Young people are among the most enthusiastic volunteers on Sewa Day. So under the brand identity ‘Sewa Day Schools’, the global volunteering initiative aims to get more school children involved in helping others either within the school or in the local community.
The Sewa Day Schools programme includes a specially-designed schools information pack for teachers; free Key Stage 2 lesson plans for the PSHE & Citizenship curriculum; a school Assembly presentation and guide; case studies of successful schools’ volunteering projects and a video to support its aim. Sewa Day also provides stickers and certificates to help motivate pupils to do more.
Sewa, a Sanskrit word meaning “selfless service”, is a universal concept that more schools are embracing in a bid to build better relationships with their local community. In 2013, 75 schools, and approximately 30,000 pupils, took part in the week preceding Sewa Day, which usually takes place in October each year, and the charity hopes to significantly increase that number in the coming years. The three principle aims for Sewa Day are to alleviate human hardship & poverty, improve the environment and bring a little joy.
The Sewa Day project in schools is a week-long initiative that allows individual establishments to host assemblies, explain the concepts of sewa (“selfless service”), use the free classroom resources provided by Sewa Day and organise activities that enable students to perform an act of sewa either within the school or in the community. The control of Sewa Day within a school is entirely in the remit of the lead organiser – be it a head teacher, a teacher, teaching assistant or a member support staff team – and the only limit is the imagination!
Here are some case studies of what schools have done on previous occasions for Sewa Day.
Barham Primary School, Wembley, London
In 2012 at Barham Primary School in Wembley, London, the school assembly was led by the head teacher to launch Sewa Day projects that included creating a sharing of old spectacles collection box and a poster competition. Teachers followed this up throughout the week using lesson plans provided and discussions based on the three guiding Sewa principles. There was school clean-up initiative throughout the week involving nursery and reception year pupils. Pupils also provided entertainment at the local Copland Nursing Home to the elderly and organised a collection for St Luke’s Hospice.
Total Number of Participants: 900
Total Impact: 900+
Barham’s involvement of the whole school are been recognised with a Sewa Pioneers Award 2013 and Sewa Pioneers Award 2014.
Ealing Tuition Service, Ealing, London
On Thursday 11th October 2012, pupils and staff at the Ealing Tuition Service in London took part in various Sewa Day activities. Pupils in Key Stage 4 worked with the Ealing Council Park Rangers’ Nature Conservation programme helping to clear a public footpath in the local area. The path had become overgrown with scrub and low branches, which has encouraged crime and antisocial behaviour. Key Stage 3 pupils took part in activities in and around the school, helping to clear the area of litter. Pupils also helped plant bulbs and flowering shrubs to improve the overall appearance of the outside area. A further group of pupils are taking part in the Vision Aid Overseas programme – recycling old spectacles, helping to transform eye care services in developing countries.
Total Number of Participants: 16 pupils and 17 staff.
Our Own English High School, Dubai
Our Own English High School, Dubai, undertook a mass Sewa Day tree planting project conducted on Tuesday 9th of October 2012, in support of the One Million Trees Initiative, launched by H.H Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The event was jointly organized by the Dubai Police Academy and the Varkey Gems Foundation with a total of 200 saplings planted at the GEMS OOEHS Al Warqaa campus. “This project was a labour of love for all those who were involved in it. We are all very proud of the new campus we moved into just a year ago. But the fact that its sprawling grounds were so bare and brown always rankled with us. So when the idea was suggested that we take part in the ‘A Million Tree ‘ initiative as part of Sewa Day we couldn’t help imagine how beautiful our campus would look with several majestic trees growing on it.”
Total Number of Participants: 50 Primary boys aged 8-10 yrs, 30 Girl Guides aged 12- 17yrs, 20 School prefects aged 15- 17 yrs, 30 Neptune house prefects aged 13 – 17 Yrs, 50 Teachers of senior school, 20 Admin staff and support staff.
Total Impact: 9000 students
Radford Primary School, Nottingham
Radford Primary School in Nottingham decided to make Sewa Day s a whole school project planned over the year to take place in the summer term. Every child and member of staff got involved and chose the activity they wanted to be involved in which included:
Total Number of Participants: 210 and children took part and 25 staff.
Total Impact: 150 – 300
Alleviating poverty and homelessness is one three guiding principles of Sewa Day so naturally a great many projects focus on how best to achieve that in just one day. One of the most successful and wide reaching programmes is the ‘Food for Life’ campaign that runs in the UK and overseas. The Food for Life, Hong Kong campaign was recognised with the Sewa Pioneers Award 2013 in recognition of their efforts.
Food for Life Hong Kong
Hong Kong has the highest income disparity ratio in Asia, with primarily elderly people having very little money given the very high living costs, which limits their access to good fresh food. 70 volunteers mainly from Deutsche Bank washed, chopped, cooked, packaged, and delivered food to over 1,000 underprivileged elderly people spread across three locations in Hong Kong. The vegetarian meals included a wholesome mixed vegetable curry, rice, and boiled greens. The project was sponsored by Dixit Joshi, Deutsche Bank Head of Asia Equities and also saw volunteers come from Ernst & Young LLP and the Royal Bank of Scotland. The project also raised some much needed awareness amongst all regarding this issue of food shortage within the elder community, and has created a drive to continue similar projects.
