Om Namo Bhagavade Sivanandaya

Established in 1949 by Sri Swami Sivananda

In 1993 the Folweni Learning Centre in the Umlazi region was constructed by the Isipingo Rotary Club. The Club approached Divine Life Society to participate in the newly created community facility. A large number of women in the neighborhood were unemployed.

The Society, through the kind help of its many patrons and well-wishers throughout the country, donated 20 motorized sewing machines, 10 Olivetti typewriters, 25 hand-operated sewing machines and one copying machine to the institution.

At Ntuzuma, another poverty-stricken area in the north of Durban, a similar need was identified. The St. John Apostolic Mission, under the direction of Rev. Khumalo, was doing its best to serve the local community. The Society worked closely with this organisation. Four typewriters were donated to it. A sewing centre was started with an initial donation of 10 hand-operated machines, since there was no electricity in the area during that time.

At the Umlazi Technical College, a modern sewing centre has been constructed by the Society and is being efficiently run by the College. The Society donated 30 sewing machines to the College.

The first of all sewing centres built by the Society was at Esikhaweni, near Empangeni. This centre, which is being run by the KwaZulu-Natal Government, provides training for about 100 women. The Society also donated 25 electric sewing machines to the centre.

In 2004, Pujya Swamiji decided that the Society administer sewing centres at its Ashrams. The Society currently administers five sewing schools which house 103 industrial and overlock sewing machines. The Administration Centre is located at Sivanandashram, Havenside, Chatsworth. Two other centres are run at our Ashrams in Merebank and Pietermaritzburg. A centre in Tongaat is managed by the Shree Veeraboga Emperumal Temple. The centre at Newlands West is managed by the Sai Organisation, Durban Region, Newlands.

Training is provided mainly to unemployed adults by qualified trainers who are paid by the Society. Training extends for six weeks, eight hours per day. Certificates are awarded to all “graduates”. Since the inception of this project in 2004, 2300 certificates have been issued. Almost all graduates have been absorbed into the industrial sector.

Trainees are provided with an opportunity of securing a free sewing machine, provided they sell a minimum number of garments sewn at their centre. To this end about 2000 sewing machines were purchased.

Owing to the dire need for early childhood education in rural areas, the Society decided to build creches in various parts of KwaZulu-Natal. Creches play a vital role in providing a haven for children left unattended by working parents as well as children left orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Thus far more than 25 have been completed, while work on 5 new creches is in progress

For the Society's 60th Anniversary this year, Pujya Swamiji had set a target of completing 30 Peace & Skills Training Centres and 30 creches. Thus far, over 40 Peace & Skills Training Centres have been complete, whilst the 30th creche is being built. Both the Peace & Skills Training Centres and creches have a majestic look with the outside walls being clad with exquisite and colourful tiles. 

The concept of the Peace & Skills Training Centres began as a poverty alleviation project in 2006. Basic skills like sewing, computing and bead-making are being taught at these centres.

The first Peace & Skills Training Centre was built at Gamalakhe, near Port Shepstone early in 2006. To date, 35 Peace & Skills Training Centres in various parts of KwaZulu-Natal have been completed.

The Centres are playing a vital role in serving the needs of the communities in which they are built. Each Centre comprises a large hall designed to accommodate 40 sewing machines, a computer room and a Peace Centre. The Society’s policy is to install sewing machines and computers at all the Centres.

The Society offers to provide free accommodation and training to two prospective trainers from each centre in sewing skills. The Computer Centre will provide the youth and others with training in operating computers. Thirdly, the Peace Centre with its most beautiful colourful pictures of exotic birds, flowers, animals, scenic wonders, etc., with inspiring sayings in Zulu and English from the writings of our Divine Master will educate and uplift the people. Especially, school children enjoy reading highly educative instructions in English and in Zulu. There are sayings for the Junior learners as well as Senior learners. The Peace Centre will also help those with problems and conflicts to sit here and solve their differences. 

Beginning of School Projects

Divine Life Society of South Africa has been dedicated to the moral, educational and spiritual upliftment of communities in South Africa throughout its history of six decades in this country.

The Society began its African Education Projects in 1974. Thirty five years later, after ensuring community participation in each one of the projects, it has completed the building of over 350 education, health and other projects. Our education projects include the establishment of 374 classrooms, libraries, offices and staffrooms in various parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

It will not be out of place to relate how Pujya Swamiji's relationship with the African community originated and developed all these years.

