March 23, 2011
Dept of Social Work, Amritapuri
Why would an individual be motivated to render selfless service?
Ms. Natalie Bartone, a student of Masters in Social Work at the State University of New York, Buffalo, spent six weeks as an intern at the Department of Social Work, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, trying to find out.
“She was able to do commendable work amidst a lot of hurdles such as language and cultural barriers,” stated Dr. Sunil D. S., Chairperson of the Amrita department. “She keenly interacted with local communities and tried to understand ground realities of rural life in Kerala.”
Natalie selected twenty-eight individuals to participate in focus group and in-depth interviews. These individuals were local community members or students who had engaged in the Amala Bharatam Campaign or the Tsunami Relief Program. Some were foreigners visiting for a short time, who had participated in other service activities of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math.
The goal of Natalie’s research was to identify different factors that motivated these individuals to engage in voluntary work. Most responses stated helping others in need, promoting the welfare of the community, working for the good of others or serving society.
Natalie found that all twenty-eight participants had friends and family members who were very supportive of their voluntary efforts. Fifteen of the twenty-eight respondents stated that their role model was Amma.
When participants were asked what they hoped to gain from the experience, the majority of the responses were quite similar. They said that they hoped to become less selfish, for peace and relief for those who were suffering, for a better awareness of self, to be more loving, kind and patient while helping others, for the greater good and to be a better person.
“These common responses highlight the idea that often times, if not always, we help others in order to help ourselves,” wrote Natalie in her dissertation. “Whatever religion or spiritual path an individual chooses to follow, a commonality in most faiths is that we become more selfless by helping others.”
“In a world which has become so individualized, it seems that these voluntary efforts will become even more important as we move forward. To sum it up, in the words of Dalai Lama, if you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Laura Lewis, Director of Fieldwork Education, coordinates student internships at Buffalo. She was full of praise for the Amrita faculty and expressed her feelings to senior Amrita administration.
“I must convey to you my sincere appreciation for the efforts of Dr. Sunil and his faculty. I have been so impressed to see the skills and abilities Natalie has developed under their guidance. I was fascinated to hear of the work faculty are doing at Amritapuri Campus.”