Preface: Due to highly misleading claims about Sathya Sai Baba, the UK Sai Youth Group and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, the following article is being provided for factual background information.
Queen Of England And Duke of Edinburgh Honored Sai Youth Of UK
THE QUEEN’S ROYAL GARDEN PARTY
2006 is a very special year in Great Britain, it marked the 80th Birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the 50th Anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme for young people. To celebrate both events a special Royal Garden Party was organised at Buckingham Palace on Thursday 13th July 2006.
Royal Garden Parties have been held at Buckingham Palace since the 1860’s by Queen Victoria. In fact, Queen Elizabeth II has always worked hard to recognise the efforts of those people who best embody the spirit of Great Britain.
This year was no exception: approximately 8,000 invitations were sent out to various dignitaries, diplomats, ministers, famous celebrities, and ordinary people who had made a unique contribution to society.
But the most heartening fact was this – the National Youth Wing of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation United Kingdom, had been chosen by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to attend and receive a special certificate of gratitude and recognition for the outstanding contribution made by its Youth towards nation-building and promoting happiness and harmony within the community. This indeed was a great honour and further demonstrates the respect and gratitude that the country has for the humanitarian work being undertaken by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
The National U.K Youth Co-ordinator, Shitu Chudasama, had been asked to speak at Buckingham Palace during the presentation ceremony on the work of the Sai Youth and the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation.
This was extremely well received and all marvelled at the wonderful work being done by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. When the certificate was presented, instead of bearing the name of the Sai Organisation, the certificate instead bore the name of ‘Sri Sathya Sai’.
“It was a blessing, a shower of Grace” – Mr. Shitu Chudasama
Recounting his memorable experience, Mr. Shitu Chudasama said:
As soon as Rita, my wife and I arrived at Buckingham Palace, we were escorted to a special enclosure where we were introduced to some famous Hollywood actors, actresses, and people who had received honours for doing outstanding and heroic deeds. We were extremely nervous and at this point wondering what we were doing here. However the celebrities were most kind and extremely humble. Tim Burton, a famous Hollywood director who directed famous movies such as ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, ‘Planet of the Apes’, and ‘Batman’, came up to us and started asking questions about what we did. We started talking to him about Swami and Swami’s Youth and the wonderful work that is being done in United Kingdom. He straightaway said that America needs an Organisation like this – we told him that America already had one. He mentioned how some of the youth that he had come across in the movie world were so badly behaved and lacked manners. He further went on to marvel at Bhagawan’s youth and how impressed he was by them.
When the time for the speeches and award ceremony came, my heart started beating very fast. What was I to say? How can one describe in a few minutes the marvellous and miraculous humanitarian projects that are undertaken by Bhagawan.
I was the last speaker called up, and suddenly a confidence, and a joy engulfed my being. I spoke about the wonderful work being done by our Sai Organisation Youth in United Kingdom. I attributed everything to our founder Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. As I spoke I watched the sea of faces, there was a look of excitement on their faces as if to say ‘why have we not heard of this Organisation before?’
Suddenly the certificate was presented to me. Instead of having the name of the Sai Organisation, the certificate bore the name “Sri Sathya Sai” – I looked again, and was dumbfounded. For that split second as everyone cheered and clapped loudly, I felt the omni presence of our beloved Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba at Buckingham Palace. Then I knew that this was a gift from Bhagawan Himself. A blessing, a shower of Grace for all the Sai Youth in UK that work so hard contributing to Bhagawan’s Mission of Dharmasansthapana – establishing righteousness in the world.
After the award ceremony, we were then escorted to a special section, which was lined with the Queen’s guards. We were asked to wait here so that we could meet the Queen. At 4.00pm, as the National Anthem was played by the Royal Band, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, together with other members of the Royal Family emerged from the Palace and started to greet their guests.
We could not believe this remarkable Grace Swami had bestowed upon the Sai Organisation. As the Queen walked gracefully by, one noticed that there was a very special aura and energy around the Queen, something quite beautiful, enigmatic, and spiritual. The Queen had dedicated her whole life to serving her country and people.
As she walked passed, looking at all and smiling, you could not help but notice that her smile never once left her face. She was extremely patient with everyone and spent two hours greeting and welcoming everyone. All in all it was a truly memorable and uplifting event.”
The award reads, as you can see from the picture, “This certificate is presented to Sri Sathya Sai on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s award with grateful thanks from the patron … for Your invaluable contribution as a partner of the award in helping to provide an enjoyable, challenging and rewarding personal development programme for young people.”
