Abhidheya Devi Dasi from Australia, with her initiative, Bhakti Kids Sangha, is inspiring other temples to adopt various kids’ services and demonstrate it is not only achievable but practical to have dynamic children’s programs at your temple.
Recently, a congregation member from ISKCON Perth has reached out to Bhakti Kids Sangha about some of her ideas. She is considering implementing the same in their endeavor to utilize a part of their space for children.
Abhidheya Devi Dasi strongly believes in nurturing children and sees them as integral members of the congregation. She said, “Children are already at the temple with their families. They want to be taught, they’re receptive, and they’re attracted to the mode of goodness. These are the people we should be preaching to.”
A couple of months ago, she moved to New Gokula Farm, a rural farming community in Australia. She said, “It is yatra where there’s cow care and other animals are cared for. There are a lot of visitors; many come for holidays and retreats since, unlike the Sydney temple, it is not in the center of the city but in the countryside,” she continued, “It’s really beautiful, like the spiritual world. Still, there was no kid’s program at all. Not even a Sunday school as the volunteers there are already engaged in other services.”
During the long weekends and school holidays, thousands of people came to New Gokula, and Abhidheya Devi Dasi started to engage children gathered in large numbers by providing a specific space for children and families. She utilized the countryside space by putting up marquees for shade and setting up stations for children of all ages and abilities that included a baby corner, a library, and a crafting space.
She explained, “So, I introduced craft activities like making puppets of cows because cow care is an integral part of New Gokula. Apart from this, I noticed that children take a lot of interest in Christmas, so we made ornaments for Krishna and decorated trees made for Krishna, a Krishna-conscious tree. I thought, ‘Why not integrate the culture of the country with Krishna Consciousness?’ “
She continued, “I already had all the books for the library and gifts from authors who were guests on my podcast, and I bought a lot of craft equipment, tables, and portable chairs. I have built children’s libraries in temples all over Sydney. This time, I made a floating library that I can take anywhere. I labeled all the books and wrote inside to return the books after reading because there were times when the books in the libraries have been stolen.”
Abhidheya feels that when children’s needs are properly addressed, they will encourage their families to come to the temple. Another thing that she did was build a children’s reception within the reception of the temple that has a library, children’s tables and chairs, and a whole trolley full of Krishna-conscious coloring sheets and all the materials for days when the children’s program is not running.
Speaking about the response so far, she said, “Indians make up the biggest migration group to Australia who are quite new to the country, and I see they’re coming to the temple. The parents are really happy, and most importantly, the kids are happy, and they’re learning about Krishna Consciousness. It’s been a really beautiful response.”
She added, “Any yatra can adopt this model according to their space and circumstances. If any temple wants to get more information about these services, I’ll talk to them about what they can do, as I did with ISKCON Perth.”
Abhidheya Devi Dasi feels that we should come together and contribute to helping children become Krishna Conscious. She concluded, “We have to work together and be a team in a way because there are so few of us who want to do children’s services. We as a society are starting to move towards being more child-centered, so we need as many volunteers as possible. New authors are writing children’s books, and more programs are cropping up; it’s starting to happen, but we’re not quite developed yet.”
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