Every year, in the streets and marketplaces in Northern India and Nepal fill with women dressed in their finest singing, dancing and feasting together on the eve of Teej, an annual Hindu holiday that celebrates women as wives and the center of caring homes and communities. During the three-day holiday, women visit local temples to pray, fast, and feast for the well-being and health of their husbands and family. It is not uncommon to also visit their mother’s home. It is a time when for the entire community to focus back on the family and women who play such a central part.
Teej has its roots in a Hindu legend of the goddess Parvati who fasted to demonstrate her dedication to the Lord Shiva. It was only after 108 years, that Shiva took her as his wife.
During this year’s celebration in Kathmandu, where the largest Teej celebrations are held, the Global Peace Volunteers Nepal joined local authorities to help with crowd control. Seventy-two volunteers helped throughout the day directing devotees, offering water and health services for those waiting in line, and assisting people in need of special accommodations.
Global Peace Volunteer is an initiative of Global Peace Foundation that brings together youth of a diverse backgrounds centered on a desire to do more through service. GPV uses service as the gateway for the youth to challenge their personal limits as well as to experience different cultures, and to embrace the world around them. As Asiyah, a GPV Malaysia volunteer articulated, “Youth nowadays are segregated in so many ways, they need to re-learn to have empathy and the deep sense of interconnectedness.” GPV uses volunteerism to reconnect youth with something beyond themselves, namely their global family.
Volunteering at the Teej celebrations was a hands-on way to serve the local community and experience the transformative powers of service. A first time volunteer reflected that it was a, “Tiresome, yet awesome day.” She continued, “The blessings people gave me for volunteering in Pashupati were far more pleasing than the blessing I would have received from God alone in my worship.” Her powerful reflection describes the realization that service is external expression of the values and principles of her faith, and that it was an active form of worship.
Luna Thapa, a returning volunteer, expressed similar satisfaction. She said, “I am happy to serve on this precious celebration of Teej which is a great festival of women. This volunteering experience gave me so much pleasure and happiness.”
The 72 GPV volunteers are a small fraction of a growing number of GPV members throughout Southeast Asia who are breaking down prejudices based on their shared, positive experience of service, while gaining exposure to critical issue areas like women empowerment and environmental stewardship.
GPF is driven to establish a new culture of family centered on shared universal principles, one of the central ones being living for others, or service. Initiatives such as GPV are creating opportunities for youth to develop these values through practical and real experiences that can become the foundation for their leadership for tomorrow.
GPF Malaysia described this transformation aptly in a blog out their most recent GPV Camp.
“[The youth] came as strangers, went home knowing they have now a family bigger than they have ever imagined. The understanding of the basis of the family institution being beyond blood-bound is now in their hearts. The GPV Camp served as a building block of empathy in the community of the future leaders. These young people are going to change the course of humanity making peace possible.”
Through projects and camps, GPV is helping to build a culture of service and a conviction of humanity’s interconnectedness.
Thank you to all of the volunteers of GPV Nepal!