Volunteers have established several Vaishnavas CARE teams each in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and El Salvador, as well as Spain, after attending the “Art of Caring for Vaishnavas” Zoom webinar by Vaishnavas CARE co-founder Sangita Dasi in November.
Devotees from other countries such as Colombia, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Peru, Dominican Republic, and Uruguay also attended the webinar and are expected to form their own teams.
Meanwhile Sangita has been asked to give her four-day webinar in March 2021 to devotees from 25 centers across Brazil where they also hope to establish CARE teams.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how excited and enthusiastic the Latin American devotees are about this,” says Sangita Dasi, a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse (CHPN). “They are so incredible!”
Co-founded in 2000 as an official non-profit organization by Sangita and her late godsister, Jusaniya Dasi, the acronym in Vaishnavas CARE stands for “Counseling, Assistance, Resources, and Education for the terminally ill and those in need.”
Along with Giriraja Swami, Sangita Dasi played a major role in opening the Bhaktivedanta Hospice in Vrindavan, India. She also offered training for staff at the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai, and wrote the book “Final Journey: Complete Hospice Care for Departing Vaishnavas” published by Torchlight.
More recently, with the help of Taravali Dasi from Toronto, Sangita established a private Vaishnavas CARE grief support group on Facebook.
“With so many losses this year, we saw the need to start a Vaishnavas CARE Grief Support Group on Facebook for those devotees of Lord Krishna who are grieving the loss of a friend, spouse, child, adult child, other loved one, or guru,” she says. “This is a closed, private and confidential group for both men and women. It is the only virtual, online Grief Support Group specifically for devotees of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna. We currently have 147 members.”
Finally, Sangita has inspired devotees to form many Vaishnavas CARE teams around the world, which have been instrumental in caring for Vaishnavas in need.
The recently-formed Latin American teams came about after a group of devotee women from various countries including Kandarpika Dasi, Govardhanesvari Dasi, Kala-keli Dasi and Chaitanya-priya Dasi volunteered as the Latin American communications department for Vaishnavas CARE, and spread word about Sangita’s webinar to every temple in the region.
Team leaders for the Latin American Vaishnavas CARE teams include clinical psychologist Mathura Kumari Devi Dasi and naturopath Bhaktin Thamis Duarte in Argentina; temple vice-president Kala-keli Dasi and sankirtan devotee Nidra Sila Dasi in El Salvador; and administrator Raga Sindhu Das in Chile.
Although COVID-19 has changed some of the methods, with precautions in place and more virtual online care, team members are essentially offering the same kinds of services that Vaishnavas CARE teams around the world have since their inception. Regularly, they reach out to devotees in their local community to ask how they are doing, and offer emotional, spiritual, physical and psychological care.
Typically, pre-COVID, Vaishnavas CARE teams worldwide would check on devotees if they hadn’t seen them at the temple on Sunday for several weeks. They would then ask if everything was okay, if anyone in the family was ill, or if there was anything they could do, such as deliver prasadam. They would also check on senior devotees who may have been lonely because they were widowed or their children didn’t live nearby anymore. CARE volunteers would visit these devotees once a week to read with them, have bhajans or just talk. They would also care for those with chronic illnesses, and those who were depressed or grieving.
Finally they would also provide end of life care for the terminally ill, helping devotees to find a hospice in their area that respected Vaishnava practices, beliefs and diets, and supplementing their professional medical care at the hospice with emotional and spiritual care such as bringing prasadam and garlands from the temple, assisting family members, visiting the patient and showing them support.
During the pandemic, CARE teams in Latin America, the U.S. and elsewhere have reached out to their congregations by phone or Zoom, asking devotees if they are safe and healthy, how they are doing emotionally, and if they need anything. CARE team members have offered to read to devotees who are feeling isolated once a week over the phone or Zoom; delivered packaged prasadam meals to their doors; helped organize memorial services for the departed; and offered bereavement care for departed devotees’ families.
The response has been enthusiastic and grateful, with many devotees in Latin America saying that the new Vaishnavas CARE teams are extremely timely.
“Caring is contagious,” Sangita says. “If you start to care for the devotees, then the devotees will care in return, and you set a mood. Everybody wants to care for one another. You become a family.”
She adds, “I feel strongly that it’s Srila Prabhupada’s desire that all of the devotees are taken care of, and not just at the time of death. Dying is a very personal time, it’s very private. It’s not fair to ignore devotees all through their life, and then all of a sudden ring their doorbell when they’re dying, and ask to have the privilege and honor of inviting ourselves into their very personal end of life experience. So we need to build relationships and friendships with them all throughout their life.”
Doing that through grassroots efforts in each community that span the globe is Sangita’s mission, and she’s thrilled to see teams expanding in Latin America, Spain and other countries with so much enthusiasm.
“I really believe that this was Prabhupada’s desire,” she says. “And if Prabhupada is happy, Krishna’s happy, and we will feel their reciprocation.”
For support in Spanish, please visit Vaishnavas CARE Latinoamérica at https://www.facebook.com/vaishanavascarelatinoamerica
For the English Vaishnavas CARE page, visit https://www.facebook.com/VaishnavasCARE
Visit the website: https://www.vaisnavascare.org/
If you are in need of grief support, please register to join the private Vaishnavas CARE Grief Support group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/564694304340528
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