi to Mombasa, Malindi & Lamu
Seva Wk 36: Seva@Lamu - Donkey necklace + Kaya
Seva Wk 37: Seva@Lamu - Hands Up 4 Kids
Seva Wk 38: Bye Africa, Hello Istanbul, Homeward-bound Singapore
- Home Sweet Home in Singapore

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SEVA WEEK 5 (4-10 Apr 2011)

r e f l e c t i o n : ON 21st CENTURY SLAVERY...


3-Week Stay at Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Bangalore

21 Mar - 9 Apr 2011 - Our 3-week stay at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in JP Nagar was most serene and also economical (Rs. 500/night). The ashram is clean and quiet, has about 20 rooms and a canteen that serves vegetarian meals. People there are friendly and helpful. There's a meditation hall open to anyone, a bookstore that stocks many excellent Aurobindo books, a gym and a new age primary school.
Robyn in meditation

Sudarshan Kriya

Every morning, we enjoyed a routine of yoga, pranayama, sudarshan kriya and meditation, and a sun exercise for our eyes, taught through a little booklet from the Aurobindo bookstore.

Breakfast at Sri Aurobindo ashram
Robyn's fav breakfast remained bread and honey...
Breakfast at Sri Aurobindo ashram
Coffee and tea are excellent in India...
Robyn washing clothes Robyn doing robo-laundry duty. "Up, down, up, down, scrub, scrub, scrub, up, down." Robyn telling Anvita about the story of Harry Potter Anvita is a student at the Mirambika School for the New Age in Sri Aurobindo Ashram. After school she will study on the kitchen floor where her parents are working as cooks in the Ashram. Robyn and Anvita became good friends and played card games, hide-&-seek and sneeking into the school playground by climbing the fence.
Robyn has a lovely playmate in Anvita, an 8 year old girl who's a super natural dancer.
Anvita, a superb natural dancer, just shaved her hair. Local culture requires a child to shave their hair at least once after birth.
A nice portrait shot of Anvita taken by Robyn
A nice portrait shot of Anvita taken by Robyn at the corridor outside our room.


The Divine Karnataka Project: Website Architecture & Rural Farm Development

Our last week in Bangalore was a productive one. I hammered out 2 Appeal Letters for Nagaraj-ji - one to appeal for donation to fund the bridge construction at Chikmagalur, another to corporate CEO to invite them to hear out our "WHY DKP in 20min".

5 Apr 2011 - The key corporate presenter for 'WHY DKP' would be Muraliji. Heading the global youth programs (Art Excel and YES), Muraliji graduated from IIT and left his wine and spirit business to do full time seva with Art of Living, which is also in the "business of spirit". On 5 Apr, we met at Muraliji's office with Nagaraj-ji, Pathikji and Baleji to go through our suggestion on the fund raising strategy and the "WHY DKP in 20min" presentation. With Muraliji in the lead, I'm sure the DKP Presenter Team would go out and pull in much needed funds to support all the good work done by the DKP Yuvacharyas and volunteers. Why DKY in 20min by Alvin to Murali


DKP Web Team9 Apr 2011 - Our final task was the DKP website architecture. Vivekananda and Chethan were still struggling with how best to organize the humongous amount of info for the new DKP website and how to lay out the navigation. It was like back to my Lycos days so I decided to create a mock-up DKP website to demonstrate my ideas and launched it online for the web design meeting on 9 Apr morning, our last day at the DKP office.

Alvin sharing website design with DKP Web Team
Website design meeting in DKP office.

Alvin & Vivekananda
Alvin and Vivekananda

Alvin & Pathik
Alvin and Pathikji

Alvin & Nagaraj
Alvin and Nagaraj-ji
iPhone artists Robyn and Ravindra
iPhone Artists Robyn and Ravindra

Yezdiji, Alvin, Robyn and Jin
Yezdiji, Alvin, Robyn and Jin.

Ragini, Robyn and Jin
Ragini, Robyn and Jin.
Lunch with DKP Team at Maiya's Restaurant
Farewell lunch with DKP Team at Maiya's Restaurant.


