On Nrsimha Chaturdasi — Saturday April 28th– ISKCON’s Child Protection Office (CPO) will commemorate 20 years of service.
On the occasion, its North American headquarters in Alachua, Florida – where the CPO was first established in April 1998 – will put on special events to highlight child protection.
North American director Lilasuka Dasi is requesting ISKCON communities all over the U.S. and Canada to do the same.
In Alachua the Appearance Day of Lord Nrsimhadeva, the original protector of children, will begin with a presentation about the Child Protection Office after Deity Greeting.
During the Powerpoint, Lilasuka will read quotes from Srila Prabhupada about protecting children, and talk about the services the CPO provides. These include responding to child abuse concerns; screening services so that temples can make informed decisions about who they engage and how; training programs and support for local child protection teams; and education for adults and children.
After the presentation, Lilasuka will invite attendees to be active participants in child protection, and there will be a fundraising drive for the North American CPO.
Lilasuka Dasi gives a presentation in Towaco, New Jersey
In the evening, there will be an information booth for adults to browse, and an activity booth for children based on Pinwheels for Prevention, a nationwide program to mark child abuse awareness month – which is April in the US and Canada. Children will get to make and decorate their own pinwheels to create awareness.
Finally, there will be a special fire yajna during which 108 names of Lord Nrsimhadeva will be chanted.
“We’ve invited all the former and current CPO staff to come and give their blessings for this event and for the future of child protection in ISKCON,” Lilasuka says. “We’ve also invited all the children in the community to take part, and get the benefit from the prayers being chanted for their protection.”
In a letter addressed to temple presidents, GBCs and Child Protection teams across the US and Canada, Lilasuka has asked other communities to put on a similar event for Nrsimha Chaturdasi, and has provided a list of suggested activities.
“It’s an opportunity to bring positive attention to the topic of child protection,” she says. “As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And research shows that one adult who is trained in child protection can protect an average of ten children from sexual abuse.”
To this end, the North American Child Protection Office is conducting more trainings in the US and Canada this year than ever before. So far Lilasuka has already visited Towaco, New Jersey; Central New Jersey; Philadelphia; and Gita Nagari, and done online training for Ottowa, Canada. In May, she’ll be going to New Vrindaban; Seattle; Vancouver; and Farmington Hills, Michigan.
North American CPO volunteers in Alachua, Florida
“Temples are really prioritizing child protection,” says Lilasuka. “It is hitting a tipping point. For instance, when I went to Towaco, New Jersey, to offer training, a storm had just hit, and electricity had been out for five days. But still, seventy devotees came. That speaks tremendously to the local organization. It means devotees on the ground in Towaco were speaking to the parents and management for weeks, getting commitments to be there. That’s what it takes – all of us working together locally will accomplish the goal of creating safer communities.”
Lilasuka encourages more people to participate in the solution. Some can offer their skills to the CPO – for instance, a grant writer, a translator to translate materials into different langauges, and more are needed. Others can participate in their local child protection teams or invite Lilasuka to offer trainings in their community.
“Much of prevening child abuse is awareness,” she says. “Opening a dialogue that is often otherwise silenced.”
Another powerful and easy way to help is to donate a one-time or monthly contribution at http://www.safetemple.org/support/
“Our main goal for 2018 is to increase the CPO budget so that we can bring on another full-time committed staff member,” says Lilasuka. “If people can give just $25 a month, then we would have a sustainable financial base with which to bring in someone who is qualified and committed to work full-time.”
In the future, Lilasuka hopes to have regional child protection offices everywhere in ISKCON.
It’s a cause close to Srila Prabhupada’s heart. On June 20, 1972 he wrote: “If we are able to make a whole generation of our children into fine Krishna Conscious preachers, that will be the glory of our movement and the glory of your country as well. But if we neglect somehow or other and if we lose even one Vaisnava, that is very great loss.”
Please comment below and share what your community will do or did to highlight child protection this Nrsimha Chaturdasi.
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies