Universal Solidarity Movement of Value Education for Peace (USM) celebrated the conclusion of its silver jubilee and its 26th foundation day on 16th July, 2018. Students, teachers and principals who are partners of USM from different states of India participated in the programme along with friends, and prominent citizens of Indore. On this occasion USM shared with its friends and well-wishers its achievements during the last twenty five years by presenting a glimpse of various activities undertaken by the movement. USM also made use of this opportunity to educate the public.
On this occasion the students who are partners of USM shared with the audience the transformation that has taken place in them as a result of participating in the Enlightened Leadership Training and becoming members of USM. Mayawati Paikrao from Hingoly, Maharashtra, told that after joining USM a lot of changes took place in her. She stopped eating junk food and could control her anger. She also started helping her mother in the household chores. Siddhi Yadav from Lonavala said that her stage fear disappeared and she drastically reduced the use of mobile phone to 15 minutes a day. Senior journalist and former group editor of Dainik Bhaskar, Shri Shravan Garg, shared his appreciation of USM as a clean organization transforming hundreds of students into responsible citizens without owning any landed property and building and without taking any grant either from the government or funding agencies. He lauded the inclusive and pluralistic nature of USM, although it was started by a Catholic priest.
A special attraction of the conclusion of the jubilee celebration of USM was one hour music programme presented by social activists and renowned singers from Gujarat, Charul Bharwada and Vinay Mahajan. The couple inspired the audience with their melodious and thought provoking songs. Through the five songs they sang, they shared with the audience the struggles of the marginalized communities in India and the need for building peace and harmony among the communities and countries. The song on the preamble of the Indian Constitution sung in different languages by the audience with lighted candles in their hands created in their minds and hearts a deep feeling of oneness among the diversities.
The jubilee celebration was in tune with the unique nature of USM that is reflected in its structure and way of functioning. Its members belong to different religions, even though the founder is a Catholic priest. The seven member governing body has members belonging to three religions and three are women. Persons belonging to different religions, languages and regions live together and work together with a common vision and mission in USM. USM believes in pluralistic spirituality and practices it. The members of USM family and all those who come to USM participate in inter-religious prayer for peace with readings from different religious scriptures and common songs. For USM, pluralism is beyond tolerance; it is acceptance, appreciation and celebration of diversities.
USM firmly believes that without self transformation there cannot be social transformation. Hence the USM team members try to practice the values which they teach the students. USM has adopted Five Paths for self transformation: 1) pray daily for peace and forgiveness to be an agent of peace 2) skip a meal a week to express solidarity with the poor and the marginalized 3) Do a good deed a day consciously without any selfish motive 4) honour grandparents, parents, teachers and all human beings and 5) respect the earth and its resources. The USM community at Indore tries to present itself as a role model of the ideal society it envisages to create.
Self imposed transparency and accountability is another characteristic that makes USM a trend setting organization. The experience of USM during the last 25 years vindicates that a policy of complete transparency and accountability not only increases the credibility of an organization but also it is beneficial. USM has been following a policy of open Annual General Body Meeting (AGM) from its inception 25 years ago. Besides the formal members, friends and well-wishers and anyone who is interested to know about the functioning of USM are admitted to the AGM. The audited statement of account of the organization is published along with the annual report and made available to the public. Copies of the annual report and account are sent to all those who have made any financial contribution to USM.
Since 2014 the main stakeholders of USM: students, teachers and principals from various schools are invited to participate in the AGM and the Foundation Day of USM. The AGM of 2018 was held on 16th July. Besides the formal members, 36 students and teachers from different schools of India and more than a dozen friends and well-wishers of USM participated in the AGM. All participants were given all documents and were encouraged to ask questions and clarifications. The participants were told about the various sources of income of USM and the items for which the funds are used. While presenting the audited statement of account of the organization for the year 2017-18 the treasurer explained that USM had a deficit of about rupees twenty lakhs and the amount was spent from the balance of the previous year. He also pointed out that in order to meet the difference between the income and expenditure of the current year USM has to mobilize an additional amount between rupees ten and fifteen lakhs.
To the pleasant surprise of all one of the friends of USM presented to the Treasurer a cheque for Rs. 60,000/- during the interval. Nine other participants who are not the formal members of the society also made contributions, varying from Rs. 1000/- to 11,000/-. Two years ago Ishmit Singh Madan, a student who had participated in the Enlightened Leadership Training, attended the AGM. When he came to know that USM was struggling to make both ends meet he decided to pitch in his share. While continuing his higher secondary education he started his online business and he transfers Rs. 1000/- every month to the account of USM from the money earned from his business. The students, who are members of USM by practising Five Paths for Self Transformation, save something from their pocket money and a share of the money thus saved is sent to USM as ‘love offering’.
From its starting USM has been following a policy of not owning landed property and building. It has been functioning in rented premises for the last 25 years. Presently USM functions from the third rented building. Fifteen years ago USM had decided not to request the government or funding agencies for grant. It generates/mobilizes more than rupees one crore a year through various trainings, seminars, sale of its publications and individual donations. Not owning land and building and not taking grant from the government or donor agencies along with transparency, accountability and inclusiveness have enhanced the credibility of USM.
On the eve of the AGM, students, teachers and principals who had come from different schools shared in a common gathering the changes that have taken place in them as a result of participating in one week leadership training and becoming members of USM. The sharing motivated each other to become responsible citizens and to build a civilization of love.
USM has trained 6817 students from 22 states in 345 groups to become enlightened leaders through its one week Enlightened Leadership training programme from 2007 to 2018. 14719 teachers of 269 schools were given orientation programme to become mentors. Through the bi-monthly magazine, Youth Action, USM continues to motivate and strengthen the youth to become visionary leaders and contribute to build a nation and world of peace and harmony. The conclusion of silver jubilee celebration and 26th Foundation day celebration was an occasion for the USM family to renew its commitment to build a civilization of love.
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 23rd July 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 30)