Let a Thousand Sunflowers Bloom

By Acintya Edwin Aguilar

“We are very excited about the construction of the Children’s Ecological Garden”, Nitya Prema Morales said, while presenting the general design and business plan of the projected mini ecosystem. The park’s lay out, which shows a cluster of shade trees around a pavilion, adheres to the principles of Progressive Utilization. It will showcase water conservation and organic farming, with a vegetable garden, and medicinal as well as ornamental plants.

When completed, the 50-square meter park will serve not only as playground and learning environment to the already existing AMSAI pre-school, the Sunflower Learning Center, but also as a fitting testament to the tireless effort of Nitya Prema’s brother, accomplished realist painter and educator, Dada Rameshananda.

The Sunflower Learning Center is a 45-square meter, 4-storey building located in a middle class housing community called BPTHAI or Bahayang Pag-asa Taguig Homeowners Association, Inc., in Taguig City, Metro Manila, Maharlika. Aside from functioning as a pre-school, Sunflower also maintains feeding programs at the BPTHAI Multi-purpose Center, as well as occasional taekwando and art classes.

Since it first opened in 2007, four annual batches of nursery, kindergarten and prep students have already graduated from the school. Children from middle and lower income families are taught English, Math, Science and Filipino subjects as well as Art, Dance, Drama, Ecology, Music, and Sports in the school’s neohumanist curriculum.

Didi Ananda Shubhra, of the Women’s Welfare Department, said that “the Library on Wheels which Dada Ramesh started is very helpful to the children in the community. Gathering children to do drawing and painting is also another project that keeps them out of the streets.”

The Sunflower Learning Center was started as the CHILD Project, or Children’s Home for Inspired Life Development, and was designed to serve eight barangays (or administrative districts) in Taguig City and neighboring Pasig City. Construction of the school building was made possible from the proceeds of the paintings of Dada Rameshananda, with the generous support of Mr. Pierre Boyde, an AMURT volunteer.

The first and second floors are used as the classrooms, where two to three-hour classes are held from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The third floor is an open space area where clay sculptures and art works of the children are on display together with some other paintings. The area is also used by members of Ananda Marga of the Pasig City district for Saturday night group meditations. The fourth floor serves as the accommodation for the School Superintendent.

Although he was a Fine Arts graduate, Dada Ramesh also pursued Early Childhood Education at the Philippine Normal University. He was inspired by Shrii P.R. Sarkar who exhorted his workers to continually establish nursery schools to encourage the innate potentials of children to blossom. Dada Ramesh then dedicated his life to working with children in hardship situations in both Maharlika and South America.

Dada first worked as a Children’s Home superintendent in Caloocan City, Metro Manila, from 1979 to 1985. He looked after 12 children coming from very poor families or were rescued from living in the streets. During this period, he also started 6 schools on government-loaned and AMURT-acquired properties. The AMURT schools are still running today.

In 1988 Dada was relocated to Brazil and started a school in Ceilandia, Brazilia capital city. In 1995 he moved to Lima, Peru where he worked with children from the notorious Piranita street gangs to provide them with food, medical care as well as street education, hope and inspiration for a better life. During this time he also founded the Prabhat Public Children’s Library in Lima. Both of these projects are ongoing.

Dada Ramesh also served as program coordinator of Renaissance Artists and Writers Association (RAWA) in Brazil, Peru and Maharlika. Some of Dada’s commissioned murals are found in Platanvej, Copenhagen, Denmark; Angra de Heroismo Terceira, Azores, Portugal; Sao Paolo, Brazil; Verona, Italy; Mainz, Germany; and Tiljala, Calcutta, India. Painted in the realist style, his works are expressions of the joys of the heart and the innocence of children, the beauty of nature and the quest for spiritual transformation.

The proposed Children’s Ecological Garden at Sunflower is only the latest of the energetic Dada’s projects. At the 2010 Ananda Marga regional conference held in Ananda Kuranga, Nagcarlan, Laguna, Dada Ramesh was able to present the proposal of his mini ecopark to fellow dadas, margis and supporters. Unfortunately, by some strange twist of fate, Dada suddenly died of a stroke several weeks later.

It was definitely a tremendous loss, both to the many families whose lives he had touched, but also to the Seva Dharma Mission which Dada so fervently served. But, as Dada Sumitananda, said, “we can continue to honor the example which Dada Rameshananda set”.