Romania, 1991. After witnessing the inhuman conditions of abandoned children in the then communist government, Gopi Cornelia Fischer, a Swiss margii, and Avadhutika Ananda Sugata Acarya, decided to build a family home in the countryside of the Panatau Mountains. So began AMURTEL in the country.
The first child, Iosif, arrived in 1993. Ten more came soon after that, in 1995. In the year 2000, new babies entered. That was during the period when Avadhutika Ananda Giitainjali Acarya was leading AMURTEL. In 2005, a new Didi took the coordination: Avadhutika Ananda Devapriya Acarya. After that, came to work in the house.
Since its beginning, the home has welcomed 32 children. It currently houses some young people and eight newcomers. Gopi (or “Mommy”, as the children call it), who has retired after working for twenty years on the project, continues to offer support indirectly, by providing work opportunities for the young adults at a hotel she opened nearby, financial support and guidance to the board. In 2015, commemorating the project’s 20th anniversary, she said in her opening speech: “The beginning was magical. For me, the whole project, so far, is something magical. It started with an idea, we had nothing but inspiration. “
In addition to the shelter, AMURTEL is developing other projects in the country today. The Vistara Social Integration Project aims to reach young people who have reached the age of 18 and have grown up in the house, but who still need support in the process of transition to an independent adult life.
It is a process of integration, divided into gradual stages, which includes transitional experiences of work and housing. For this, AMURTEL uses an apartment in Bucharest, as well as a house near the children’s home that cares for adults who grew at home, and who have some mental deficiency. “Through small successes, they gain confidence and become better prepared for the future,” reports the AMURTEL Romania website.
Other projects of AMURTEL Romania are: Sunrise Kindergarten Neohumanist Education in Bucharest, the after school activities center The Fountain of Hope in Panatau, the Morning Star yoga center in Bucharest and the organic garden in Poieni, in the Ananda Rtam Master Unit.
The kindergarten, inaugurated in 1991, serves 35 children from 2 to 6 years of age. Using a neohumanistic education curriculum, the school proposes to children, during the year, projects in three main areas: “I discover the world”, which encourages curiosity and exploration of the natural world and the man-made world; “I love everything,” which encourages love, empathy and connection, as well as ecological and pro-diversity attitudes; and “I can help,” which encourages children to find ways to contribute and participate in the community.
The Fountain of Hope After-school Center, which opened in September 2007, supports about 30 students in their homework, as well as offering artistic activities, sports, foreign language instruction, non-formal learning and vegetarian eating. The idea is for children to discover that learning can be fun and complete their studies. Another focus is the development of citizen awareness and active community participation: students engage in volunteer activities that benefit the environment and the neighborhood.
The Morning Star Holsitic Center, inaugurated in 2014, offers a varied range of courses: stress management, yoga, meditation, tai chi, qigong, African drumming, vegetarian cuisine and detox programs. The center was created because Didi wanted AMURTEL to be a reference for yoga in Romania. Yoga is just beginning to take root and flourish in Romania as the contact with Western Europe increases, where it is already very popular. The revenue earned from the courses is used for AMURTEL’s administration expenses.
Ananda Rtam, in Poieni (11 km from Panatu), is a place surrounded by mountains, with a river of stones (Buzau) only 300 meters away. “A beautiful place to meditate, contemplate, cool down in the summer or simply make sculptures of stones,” says Avadhutika Ananda Mainjira Acarya, who worked there. There are 6 thousand meters of organic garden area, including some greenhouses and two mandalas of herbs and spices. Thirty varieties of vegetables are distributed weekly among 35 Bucharest customers – as well as supplying the AMURTEL Family home, Fountain of Hope After-school Center and Kindergarten. “Everything seems very romantic, but the work is very arduous and requires love and dedication for nature,” says Didi Ananda Mainjira.
With the intention of reaching more people, Didi Ananda Devapriya sought to go beyond direct-care projects: she was one of the co-authors of the book Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share in Education), which talks about permaculture teaching for children. The book was very well received by such personalities as Richard Louv, author of “The Last Child in the Woods.” Based on the book (which has a neohumanist inspiration), Didi is currently providing training for elementary and non-formal teachers. She has also has trained 100 early childhood educators in a project about the acceptance of diversity that took place over two years. She is also excited that teachers from the rural area surrounding Panatau are actively participating in neohumanist courses and events, and so she is glad to insert new ideas into local education and thus spread even more the magic that AMURTEL awakened almost 30 years ago when it began its first projects in the country.
Amurtel Romania site – http://amurtel.ro/en/
Morning Star Yoga Center – https://www.facebook.com/centrul.morningstar/
Unidade Mestra – https://www.facebook.com/gradinabioamurtel/
Earth care, people care and fair share in education, Co-authored by Didi A. Devapriya – https://issuu.com/childreninpermaculture/docs/cip_manual