Now what is Duke of Edinburgh’s award? And how and when did the Sai Organisation of UK become associated with it?
THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH’S AWARD
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is an international leadership in action programme established in 1956 by its Founder and Patron, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh (the husband of the Queen of England). The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is a voluntary, non-competitive programme of practical cultural and adventurous activities. It is designed to support the personal and social development of young people aged 14-25, regardless of gender, background, or ability.
Being voluntary, flexible, non-competitive, balanced, progressive, challenging and most of all enjoyable, it provides an opportunity for young people to achieve personal excellence and build self-esteem, self-confidence, self-reliance, self-motivation and respect for others via their involvement in service, skill, physical recreation and expedition activities.
THE GENESIS – THE UK NATIONAL YOUTH PILGRIMAGE TO INDIA 2004
The partnership of the Sai Organisation of UK with the Duke of Edinburgh award and the tremendous positive international contribution of the UK Sai Youth is what lead to the recent recognition award from the Queen. But the whole episode has its genesis in November 2004. 180 youth from United Kingdom embarked upon the National UK Youth Pilgrimage to Prashanti Nilayam for Bhagawan’s blessings that year. The trip was both unique and multi-faceted. It was a message of love for Bhagawan that His youth in UK were ready and waiting to take up the baton of His mission. The Pilgrimage consisted of a Youth Service Camp, the UK Youth Choir, Youth Speakers and a Mini-Prashanti UK Youth Conference which were all held in Prashanti Nilayam leading up to Sathya Sai Baba’s Birthday.
The Youth Service Camp was entitled “Helping Hands and Healing Hearts” and a phenomenal amount of planning, energy, goodwill and sacrifice went into the work. For over 5 days, the Youth visited 4 villages near Puttaparthi that were not easily accessible by bus or car. The Youth Service Camp was unlike anything ever attempted before by UK youth. 5 tonnes of equipment was taken from the United Kingdom consisting of medical supplies, the latest health scanners, thousands of saris, baby clothes, and toys.
The camp consisted of a plethora of service activities for the needy villagers: Narayan Seva, workshops on hygiene in the villages, the installation of toilets, the providing of water pumps and water pipelines. There was also seva directed specifically to the women of the villages: talks, medical check-ups, and counselling to improve their quality of life. For the children there was distribution of clothes, music, games and special dramas. The youth also engaged in village cleaning and maintenance, the reconstruction of a dilapidated village temple and installation of its village deities. And finally, a large scale Medical Camp which provided general medical care, eye care, paediatrics, dentistry, physiotherapy, massage, diabetes screening and cancer screening.
The entire cost and expenses of the Youth Service Camp totalling around $45,000 was solely funded by the youth, which was inspired and enabled by Swami’s Ceiling on Desires Programme. During the Medical Camp Vibhuti started materialising on the badges worn by a number of our Youth. The Pilgrimage proved to be a very powerful magnet in not only empowering the youth to become leaders but also bringing out other qualities in them such as self-confidence, discipline, and compassion.
On returning to the UK, the National Youth Wing was contacted by His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Office, and informed that they wanted to award each of our Sai Youth the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. They had heard about the wonderful work that was done in Puttaparthi by our Sai Youth in UK .
On 9th August 2005, the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation (UK) formalised its partnership with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme by signing the much-coveted Operating Licence Agreement. This gives the Organisation the mandate and authority to run this famous Award scheme and to award the certificates within the structure of the UK Organisation for all youth aged between 14-25 years.
At the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Ceremony, held on Saturday 3rd September 2005 in London, all 180 youth from the National UK Youth Pilgrimage received their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award certificates in front of an audience of 450 people.
Presiding over the ceremony was the Chief Executive (CEO) of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, Peter Westgarth. Peter was extremely impressed with the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation and in particular the calibre of its youth. This was truly a historic event in the history of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation in UK and a befitting tribute to our Lord during His 80th year of Love in Action. The Sai Youth of UK said:
“The invitation to the Organisation to attend the Queen’s Royal Garden Party and receive the award is a valuable testimony of recognition for the Sai youth in the UK. The youth of the United Kingdom are indeed grateful to Bhagawan for the wonderful Grace that He has bestowed upon them with the presentation of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Certificate.”
(Please Note: This blog is not affiliated with the Sai Organization, Mr. Shitu Chudasama or any other member of the Sai Youth Group in the UK)