Pujya Swamiji wrote: "During my early life in the Midlands town of Estcourt, our family moved very amicably with Africans. Often on Sundays my parents and some of my brothers and sisters would go out fishing or for collecting fuel. This journey would be about 20 kilometers to and fro, all done on foot. I remember how my parents would always spend about half an hour or more at a kraal in the area we went to, to entertain and be entertained by Africans. All had to drink twala from a single clay pot. This was the custom. It was a health drink and not intoxicating. I never liked the taste of it and used to ask for mahew and ground mabella! It was so nice to see my parents sitting and chatting with their African friends."

"Later, after I took to the spiritual path and guided my parents, they changed to vegetarian diet. Because of this early interaction, it was easy for me to meet and work with Africans, when we took up education and health projects for them."

"As I said, the Divine Master ordained our work for Africans, and it is his Grace that is behind all our activities. He is teaching us in a practical manner how to see the Lord in all names and forms. It is easy to say that all beings are the forms of God, but to serve such beings with love and compassion is not easy. The heart has to expand and the power of God has to settle in it through meditation and prayer for this to happen. Then it becomes quite easy to see God in all names and forms, regardless of race, colour and creed."

Pujya Swamiji reproduces herewith the manner in which the school projects for the Africans commenced:

"The projects we started about 1974 were ordained by our Divine Master. It happened like this. I went on a pilgrimage to India around 1974. In many places, like Chennai, I saw street children begging. I would buy some eatables for them. It was a pathetic sight to see these poor children. So I decided that when I returned to South Africa, I would send money to India to feed these children."

"On returning, when I began reflecting over the matter, I felt my Master telling me from within: "God in the form of the Africans is suffering in this country. Why not do something for them first instead of sending money to India?"

"It was not a voice that I heard. It was just a strong urge I felt coming from our Divine Master. So we decided to send R25 000 to Dr M.G. Buthelezi to have a school built in Mahlabatini. We had contact with him because his daughter, Mandisi, stayed at our Ashram for several months."

"Dr Buthelezi asked us to build the school ourselves, as the school committee might not use the funds properly. That is how we started our first project. Most of the material had to be transported by us from Durban to Mahlabatini, a distance of 300km. All enjoyed the work. Often we used to spend the night at Dr Buthelezi's residence. We used to be treated with great hospitality. When Dr Buthelezi built a beautiful new home we used to spend the night there, receiving VIP treatment."

"People heard of our work and contributed funds. So, after building the first school we decided to continue our projects. It was hard work because we had to transport building material to distant centres. Often our trucks used to return at midnight. All the school committees worked enthusiastically. They were very honest and no material was wasted or stolen. The school committees had to supply the unskilled labour and pay a small amount."

"Any hard work is often tested, but the Grace of God and our Divine Master always comes to our aid. Once, we were asked to build a school in the South Coast. As we drove to the church building that the children were using, we came across large potholes. I became hesitant and resolved not to undertake this project, as our vehicles might get bogged. But when I saw the little children sitting on the bare cement floor, I immediately took a resolution that whatever happens, I will build this school. I returned and at once sent some carpets for the children."

"When the project began, the truck taking the first load of sand got bogged. The European firm got annoyed because they lost finance and refused to transport any more sand. I tried many firms, but all refused. At last, Y.C. Naidoo, father of our beloved Dhanpal Naidoo, delivered all the sand and, what is more, did not charge us anything for it. From then onwards, even after the passing of Y.C. Naidoo, our Dhanpal Naidoo, has been serving our Society by supplying sand free of charge for our building projects. That is how God tests us and comes to our rescue at the same time."

"When the Society first began its educational projects for the Africans, some individuals stated that it was a very late start. I felt: 'better late than never.' "Also some individuals were not in favour of serving the Africans because of the riots that had taken place in Inanda. But the Society did not worry about this as it felt that it was serving God by undertaking such work."

"One of the questions put to me by individuals some years after the commencement of the school building projects was whether Africans appreciated what the Society was doing. I would answer that as the Society was serving God and its work was worship of the Lord, it did not seek any kind of appreciation."

Gurudev Centenary 2023

Sri Swami Sivananda

(1887 - 1963)

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