Tag Archives: Asha

UN International Day of Non Violence

The UN International Day of Non Violence is on October 2nd, to coincide with Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. Gandhi was born on October 2nd, 1869, and this year, we will be commemorating his 146th birth anniversary. Non Violence is one of Asha’s key values, and I have been thinking a lot about it these days. During my 27 years at Asha, I have witnessed violence in many shapes and forms, from physical violence, to the violent effects of power structures oppressing and harassing the poor, systems, large and small, that incorporate prejudice and exploitation. I began to put to the test the philosophy of non violence from Asha’s very early beginnings, as I dealt with the oppressive and unjust systems on a daily basis.

The Asha communities have received great enlightenment and joy through the practice of non violence that has become a moral imperative, a way of life. It is a weapon available to all of us, and is a wonderful technique for resolving conflicts and achieving desired ends. The goal of non violence is not to defeat the opponents, but to win them over. This then does not alienate our opponents, and in fact, leaves open the possibility of conversion.

In my experience, we invite violence from opponents if they are humiliated or provoked. We are here to fight the antagonism, not the antagonist. Therefore personal sincerity in our interactions that foster trust, can break the cycle of violence and counter violence.

There can be the great temptation to self-righteousness and an unwillingness to see the other’s point of view. Efforts to try and understand the opponents’ motivations, and the lens with which they view the world can affirm their worth as well as their capacity for growth. This can also challenge them to examine their values and beliefs. This way, the oppressed and the oppressor are both liberated. A strong sense of the inherent dignity and worth of each individual brings us closer to an understanding of our shared humanity.

Non violence rejects passivity and submission, and is not an attempt to ignore or avoid conflict or oppression. In fact, it requires a great deal of courage and strength.

Gandhian non violence, termed ‘Satyagraha’, aims to attain the truth through love and right action. It demands the elimination of violence from the self, as well as from the social, political, and economic environment. The end result hoped for is a peaceful and just society.

In closing, for those who might be pessimistic about the ability of non violence to resolve conflicts, I ask, Have you tried? I have, hundreds in the Asha communities have, and it works beautifully. Would you like to consider celebrating October 2nd as Non Violence Day?

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The Power of Touch

As we approach the wonderful season of Christmas, I have been reflecting with great joy on the ‘Power of Touch’. In Matthew 8, we read, ‘When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said,” Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing”, he said.” Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy….’ It was a leper Jesus touched – a man nobody touched. Think of this. For years this man had not felt the kiss of a child, or the embrace of a friend. Jesus touched him. There was healing in his touch. There was comfort in his touch. There was reassurance in his touch. There was life in his touch. Jesus touched people physically and emotionally. And people touched him in the same way.

Did you know of the remarkable scientific benefits of touch? Did you know that the skin is the largest organ of our body, and enables touch to become a powerful method of communication? Scientists have discovered specific neurons in the skin that process information about touch.

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Touch conveys a whole range of emotions. The immune response is triggered in the skin through touch, which is why we live longer. When we touch someone, we activate certain parts of our brain that provide feelings of reward, of compassion. Touch builds up cooperative relationships. It also signals safety and trust. Touch soothes. It calms cardiovascular stress through reduction in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Touch spreads a tremendous amount of goodwill, and is highly contagious.

The hormone oxytocin is released in response to touch, and this in turn produces care giving behaviour and generosity. It also promotes monogamy. We read emotion better, and discard cynical views of human nature. We respond with stronger compassion.

Touch is an unbelievable mechanism of social well being. Regular physical contact with premature babies helps them get a huge boost in weight gain. Lots of touch results in better sleep, reduced irritability, and increased sociability among infants. Touching patients with Alzheimer’s leads to a precipitous drop in their symptoms, and to a remarkable reduction in depression.

Let us go a step further. Did you know that hugging is healthy for the body and for the soul? How often do we hug our children, our family members, our friends? Hugging boosts self esteem and brings about a sense of security in a way no word can. A warm hug can touch our soul. Hugging strengthens our bonds with our children. We can never hug our children too much. They feel a sense of acceptance, their self esteem is boosted, they become more confident, and it brings them great happiness. To connect is more important than to correct. I read a wonderful quote by Virginia Satir, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Truer words were never spoken.

There are times, whether during intense grief or anger, or in ecstatic moments of joy or love, when only the language of touch can fully express what we feel. Let us reach out this Christmas to our family and friends with the gift of this wonderful language given to us by God. May we cherish the joys of this language forever.

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A meeting with the Canadian First Lady

On Tuesday, I had the honour and privilege of welcoming one of the most inspiring people I have come across in public life, Her Excellency Mrs Sharon Johnston, First Lady of Canada to an Asha slum colony.

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Amongst much warmth and joy we had an amazing interaction with college students and women from Asha communities. She listened with rapt attention as each one of them went on to describe how they have overcome the significant obstacles of poverty to succeed in life.

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In step with the Asha values of gratitude and compassion, she stressed on the importance of giving back to the community while addressing the students. “Whenever you take one step up in life, always remember to take someone with you,” she said.

Here’s a link to her video interview after the visit:

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On Non-Judgementalism

Dear friends,

In this letter, I wish to express my views on non-judgementalism. It is one of Asha’s key values and informs all the areas of our work. While it is in human nature to be judgemental, it is mostly never useful. Our judgement can be based on someone’s looks or actions, without knowing the person. We might see something they do, and get angry or disappointed. This approach will create divisions rather than build bridges. Instead, we can try to understand the person, imagining their background, and finding out their backstory, their motivations, the lens with which they view the world. Perhaps there were circumstances that might have led to the person acting or looking like they do. They might have different needs, different dreams.

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Once we begin to understand the person, we can accept them for who they are. With acceptance comes the ability to love the person. As we begin to feel what they are going through, we create opportunities for transformation of the person as well as of ourselves. We begin to build bridges with old or young, light skinned or dark, tall or short, male or female, rich or poor. We see the commonalities between us, despite our differences.

We will then notice that people will treat us better. There will be a growing satisfaction in ourselves, a belief in ourselves, and a trust in ourselves. We will be much happier, those around us will be much happier, and the community we live in will be a much better place.

The practice of this approach by the Asha family over the years has demonstrated that it is powerful, transformative and life changing for all, finding warmth, goodwill, and friendship in the most unlikely of places.

With my very best wishes.

Kiran Martin

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