Uplifting Rural Farmers

The northern Karnataka is dry with few lakes or mountain water sources. Irrigation is dependent on rainfall and underground water. The rural farmers here are very poor and most are suffering now from not only dryness but more critically from 'unhealthy land' due to years of using chemicals. Like their counterparts in Thailand and The Philippines, Indian farmers had been sold on using chemicals by western companies and corrupted government agencies over the past 2-3 decades. They departed from their traditional organic farming method of using cow dung mixture as fertilizer which is natural and free. Instead, they mistakenly chose to spend lots of money on chemicals to squeeze up yields over the initial years but gradually destroyed the natural occurring nutrients in their land, making it fatigue and dead. Farmers then become dependent on the continual use of chemicals and the kind of seeds provided by these companies. They borrow money to buy the chemicals and seeds, and sell their crops to middlemen at unfairly low prices. The farmers are unable to do the sum to make profits. We learnt that many farmers committed suicide when their loans mounted especially if an unfavorable weather season befall them.

The DKP Rural Development Team, headed by Baleji, is determined to turn the tide for these rural farmers. Guruji says that India is 80% agriculture and therefore for India to progress, we must help uplift the lives of these 80% rural farming people. The world's next big thing is in agriculture, in producing more and quality, poison-free food for mankind. DKP has chosen Gadag as its rural development HQ.

As we didn't visit any rural farming community over the past month, the spotlight on that aspect of DKP was rather dim in the WHY DKP presentation. So, before we head off to Hyderabad, Baleji and Nagaraj-ji arranged for us to squeeze in one last round of visit to Gadag and Koppal in northern Karnataka, 350km from Bangalore on Sunday, 10 Apr, and we would then go to Hyderabad from there.

At 10pm on 9 Apr, we boarded our first overnight train from Bangalore to Gadag, where we would meet with Deepak and Baleji for a full day of visit to rural farming initiatives in Gadag and Koppal. Thanks to Praveen, we managed to get onboard in the nick of time before the train got moving. We enjoyed a good night sleep...

Train ride from Bangalore to Gadag
Overnight train
Morning coffee in train

Thanks to Ragini of VVKI for booking all our train tickets. This 11-hour train overnight ride was pretty comfortable.

We rolled northward into farm country. Looking out of the window, I wonder how Gandhi might have felt when he travelled around this vast country by train to better understand his people and their living conditions.

Sights of children from the train
Sight of curious kids from the train.

Farm country scene from the train
Farm country scene from the train.
Kid in Gadag drying cow dung to be used as fuel
A girl slapping cow dung onto the wall of her house to be dried for use as fuel.

Suresh, Mallappa and Robyn

Suresh the organic farming trainerDeepak picked us up at the Gadag train station and we went for a quick breakfast of poori. Our program for the day was a packed one so we zoomed off in a small car packed to the brim with our 3 big luggage to visit an organic farmer and meet Suresh, the DKP organic farm trainer.

With over 2 decades of organic farming experience, Suresh is passionate to share his knowledge with all farmers and encourage them to switch back to budget-free, chemical-free, organic farming.

We visited Mallappa's organic farm at Lakkundi. Suresh pointed out the richness in bio-diversity in Mallappa's 5-acre organic farm compared to the sparseness in neighbouring farms that relied on chemicals. The bio-diversity creates a self-sustaining eco-system in which different types of plant support one another to grow healthily. When we walked into his organic farm, we immediately feel the lushness and coolness created by the micro-climate within. This morning was Organic Farming 101.

Suresh giving us an organic agriculture 101 lesson
Suresh, Deepak, Robyn and Jin
Organic guava
Organic guava
Organic lime
Organic lime
Organic papaya
Organic papaya

Organic bananaMallappa shifted to organic farming 15 years ago. We asked him what difference has it made? He happily answered, "There's no cost in organic farming so I'm loan-free and stress-free. Since then, I've been able to own another 5 acres of land and 3 more houses."

Organic farming is zero-budget because the soils is naturally enriched through the bio-diversity and fertilizers are made using cow dung mixed with cow urine and jaggery. Yield is higher, fruits and vegetables are fresher and tastier, and more importantly, poison-free. For instance, conventionally a banana tree is cut after 3 crops but Mallappa's organic banana tree is still giving high yield after 11 crops!

