Volunteering at Ananda Festival of Bliss 2019

The Ananda Festival of Bliss was something I’ve near heard of or could have imagined until I experienced first hand the hard work that goes into with making something so special.

I found AMURTEL Romania after finishing a semester at a university in Canada. After spending time in Bucharest, the city, although clean, is not a space for the mind to rest. I was volunteering for Didi Ananda Devapriya who has four core projects. Gradinta Rasarit, a kindergarten in Bucharest;  AMURTEL Family, a children’s home in Pănătău; Gradina Bio AMURTEL, an organic farm in Pănătău and Fountain of Hope, an afterschool center in the same village. While I was working in the city and adopting the fast-paced lifestyle, I transitioned seamlessly to the tasks at hand. I loved helping in the kindergarden or visiting Familia AMURTEL at their home. When the opportunity arose to volunteer with the “Making of Ananda Festival 2019” in Portugal at Ananda Kalyani Master Unit through the Erasmus+ program of youth exchanges, I leaped out of my urban setting.

The making of the festival took a lot of work but thanks to Erasmus+ the project was funded and eager volunteers came from all over the world in support of the event. Participants from Malta, Portugal, Denmark and Romania were the core volunteer groups. Myself, a Canadian worked alongside Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Israel and other countries as we prepared the grounds for the festival. I was quick to notice background and culture did little to divide us. Everyone from everywhere had something to contribute to the project.

Preparing the grounds involved daily tasks like kitchen work, bathroom duty and meal clean-up as a minimum to meet the needs of the volunteers. We spent time painting signs, transferring rocks, uprooting stumps, decorating trees, removing lumber, spreading hay and setting up tents all for the event. The work was rewarding because it was interlaced with workshops which helped strengthen our sense of community which grew stronger as the festival drew near. The most rewarding aspect of the festival was the transition from mess to magic. Ananda Kalyani is a vast space with greenhouses, a warehouse and open places to explore but most of the land is unused. We were able to transform the already beautiful surroundings into something that reflected the way we grew together. A labyrinth was built with rocks and sand, white mandala rocks were placed around the beach. We even built a new kitchen for the event. Everything that we took part in showed a visible difference and it was incredibly rewarding to see the festival come to life. First the therapists and artists came. Shortly after, guests started to arrive. Soon the days were filled with yoga, workshops, music, education, kiirtan and mediation. The concerts in the evening kept the energy high with positive works from Terra Livre, Edgar Valente, Jyoshna with friends, DJ Anirvan and Luiz Gabriel Lopes. As I write, I realize I am unable to describe the way the festival has impacted me. I still feel the emotional high, long after the festival has finished.

Ananda Festival of Bliss is an Erasmus + Programme.