Submitted by Syamasundara dasa and Bimala dasi (on behalf of Alachua Prison Seva Team)
Dandavat Pranam. All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga.
One might think that living in the Alachua community, the home of the Radha Govinda Mandir where Sri Sri Radha Govinda, Mahaprabhu, and Srila Gurudeva and Srila Prabhupada’s murti’s live, would be fabulous enough, but living in Alachua topped its fabulous status when Srila Gurudeva engaged our community in Prison Seva Outreach program about 7 months ago.
Our service started out with pen pal seva and has grown into shipment of Newsletters once a month, answering letters from inmates which involves sending books and answering questions, and on site visitations. To offset the costs of these services, we started fundraising. We have now done 2 successful bake sales which raised over 4 hundred dollars.
Our first bake sale was so successful. Mohini didi, who is a first class baker, made cupcakes, which sold out in record time, and Irena who made sumptuous laddus and muffins also sold out!
For our second bake sale, we decided to step it up with Nasringa prabhu’s famous personal size pizzas. Unfortunately we did not make enough, because they all sold out!
Many thanks goes out to our community for taking time out of there busy lives and services to assist with the shipments of the newsletters. This last month we also were in charge of sending out the Guide to Vaisnava Holy days along with the newsletter. So if not for the kind assistance of Madhavi dasi and family, Narayana das, Jayadeva das, Ananga Mohana das, Malati dasi and family, Hari Das das, and our resident devotees of Sri Radha Govinda Mandir, which includes Bhakta Ali, and Trilokanath das, the successful shipments to over 100 inmates would have not been possible. So many, many thanks to you all for your sweet service moods.
Lately, our service has multiplied. We are handling a new load of correspondence which for some time was being handled by the devotees in North Carolina. The devotees in North Carolina are quite busy engaging in so many wonderful services and projects. To be given this new service opportunity is quite welcome, as is any opportunity to render service to our Srila Gurudeva. We are pen paling with many, answering, or finding others to answer their questions. It is quite an amazing thing to see the dedication, and obviously in depth study that some of our brothers and sisters that are incarcerated are engaged in. It is so wonderful to be able to share with them what we have heard from the lotus mouth of Sri Guru and Vaisnava's. I am hoping that more opportunities to visit some of them.
We are getting news that some of these persons are soon to be released. We are at present trying to figure out ways that we can help them with their transition back into society. Some have expressed concern that they find continued help via the association of devotees.
Recently I went to visit Reggie. He is one of our brothers serving time in one of the federal institutions here in Florida. He is such a sweet person, one who has come to truly appreciate that the devotees, and the bhakti process that has come into his life. He has been incarcerated since 1999, and is due to be released in July 2015. He will have to report to his home state of California upon his release, but has strong aspirations to be in Alachua. He is very hopeful that he can come into an environment where he will have devotee association. He would prefer not to go to California at all. He dreads the prospect of dealing with family, and old acquaintances that will not be healthy to his spiritual progress. I will contact some devotees in the California area, in hope that they can befriend him, and look after him, until he can make his way back here. I hope that the devotees everywhere, embracing the merciful mood of Srila Gurudeva, and our Guru Varga will welcome those that will come out of these institutions into our devotional family.
We have a challenge in front of us if we are to help them in this way. We are hoping that devotees that are in the areas that these persons will be released to, will show kindness and compassion to these persons, and help them in any way possible. We will reach out to devotees in these areas in the near future. Some ideas of establishing halfway houses have come to mind. We hope that these ideas will become manifest by the mercy of Srila Gurudeva, and the well wishes of the devotees.
Alachua Prison Seva team
Submitted by Vasanti dasi (on behalf of IPBYS Prison Program Seva Team)
Through much determination, perseverance and mercy, Mahabuddhi prabhu has gotten Srila Gurudeva’s books in almost every state in America. Nityananda prabhu is steadily sending boxes out each week and just last week sent out 29 boxes. Each book is stamped inside with our Prison Program address so inmates can write to us to sign up for our monthly course, Journey to Prema, our newsletter compiled so beautifully with relevance to that months important holiday, by Sudevi dasi (from UK), to request books for their personal use, and to request a penpal. With so many books (from 8-15 books depending on the size of the prison, including Srila Prabhupada’s Krsna Book thanks to Ramesvara prabhu) being sent to the libraries ,and inmates finding them and reading these treasures, our membership is increasing rapidly. We also include a flyer (gorgeously designed by Iccamayi dasi from Mexico) that we request the chaplain to put up on their bulletin board outside the chapel about our program.
Bimala didi has taken a major role in the overall functioning of the program, locally and nationally. She has inspired many in the Alachua sanga to become penpals, to fundraise (applying for our first grant) and to send out the newsletter. Syamasundara prabhu is communicating with many inmates and eager to personally visit many. He is bringing them up spiritually and progressively.
I am honored to be part of such an incredible team as this one. Each person who has come forward to offer their service is full of enthusiasm and dedication to the program which has contributed to its overall success. All dealings are full of kindness and gratitude towards Srila Gurudeva for allowing us all to engage our time and efforts in this way. Even we received a letter from a man who now has the PO Box that was our original PO Box in California (we changed our address a couple years ago).He received a letter addressed to the International Pure Bhakti Yoga Society Prison Progam, and feeling it was an important letter, he googled Pure Bhakti and came across our purebhakti.com website and wrote to the webmaster who forwarded me the letter. He then mailed the letter he received to Syamasundara prabhu and Bimala didi in Alachua (most people would have thrown the letter away). That letter (posted below) was so phenomenal and now Syamasundara prabhu and him are corresponding.
In another letter we received from an inmate in Illinois, he writes (actually typed!):
We have received many kind thank you letters from chaplains for our books, and our hopes and goal is to have programs in prisons very soon.
Bhagavati kanta prabhu and the fabulous North Carolina sanga are revamping our prisonseva.org website and keeping precise records of our inmates (all their information) as well as how many books are going out. They have made this video showing the seva they are doing: http://www.youtube.
We are so grateful to all the kind donors who have donated and enabled so many thousands of Srila Gurudeva's books reach hundreds of prison libraries.
As this is a good month for giving, we welcome all donations, big and small to our new paypal: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or for bank details, please write to Vasanti dasi at email@example.com
Donations from America are a tax write-off.
Please also see our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/IPBYSPrisonSeva?ref=hl
Srila Gurudeva ki jaya! Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!
Transcendental Book Distribution ki jaya!