Celebrating a Healthy Christmas with Bethany Society in Shillong
The world would have been dull if it had only one colour. Similarly, the life of human beings would have been monotonous if every person were the same. The special people are such unique colours painted on the canvas of the world that makes it more beautiful.
Most of us have let half of December pass by complaining about the dresses we couldn't buy, the elite restaurants we could not visit, or the cancelled Christmas carols and vacations because of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Bethany Society at Laitumkhrah, Shillong in Meghalaya, overlooking every greatest hindrance with optimism, celebrates Christmas in an even more special and meaningful way this year.
In the years that have gone, students have been trained to make Christmas cards, decorations, chocolates and cakes which were later sold in local markets that would generate extra money for them during Christmas.
Their vision as an organisation is, "Humans and Earth, fully alive;" that whatever enterprises they go into, must be eco-friendly. It has to be ethical, efficient and economical, something that would not damage the earth.
The equally sustainable and effective process of card making in Bethany Society is something we should all learn from. The cards are handmade. They recycle old clothes and papers collected from schools and colleges.
Nothing to them is waste. The thing that is not needed in one part could be used for another. "We get that learning from the forest because Meghalaya is a land of forest. In the forest, nothing is wasted. We accept that the forest is our teacher," says the Executive Director of Bethany Society, Carmo Noronha.
When asked if there were any orders from external bodies, he responded, "Yes, we get a lot of orders. In fact, we cannot keep up with the orders because there are a lot."
Due to the dangers of the pandemic, many have been prevented from coming. Yet, they have started a whole program on natural farming. Out of all the trained pupils, 25 of them have together formed a self-help group known as "Kanmanroi."
According to them, Christmas is not a festival that just comes and goes with the season, but it is a long-term celebration, and the best way to cherish it is by having access to good nutrition.
They are also trying to promote good drinking water and, the self-help group is promoting low-cost water filters which are useful for purifying water.
If incidents of sickness are being reduced, then can we only celebrate Christmas better.
Noronha says, "The media has a very important role to play, not to promote Bethany Society but to promote the contribution that people with disabilities can give; that they can be independent. They are not looking for pity or sympathy, they are looking for opportunities. The more opportunities they get, the more they will develop."
Furthermore, he added, "We are very clear that we don't want to be promoted as an organisation. The whole idea is that those who are left behind should get an opportunity, especially at Christmas time."
Their students come from across Meghalaya, covering almost all districts.
But the moment the lockdown was imposed, the institution was closed immediately. During Easter, they were able to sell a lot of high-quality vegetables to local people, local restaurants like Jiva, which was supplying food for people in quarantine.
"COVID is indeed a larger crisis but to me, one of the largest crisis that is coming is the climate change. There will be a shortage of water and crops failure," was his remark when asked on how the pandemic has affected them.
The society aims to train their students on how to be resilient and to flourish agriculture. According to them, digital learning and making people in the rural areas digitally literate is necessary for improving livelihood, information dissemination to reach out to their students residing in villages.
He auspiciously continues, "Christmas is a celebration of life. It was the birth of Jesus Christ. So whenever or wherever there is birth, it is an indication that life should go on. Especially in today's world where there seems to be much fragmentation, because of COVID, and also where the community is being divided, my message is that we have only one life to live."
"So the more ways we can come together and live together in peace and harmony, respecting each other's differences and not fighting over differences, the better it is," he concluded.
The Bethany Society that we perceive might be completely different from what it actually is. There is a whole world designed within its small campus that is self-sufficient and productive. It has its inclusive school, it works on solar energy, has a kitchen, a braille printing unit, a water conservation system, poultry, a park and many interesting sights that can leave visitors astounded.
Hence, as initiated by the Society, let us feed ourselves and others with nutritious food, extending whatever gifts we can render to those in need. Joining Bethany Society, let us impart kindness and generosity upon everyone so that no one may be left behind this Christmas.