By Shalila Baginski
She is famous for travelling the globe and hugging people – her embrace, a rare and deeply healing experience of unconditional love for many. Much lesser known is Amma’s vast humanitarian work: training and business funding for 100,000 women; scholarships for 100,000 children; 400,000 trees planted; free medical treatment for 1,000,000 patients; 35,000 new homes, and that is to name but a few of her countless projects, and most of that work is done on a voluntary basis.
One may well ask, “How can one woman establish such a vast organization while constantly travelling around the world?” The answer is Inspiration. The tireless work, compassion and love she manifests in her daily life inspires people to serve those less well off than themselves. It touches the best in people, encouraging them to offer their time, skills and financial support to the poorest of the poor.
However, Amma’s care and love extends beyond people to our common habitat, “Mother Earth”. Inspired by Amma’s genuine concern for nature, initiatives under the common name of Green Friends have sprouted on a global level with the aim of preserving and protecting the environment.
In Ireland, the beautiful landscape of West Cork gave birth to the first Green Friends project: a vegetable garden and learning centre on one acre of land that is open to everyone who wants to learn the skills of growing their own organic vegetables, fruits and herbs. The teaching is done, hands on, with techniques that nurture the soil’s valuable micro-organisms and keeps the balance of nature and the biodiversity of the land intact. The harvested plants and seeds are sold to raise money for Amma’s many humanitarian projects. All teaching is free. Open days are offered from time to time with practical workshops on sustainability, basket-making, beekeeping, waste-reduction, building of alternative housing and herbal medicine. Nature friendly ways of beekeeping are included to help save the bee population from further decline.
From those beginnings, Green Friends initiatives spread quickly to areas all over Ireland. A group of young and enthusiastic Green Friends in Co. Donegal, at the recent All Ireland & Five Nations Sheep-Shearing Championships, promoted the care of birds, bumblebees and butterflies. In the Dublin area, Green Friends have been offered the use of a site by Dublin City Council, with a view to setting up a community garden near Sundrive Road. A Woodland Project in Co. Clare gives individuals the chance to “buy” a sapling, which will be planted in their name. A ‘Wealth from Waste’ plastic recycling project is on its way. And all proceeds from those initiatives will again be donated to help alleviate suffering in different parts of the world.
Amma’s intention for the Green Friends projects, however, while providing healthy food and preserving the environment, has deeper implications as well. It is one of her ways of teaching the inner oneness of all life. Human beings and nature are not separate entities; they are interdependent in every way. Looking after the environment helps us to rediscover our relationship with the planet that nourishes and sustains us. This does not always imply action. Given the chance, nature restores and creates her own balance. Simply watching this happen, is another way of reconnecting with our natural surroundings. It increases our sensitivity to the needs of the plants, animals and trees around us, so we can move into action from the right understanding at the right moment. Growing our own food in harmony with those natural laws, for example, helps to open our hearts and minds to the tremendous gifts that nature has to offer, awakening our gratitude and sense of unity.
“Nature is our first mother. She nurtures us throughout our lives. Our birth mother allows us to sit on her lap for a couple of years, but Mother Nature patiently bears our weight our entire life. Just as a child is obligated to his birth mother, we should all feel obligation and responsibility towards Mother Nature. If we forget this responsibility, it is equal to forgetting our own self”. – Amma
Please check www.ammaireland.org for updates on her visits.