A testament to how far the wonderful ripples of doing sewa have spread, the Food for Life project continues with events taking place throughout the year.
Food for Life UK
In 2013, fifteen volunteers, predominantly City high flyers, came together to host a Food for Life project in the UK, feeding the homeless of Watford. The group of volunteers cooked and then distributed food to the homeless shelters. Whilst the Watford arm of the project partnered with the Christian Charity Watford New Hope Trust for the fourth year, the Hong Kong Project was sponsored by Deutsche Bank as one of over ten different initiatives offered to the Hong Kong underprivileged community. The project was very warmly received for the fourth year in a row by the eight homeless shelters across Watford and Rickmansworth, from Churches and Day Care Centres to Night Shelters.
The Food for Life project now spans three continents.
Helping protect and preserve the environment is one of the most popular project categories for Sewa Day. The types of projects range from large scale tree planting to small scale garden development; from rubbish clearance in partnership with Sewa Day partners like the Canal & River Trust to ongoing preservation work at the Camley Street Nature Reserve in London. Since the inception of Sewa Day in 2010, volunteers have taken part in numerous projects globally to help the environment. Schools also love to take up the ‘help the environment’ challenge in a bid to get students hands dirty with playground clean-up and bulb planting projects.
United Religions Initiative, Uganda
Recognised with the Sewa Pioneers Award 2014, United Religions Initiative (URI) International, based in Kampala, Uganda planted trees, mangos and potatoes at a school for the families of local prison workers and offered mentoring and career advice to the students. The young volunteers from URI International went to the Murchison Bay Primary School, in the barracks of Luzia Prison in Kampala, which serves the community of employees working at the prison. The group joined the students from the school to plant trees, mangos and potatoes. The impact of the trees will be seen for generations to come and the harvest season will be bountiful with new fruits and vegetables as a result of the efforts of the volunteers. The team also offered career guidance and mentoring services to the students.
City Hindus Network restores a children’s playground.
The City Hindus Network organised multiple projects in 2013 with the biggest volunteer effort so far this year. 25 volunteers at Victoria Park were tasked with restoring sand to the children’s recreational grounds. A park is a public space so working to take care of it is a wonderful way to give back to the community. This is the third consecutive year that CHN have offered sewa at Victoria Park and were recognised for their continual efforts by Victoria Parks Development Officer.
Osterley Park Clear Up
The London Wildlife Trust & Friends of Hatch End were nominated for a Sewa Day Pioneers Award 2013 for organising a conservation project which involved approximately 40 people helping in the local Osterley Park in West London. Volunteering activities included cleaning the park of litter and creating over 150 sacks of wood blocks for sale. The aim was to help beautify this park so that more visitors can enjoy their surroundings. The bags of wood are sold to the general public to provide funds for maintenance of the listed buildings within the grounds. As a result of involving young volunteers, it is hoped that they become more environmentally conscious and responsible for national treasures. Osterley Park is visited by thousands of people on an annual basis.
Mother Teresa once said: “The biggest disease today is not leprosy or cancer or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for and deserted by everybody.” A recent report said that ‘loneliness is more deadly than obesity, feeling isolated can disrupt sleep, raise blood pressure, weaken immunity, increase depression and lower subjective wellbeing.’ A study of loneliness in older Britons in 2012 found that more than a fifth felt lonely all the time, and a quarter became more lonely over five years. Half of those who took part in the survey said their loneliness was worse at weekends, and three-quarters suffered more at night. So naturally bringing a little joy is one of the popular project categories for Sewa Day.
In 2013 Wishful Smiles, alongside Navin Kundra, Harrow Sikh Network and City Sikhs Network joined forces, with great support from Barry Gardiner MP on the day, to run projects at a nursing home and a local community centre in Brent. Volunteers served the senior citizens at Kenbrook nursing home by interacting with them and serving lunch and tea. Navin Kundra gave an exceptional performance, engaging and entertaining the elderly along with dancers who danced to bollywood songs to entertain the elderly. Volunteers also held a Question and Answer session for local children at the Brent Sikh Centre.
Sherfield School, Hook
In 2012, Children from Sherfield School in Hook in Hampshire spent an afternoon with the elderly residents from local care homes and delivered to them the flowers which had been donated by students earlier that day for the Harvest Festival. The children spent time with the adults, engaging in conversation for much of the afternoon. Some of the school’s musicians also gave a performance at the nearby Loddon School for young people with disabilities. This might have been a challenging situation for many of our younger pupils but they coped enormously well and were at ease with the children, some of whom who had quite serious physical disabilities.
Copyright© 2022-23. Sewa Day. All Rights Reserved.