TOS Annual Report to 30 September 2009
Diana Dunningham Chapotin, TOS International Secretary
The dearest wish of TOS members is to support the TS as a place where social action as spiritual practice is valued and actively nurtured. To facilitate unselfish aid to those in distress (including animals and the planet itself) and the inner transformation of the server that this requires is the two-fold purpose of the TOS.
The TOS does not see its role as peripheral to the work of spreading Theosophical teachings nor does it see itself as simply duplicating the work of other humanitarian groups. The TOS exists to show the world that Theosophy has much light to shed on contemporary issues of concern and can help people find meaning in suffering. It aims to demonstrate that service grounded in spirituality can engender far-reaching good in the world. It labours to recognise and support Theosophists in their ‘giving dharma’.
This year started on an upbeat note: The TOS in Nairobi generously sent to TOS National Directors around the world complimentary first day covers of the stamp issued by the Kenyan government in recognition of our hundred years of service. The Kenyans held a packed commemorative function on November 17, 2008 with a group of dancers to welcome the VIPs in attendance. The Minister for Gender and Children’s Affairs and the Postmaster General planted a TOS centennial tree.
We have moved into our second century of work with vigour and enthusiasm. The Plan of Action prepared a year ago by Dorothy Bell after consultation with the members is proving valuable in guiding the organisation’s work. The two-monthly electronic newsletter and the website that were the first items of the Plan to be developed have generated a significant increase in interest in our work. The TOS in Tanzania, coordinated by Mrs Deepa Kapur, is now collaborating actively with us, and we are corresponding with fledgling groups in Portugal, Finland, Mexico and Hungary. A TOS start-up package, updated and expanded by Ananya Rajan, will shortly be available on our website. A very practical and helpful 15-page booklet entitled Helping the Dying has been written by Mrs Nelda Samarel and will be distributed internationally gratis in 2010.
As part of our Plan of Action, members are beginning to support local United Nations projects. The Spanish-language coordinator of the TOS, Fernando Pérez Martin, has put out a series of short newsletters encouraging them in this worthwhile work. Since we intend to expand our participation a little in this area, Mrs Lorraine Christensen, national director of the TOS in Canada, has agreed to coordinate efforts.
The team of workers at international level is growing steadily. The bright faces of thirteen volunteers are now featured on the TOS website with their roles outlined. Two of them, Geoffrey and Carolyn Harrod, work particularly hard producing our newsletter and regularly updating the website.
International support of TOS projects in developing countries is growing. The TOS in the USA is promoting and contributing again to the international matching grant programme it initiated last year with the kind help of the Kern Foundation in support of the Golden Link School, a theosophically oriented educational establishment from kindergarten to secondary level, in the Philippines.
The Theosophical Order of Service Foundation in the Philippines has extended this school this year by opening a modest college department. The government-approved college includes a course on Theosophy in its curriculum. We extend congratulations to Mr Vicente Hao Chin, Jr and his colleagues for this undertaking and wish them every success.
International cooperation is taking still other forms. In the past ten years, the TOS in England has organised the knitting of over 8,000 teddies for children in hospital. It recently sent the pattern for the teddies to the TOS in Italy and members there have produced dozens of teddies in their turn. Our Italian sisters, in collaboration with sister organisations, are now sending big batches to the TOS in Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania for the Heart Babies project supported by the local TOS. Members in England and New Zealand are helping with the purchase of travel kits for the children being flown to India for surgery. All this happy collaboration across borders and oceans is heart-warming!
Mr Birendra L. Bhattacharyya continues to work outstandingly hard as National Director of the TOS in India. He spends several months every year crisscrossing the country in support of over one hundred local TOS groups. Birendra visits our TOS schools, coaching classes, pre-primary learning centres (called Balwadi Schools), boarding establishments for the blind and for orphans, medical dispensaries as well as naturopathy, acupressure, ayurvedic treatment, yoga therapy and pranic healing centres. In visiting local groups as a special guest, Birendra formally presents educational materials and mobility aids to the needy, he congratulates workers receiving awards for outstanding service to the community, and takes time to meet with the recipients of aid themselves. He distributes school uniforms, student kits, garments, study material, cooked food, scholarships to meritorious students, prizes to essay and elocution contest winners, and relief materials during natural disasters. He inaugurates self-help projects, inaugurates new groups (nine this year) and presides as often as possible at zonal and regional conferences (two new TOS regions added this year). Finally, he spearheads efforts in times of national disaster, this year helping to organise emergency relief and reconstruction in the wake of cyclone Aila in coastal West Bengal. Mr Bhattacharyya’s 20 regional secretaries and their local teams are to be congratulated on all they accomplish.
Not the least of all this within India are two new projects (amongst many new ones). Seeing Eyes for Everyone (SEE) is supervised by Dr Sunita and C.V.K. Maithreya for the TOS in Chennai. It covers sight checks, glasses and operations when necessary for thousands of children and slum dwellers. This work is being funded in part by the TOS in Australia and France. The second innovative project is a fully fledged Dental Care Unit opened in July by the TOS Deepti Group in the Delhi region for economically disadvantaged children of Noida and surrounding rural areas.
The TOS in Pakistan continues to run extensive and varied educational activities in Karachi for needy citizens in spite of turbulent and worrying political circumstances. A new programme is about to start, of free medical treatment for mothers and children living in the depressed areas around TOS HQ. The team of volunteer doctors and nurses is already in place.
For display on TS branch information tables, the TOS in Spain has created a beautiful colour poster inviting people to join in TOS activities. Each year a special TOS weekend is organised to discuss progress within the TOS and make plans for the coming year. A Peace Meditation project was launched this year for all Spanish speaking countries. It has been warmly received.
More detailed news of activities undertaken by TOS members is available on our website where each country has its own national page.
Service takes many forms. There is direct, hands-on action like distributing food to the poor. There is advocacy work to achieve the system-wide changes necessary to end hunger. There is self-purification so that our social action is as effective as possible. There is education on the spiritual principles that can gradually transform society. All these forms of service have their place within the TOS. None is superior to another. TOS members find great joy in a multi-level, balanced approach to making Theosophy a positive force in the world.
The TOS places the utmost importance on a harmonious working relationship with the TS. It is active in 28 countries and aspires to become of greater and greater support to the TS in making the teachings of Theosophy of transformative value in the world.