Thank you to all of you who sent in stories about service. We consulted as a family and decided that there are 5 stories of service that touched us the most. It was not easy choosing just 3 so we had to choose more! Here are the winners, their contributors and the stories that were submitted.
1. Sabriye Tenberken (contributor: Joerg Wuttke):
I was always inspired by my friend Sabriye Tenberken, at age 12 she became blind. She studied Central Asian Sciences at Bonn University. In addition to Mongolian and modern Chinese, she studied modern and classical Tibetan in combination with sociology and philosophy. As no blind student had ever before ventured to enroll in these kind of studies, she could not fall back on the experiences of anyone else – and had to develop her own methods in order to follow her course of studies. She moved to Lahasa. Out of this need, Sabriye developed the Tibetan Braille Script. Sabriye initiated the project for the blind in Tibet and is the co-founder and co-director of Braille Without Borders. Next to fundraising and communication with official and sponsor organisations she is responsible for the development of the curricula, training of teachers and trainers and initially she also taught blind children herself. Here is a link to learn more about her project.
2. Dr. Sohayl Mohajer (contributor Mozhdeh Foo):
I think one of the most sacrifical stories that has touched my heart is that of my brother Dr. Sohayl Mohajer. he has been living in India since 1977, serving the people in the villages and towns with great detachment and dedication. One of the things he does is to encourage Baha’i inspired village level schools. He identifies potential Baha’i youth in the villages who are educated but are unable to secure a job, to start their own schools. while he does not provide any financial assistance, he visits them and talks to them and consults on possible ways of starting a school, with one class initially and adding on one class each year. He is currently developing a curriculum to help teach these children deep concepts to make them good thinkers and virtuous personages. In my last visit to India I visited 2 such schools. One of them had over 250 students and 8 teachers and the other had over a 100 students with 5 grades, both self-sufficient. The schools are bilingual and children learn both English and Hindi.
3. 15 year old Linda Somni (contributor Yas Samadi):
A few weeks ago I had been asked by the institute coordinator to go to one of the townships on the outskirts of Cape Town and tutor a book 3 for Linda, who had started a children’s class but had not yet finished book 3. We arrived in truly one of the poorest townships I
have been to in the Cape-Town area. Entire families live in tiny one room houses and there is no running water and in general people have very few, if any, possessions in their homes. Of course, as we arrived, despite the rain, at least twenty children came out excitedly to greet us. already knew it! When we re-joined them, it was so moving to see all these children singing the name of Baha’u’llah (at the top of their lungs!). What moved me most was that Linda, was so focused, so completely dedicated and has a sense of clarity, intention
and insight that honestly left me feeling like I was in the presence of a spiritual warrior - someone who alone, and truly unaided, had come to a new community and is now establishing a community. And he is only 14!! When we asked him if we could assist him in anyway, he asked if next week we could please bring with us 15 copies of breezes of confirmation!!!
4. Paule & Moro (contributor Darrell Rogers):
Moro Baruk is an artist. He was born in Egypt in 1947…. In 1979, Moro and his wife Paule, responding to a calling to serve their Faith, traveled to Haiti. … Today, the Baruks live in a house they built in their adopted hometown, Jacmel. They employ many artisans whom they train in artistic crafts. And as Baha’i pioneers they are very busy helping to establish the principles of race unity, the equality of men and women, the elimination of prejudice of all kind; all principles brought by Baha’u’llah the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith.
When the terrible earthquake struck Haiti, much of their town of Jacmel was severely damaged. But unlike many foreigners who fled for the safety of their homelands, Moro Baruk & his wife Paule stayed in Jacmel to help rebuild. Leaving never crossed their minds because after 30 years of working with, living with, and loving the people of Haiti, it had truly become their home.
Recently, their demonstrated perseverance paid off, as they were singled out for a visit by the new President of Haiti. Moro wrote:
Today, Paule and I enjoyed a special day.
Haiti’s new President Michel Joseph Martelly came to our town on a special occasion to boost Jacmel’s tourist business. The Bahá’í prayer for Unity was originally on the welcoming program but someone not so friendly with the Faith removed it.
In the mean time we had prepared a special package containing a poster of that prayer, the prayer book, the Hidden Words and an introduction to the Faith. We had planned to find a moment during the day to offer it to him with dignity. Parallel to that we decided to offer him a substantial gift of a pen & Ink drawing made by me along with a quote from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá about the education of girls.
Today at the airport, while waiting for his plane to land, we showed the package to a senator who happens to be a very close friend to him and to us. The Senator contacted the lady who removed the prayer to put it in the program. At first she refused. He insisted with force and she accepted.
After the initial welcoming reception at the airport, the President was to visit the historic quarters of Jacmel (in which our house, our boutique/factory and our rental apartments are situated) as this district will become the next focal point in Jacmel’s tourism development.
As he approached our boutique with over 40 people walking with him, the president spotted me on the sidewalk. Although we never met face to face before, somehow he recognized me or someone may have told him who I was, but his face beamed and he left the cortege to come and shake my hand and he entered our store.
He walked straight to the fan to cool off. At that moment I gave him both his gifts one after the other.
He loved the drawing and the quote of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá which I read out loud to him. He was very moved then said that he appreciated the subject as education was number One on his agenda, then while receiving the books, he opened every single one and addressing the protocol lady nearby, told her he will read this books and get inspired by them. He was told by someone that the prayer was going to be offered in his honor.
After visiting us, we all went to a hotel where the speeches and the reception cocktail were going to be.
After the National Hymn, Paule was invited to recite the prayer for unity. [The President bowed] his head and closed his eyes, then, at the end of the prayer he turned toward me and smiled.
We are very happy to have been the instruments to share with the Head of State spiritual material that may influence one day his decisions.
5. Adrienne Carter (contributor Kurt Hein):
Adrienne Carter, Shawnigan Lake, BC, Canada, is an amazing soul. She understands suffering…remarkably…she is a counselor for the BC govt. for women and children suffering PTSD. The BC government has granted her paid release time to enable her to serve as a PTSD counselor for Doctors w/out Borders in Kosovo, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Malaysia – to name a few. She is in Kenya right now helping counsel refugees from Somalia.
Adrienne was a teen-age refugee from Hungary in the ’50s…learned she was Jewish after the family arrived safely Halifax. She became a Baha’i and met another Baha’i youth, Barrie, who came from a prominent SDA family (founders/leaders of the SDA in Canada), all of whom were self-selected exiles to Canada from the U.S. — African-American – freed slave families!
Congratulations to all the winners! I will be contacting you for mailing addresses to send a Birds of Love gift set to the individuals you have written about. Here is the link to read all the stories that were entered.