Mallappa sells only to regular customers who come to buy directly from his 5-acre organic farm. He's proud of his healthy, organic produce, and happy with higher yield and better earnings.

Organic cumumber
Organic cucumber
Organic chiku
Organic chiku
Organic jasmine
Organic jasmine
A wooden case in the middle of the farm serves as the home to thousands of honey bees that naturally pollinate the plants.

So why are there so few organic farmers? Because it takes about 3-5 years to gradually convert a chemical-contaminated land and create the self-sustaining eco-system. And most farmers are simply so poor and desperate, living year by year, that they are not willing to work and wait for such delayed gratification. So they choose to continue with the suffering and face a bleak and dimming future. What a familiar flavour? There are plenty back home in Singapore with the same mindset too. While the professions may be different, the same stubbornness to stick to an inferior way of doing things with an unwillingness to change, is causing so many unnecessary prolonged suffering.

Channabasappa is Chairman of the Sri Sri Organic Farmers Producers AssociationNext organic farmer we visited was Channabasappa, who serves as the Chairman of the Sri Sri Organic Farmers Producers Association. He is a leader of the local farmers and is passionate about DKP Rural Development Project to help his fellow farmers to shift to organic farming for a better future.

DKP is encouraging local farmers to join the Sri Sri Organic Farmers Producers Association to shift to organic farming, and to work together to offer poison-free healthy produce under the Sri Sri brand and sell directly to consumers. This way, the farmers would be able to set their own price and bypass the middleman, and therefore secure a better income.

Currently, rural farmers are paid only Rs.670 for 100kg of rice by rice traders. After a few more rounds of middlemen, consumers pay Rs.3200 for the same 100kg of rice. Along the line, all the traders enjoy good margin of profit except the poor farmers who slave the entire year for little or no profit.

In DKP's social non-profit Sri Sri Organic Farmers Producers Association model, the member farmers would sell directly to the members of the Sri Sri Organic Farm Produce Consumer Association in the city. Beautiful!

Organic onion flowers
Channabasappa planted a whole field of organic onions for producing local onion seeds. The seeds come from rubbing the flowers. These seeds will be sold to other farmers so as to not be dependent on imparted seeds.

Channabasappa and his family
We were honored to be invited to Channabasappa's home for a homecook lunch. He also showed us around his village and we visited a few homes to better understand the livelihood of rural farmers.

Home made of stones

Above: rural home made of stones.

Right: There's no water tap in home. Everyone pumps underground water from common bore well.

Collecting water

At 5.30pm, Deepak took us to link up with Baleji in Koppal, a district to the east of Gadag. Baleji shared his vision in rural development with us. He has been a communist leader fighting for the rights of farmers since 25 years ago. In 2010, he got to know about DKP and Art of Living, and joined DKP on full time seva to direct the development work for the rural farmers.

Baleji's daughter is an architect and she helped to design the Rishi Krishi (traditional organic farming) Institute that DKP is working hard to raise fund to construct.

Baleji, the visionary leader of the DKP rural development effort
Baleji directs the DKP rural development effort
Robyn chatting with Deepak and the Yuvacharyas
Robyn chatting with Deepak and the Yuvacharyas.
Curosity in rural children about us
"What is this Singapore family doing here...?"

A local DKP farmers' meeting
At 7.30pm, we were taken to attend a meeting of local farmers organized by DKP yuvacharyas in Koppal. The meeting was held at the village temple.

Baleji spoke to these farmers about how DKP and the Sri Sri Farmers Producers Association are here to assist them with organic farming training and encouraged them to come together to support one another.

I was invited to say a few words. Deepak helped to translate my encouragement and confidence in DKP to the farming audience.

A skeptical farmer

The Yongs and the rural farmers

While some farmers may remain skeptical, I'm confident that some would step forward to prove the worthiness of DKP program by becoming happier and wealthier organic farmers in the days ahead. Like Channabasappa and Suresh, they would then take on leadership role to help uplift the lives of even more farmers. This is what seva, and life, is all about.



> Week 6: Hyderabad and Bhubaneswar...


previous   Apr 2011 (12 yr 6 mth)  next

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