THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE SAMAJ
“It’s a useless organisation”
“It’s run by the mafia”
“It’s controlled by businessmen who are only concerned with the organisations balance sheets”
“They collect money, they do nothing for the community”
For many years the sentiments expressed above was the constant refrain being heard from members of the community when referring to the Shree Pretoria Hindu Seva Samaj. Whether these impressions were based on reality or not, it was an image which the Samaj could ill afford to have. After a period of denial and blame- shifting, followed by some soul-searching, the officials of the Seva Samaj decided it was the kind of feedback that the Samaj could no longer ignore and gradually came to accept responsibility for this sad state of affairs.
In 1998, under the leadership of Narotambhai Valjee, the Seva Samaj decided to embark on a programme to change this perception and to reposition itself to play a vital and meaningful role in the lives of its stakeholders. On one point all members agreed: there was a need to put the “Seva” back into the Seva Samaj, both in reality and in the minds of people. The first task was to seek to completely overhaul the outdated constitution and structure of the Samaj. A Constitution Committee made up of Rameshbhai Chhagan, Trusharbhai Kalan, Jivanbhai Kalyan and Baboobhai Devchand was formed with the specific task of making the Samaj more focused on service -delivery. The task team recommended, amongst other matters, that seven new standing sub-committees be formed, each of them with specific responsibilities. The seven heads of these committees would become vice-chairpersons. The committees formed were as follows: Religion & Culture, Education, Health & Welfare, Youth, Communications, Maintenance and Finance. At a special meeting convened for this purpose in 1998, the vision was sold to the community and thus the new constitution of the Seva Samaj was born.
The next step in the process was to host a workshop to which all officials and the wider community was invited. A facilitator was assigned to each committee. At a plenary session, all those present were asked to choose the committee they would like to contribute to. Based on their decision, they were directed to the appropriate venue where each committee held its separate workshop. The task given to the facilitator was to brainstorm with delegates the specific aims and long-term goals of the specific committee. This process, which unleashed tremendous energy and enthusiasm, gave people the opportunity to come up with innovative ideas for change. Out of this process, it was decided, for example, that the Health & Welfare Committee should have a gender desk that would also address issues of women empowerment.
With this new lease on life, the Samaj started visibly taking on a new look. The youth became more involved in Samaj activities and the Navyug Mandal re-entered the fold of the Samaj as its youth wing. The Health and Welfare Committee started the Senior Citizens Club, which has notched up a remarkable record of service to our senior citizens in a short space of time. The Communications Committee started a regular newsletter as well as an SMS system to keep our community informed of all happenings. Even the Education Committee, whose school enrolment was rapidly dwindling, helped turn the Gujarati school around by introducing new teaching methods. On the religious and cultural front, there was a burst of new activities, ranging from inviting authorities in Hinduism to address the community to hosting observance of a range of religious festivals.
The change in the Samaj is now even reflected in its officials. A new breed of young, energetic individuals, under the leadership of Trusharbhai Kalan, is ensuring a proactive stance in the running of the Samaj. Many challenges still exist, but with the prevailing spirit of “can do” that runs through the organisation, the Samaj is once again set to play a leading role in the lives of our community.
The “Seva” has been put back into the Seva Samaj.
Hari Om Tat Sat
(This article was written by Rameshbhai Chhagan in his personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Seva Samaj or its officials).
Message from the Trustees
We celebrate 70 years of existence of the Samaj since it was founded in 1932. On this auspicious occasion, the Trustees of the Samaj wish the entire Gujarati Hindu community peace, happiness and good health.
Today we pay respects to our elders who founded the Samaj in 1932. The foundation stone was laid on the 4 pillars of:
• Our Sanathan Hindu Dharma
• Our Hindu Traditions
• Our Hindu Culture
• Our Gujarati Language
The Samaj has been successful in not only carrying forward these fundamental Hindu principles amongst the Gujarati Hindu Community of Pretoria, but also in maintaining and preserving these principles over these 70 years. The Laudium and Marabastad complex are true reflections of these principles. In recent years you may have noticed that the youth have taken full responsibility for the day-to-day management of the Samaj. We pay respect and congratulate them for their contribution to the Samaj.
This is our message to them:
True youth must have an aim in life for which they are prepared to sacrifice their time for the service of mankind. Youthfulness is not created for you to follow artificial and meaningless lives. Youth must attain wisdom, and wisdom is attained by studying and living according to the principles pronounced in the Upanishads and Vedas. To be a true Hindu you must have divine thoughts and qualities. God Realisation should be the ultimate aim. Parents have to guide their children from a young age in this important Vedic heritage. The youth are required to be humble and must be able to study and digest true knowledge.
The most important trilogy for youthfulness is:
• Strength of character / Brilliance
• Preparedness for a bold and adventurous spirit
• Vigour to counter injustice, ignorance and evil tendencies
They should have the readiness to tackle any problem so as to achieve the aims of life without deviating from the path of the “Truth”.
The Trustees have the highest respect and honour for the Youth, who are now the officials of the Samaj and the leaders of tomorrow. We know that the Samaj, through the various sub-committees, are headed by both able and capable individuals and have every confidence in them. They are assured of our support as Trustees. The youth of the Samaj should be hopeful and confident of themselves and the world. Also they should have a firm strong mind, so that they live for devotion to God. With these qualities that the Upanishads promise, the Samaj will have true joy and the world at their feet. With these thoughts and sentiments the Trustees wish the entire Gujarati Hindu community of Pretoria well for the coming years. Let us pray that we may celebrate the centenary year of the Samaj in 2032 with respect and honour.
Hair Aum Tat Sat
Tat Twan Asi
Narotambhai Valji Madhavjee
Chairman - Board of Trustees
Shree Pretoria Hindu Seva Samaj