Didi Ananda Devapriya was interviewed recently for the second time on TV6 Romania, on a spiritual talk show called Dialogues Between the Mind and Heart. The interview went into some depth about kiirtan and the importance of opening the heart with devotion.
The Sunrise kindergartens have been enjoying increasing enrollments and a lengthening waiting list, a welcome relief after several years of tight times.
We also have added new members into our teaching team, and this year they went through a well structured professional development program in Neohumanist Education in 4 saturday sessions. The Neohumanist Education Curriculum that our team has been working on for the past two years served as a basis for the training, and have helped to improve the integration of new members into the team, providing more clarity about the methodology and approach. Our Neohumanist Early Childhood Education Curriculum underwent a rigorous review and revision process with the help of a committee formed by Gurukul, and has at last received their endorsement. The Romanian version has just finished revision in July and we plan to submit it by the end of the month at the Ministry of Education for another review, in the process of accreditation as a national educational alternative.
The program this year was diverse and creative in both kindergartens. In both locations, we invited our friends from the Fire Department, who came in fire fighter gear and taught the kids about fire safety. In the Mihai Bravu Kindergarten, the children celebrated world cultures by focusing on Egypt – and an Egyptian ambassador came to the kindergarten, presenting the children with papyrus scrolls and showing slides of his country. In Bucuresti Noi, the children had a Spanish fiesta, with costumes and lots of dancing! Our yearly theme of “Many faces, one human heart” about human diversity included a visit from Marius – a young man with cerebral palsy who attended the kindergarten when he was little, and Diipani, AMURTEL’s Executive Director who is of Roma ethnicity. The kindergarten’s approach to overcoming stereotypes is to form warm friendships with people from minority groups. In Bucuresti Noi, a total of 7 socially disadvantaged children attended the kindergarten through a partnership with the Department of Social Services. It was a chance to make a difference in the lives of these small children, and the parents also benefited from guidance and support from our staff. This is another facet of our inclusive education program, in addition to the inclusion of 3 special needs children in Mihai Bravu kindergarten.
There were also several special excursions organized – one of the highlights was a trip to a traditional village of pottery makers, where the children got a chance to work on pottery wheels and play with clay. We also went to visit a Salt Mine, deep under the earth with salty high vaulted walls, giving the impression of a massive cathedral, and tiny flecks of salt filling the air. Salt Mines are considered a therapeutic treatment, and a general health tonic, especially for children that tend to get colds – so many of the parents were happy that we organized this trip. It was an extremely hot day, but deep underground, the temperature was cool enough that we had to dress in warm jackets and hats! That day ended with a picnic outdoors alongside a salt lake and playing on inflatable slides and a trampolene.
In Bucuresti Noi, the end of the year programs were affected by an outbreak of chicken pox, but luckily most of the children were able to participate in the annual theater performance of Cinderella. In Mihai Bravu, the children performed a version of a famous Romanian story “Veronica”, similar to Alice in Wonderland. The “Ladybugs” family of smaller children performed a story about an apple tree.
The school year concluded with a very special event – an overnight pyjama party! The day began with our annual much-loved excursion to go horseriding. We returned to the kindergarten after a picnic lunch, and the children had a nap….Then they helped make pizzas – each child got to decorate their own pizza according to their imagination! They also helped decorate the courtyard with lots of balloons and streamers, and then we had a dance party – with musical chairs and other games – including apple bobbing! After dinner, Didi played her flute to help the children settle down, and then we had an open-air movie theater, complete with popcorn and icecream, and lit sparklers in the courtyard for a grand finale! It was exciting for the children to sleep in their familiar naptime beds overnight – so it took some time for all eyes to close, even after such a long and fun day! The next day, the fun continued with a pinata and splashing in the pool! Our dedicated teachers were quite exhausted after such a long 2 days – but everyone was very satisfied and happy with the memorable experience that the children had!
Fountain of Hope needs more sponsorships
Fountain of Hope is very full this year with 42 children enrolled. Buzau county, where Panatau is located, suffered from such an extreme winter this year that it made international news, showing houses literally buried under the snow with army helicopters sent in to dig people out. While the hilliness of Panatau protected it from the more extreme snow drifts, but the temperatures were very severe and many of our pipes broke and we still haven’t had enough money to repair everything. I also have had little time to dedicate to fundraising for this project, except for donations received when travelling, and as a result we have just about run out of money. So it is time to request your help to sponsor the project so we can keep it going. A yearly sponsorship for one child is 220 euros and it is easy to donate online in a few clicks.
Since its inception in 1995, Gradinita Rasarit “Sunrise Kindergarten” in Bucharest has been pioneering inclusive education in Romania, not only integrating special needs children within a the kindergarten setting, but also giving special attention to adapting the program itself to be accessible and welcoming for all. Neohumanist Education celebrates diversity and works to individualize the program to respond to the specific needs of the children.