Ananda Marga River School, Maleny, Australia
By Kamala Alister
This year has opened with more expansion and plenty of good news in our 12th year. At the end of last year we realized not only did we need to add a new primary classroom, but that we also could move ahead one year in our schedule to add a new “Prep” class in our early education area (in line with state requirements.) Now we finally have 7 classes for seven years of school (instead of mixed classes), plus three years of “preschool.” The exciting part was receiving an unexpected government grant of US $160,000 (!) to build and fit out the new prep classroom, after we had already budgeted and arranged loans to cover it ourselves. It felt like such a special kind of grace in the way it happened.
It was also a kind of spiritual experience to see our new buildings arrive on cranes through the air! This year for the first time, instead of renovating second-hand donated buildings, we were able to order buildings that were built off site, and then delivered to the school. A much faster and less stressful process! But of course they arrived late, during the second week of school. All the kids were on hand to see the buildings swinging through the air!
All told this last 12 months has brought US$ 240,000 worth of grants, including funding for new play areas, new computer center, ceramic kiln and pottery wheels, and a beautiful new “art space” (open air and fronting into rainforest!). We have also been so happy to hire our first two Ananda Marga teachers in this year, and they have been such a wonderful addition.
Our new year six teacher, Tara McPhail, and school director Prabha Demasson, will be traveling together to the NHE Educator’s Conference in Sweden. How wonderful that the school can support their trip.
On the last day of our school year in December, all the children pitched in to plant over 200 native rainforest trees near our creek (partially funded by more grant money!) What a beautiful sight! It was part of such a highly vibrated few days at the end of the year including great performances, and our usual deeply touching graduation ceremony. (Its always so beautiful to hear the deep feelings of our graduating class about their years at the River School.)
Various service projects continue at the school such as year 1 students raising money with an art sale for poor children in India, year 3 students regularly visiting residents at a seniors’ center, and all-school participation in the Walk Against Want.
At least ten River School families, and several teachers, attended the Ananda Mela festival, an annual event held at the Sectorial Master Unit (about five hours away). It was great for these families and teachers to have a blissful taste of a spiritual lifestyle, with daily meditation, kiirtan and yoga, plus inspiring workshops. As one teacher commented, “It was nothing like I ever expected to happen on this earth. I am successfully blissed out!”