Schools and Development Projects in Porto Alegre, Brasil

 By Giridhara
I recently visited the AMURTEL schools and development projects in Porto Alegre, Brasil. I was initially impressed by a group of small children from one of the schools who sat patiently during a large AM retreat waiting for their turn to perform. They all sat quietly in their places then got up and performed very nicely. When I saw their calm behaviours and I mentally compared that with what I had come to expect in young children – restlessness, self-consciousness, a need to move or to talk. I knew that there was something special going on here.AMURTEL runs 6 schools and a community development project in the industrial city in the southeast of Brasil. There is a very nice primary school with very modern and attractive facilities. There was a special meditation room and every class rotated through that room each day. The teachers were all practicing members of Ananda Marga and all had bright faces and professional dress. We saw the Circle of Love songs and movement being practiced by students as well as more conventional tasks. The older students were learning English and having a couple of Americans visit was a chance to say “hello” and try their new skills.We also toured several of the pre-schools including one that had a high brick wall facing the street. Our tour guide explained that the dividing line between two rival gangs was that street and that sometimes there were gun fights near there. The community recently asked AMURT to take over a community centre that the municipality no longer wanted to run…after meeting with the residents AMURT agreed to manage the centre and the municipality would provide funding.The development project includes an after school program for small children that includes feeding them a nutritious meal, a program for at-risk teenagers to teach them some job skills and involve them in community service. One of the projects involves learning to grow herbs and plants and make essential oils and scents which the members of the community use to make their own high quality natural soaps and shampoos at no cost. This project has room for developing some community gardens and other projects. AMURT and AMURTEL have been working with the community and the local governments for 30 years and there are now strong working relationships. Everyone in Porto Alegre knows AMURT.