At 60, Mahattama Dasi, a cancer survivor and former preschool teacher and caregiver for terminally ill devotees, has found a new way to give back to the community.
The Mexican native has leased a two-storey house on six-acres of private land in Alachua, Florida, home to the largest ISKCON community in North America. It will serve as an “Arts and Languages Center,” as well as offering many other services to the community.
With experience teaching at public schools in both Mexico and the US, Mahattama herself plans to offer lessons in Spanish and English at the center. She will also host a pre-preschool for toddlers so they can experience being with other children in a learning environment.
Meanwhile she has already heard from other devotees interested in teaching arts and crafts and other languages, such as Russian and Italian.
“ISKCON Alachua is such an international community,” she says. “We have people from all over the world. So this is an important service to provide.”
In the future, Mahattama hopes devotees will also use the property to offer after-school tutoring, music and voice lessons, yoga, painting, cooking, gardening, and theater.
“Some of these programs will help the local temple too – for instance, the theater group could develop plays for festivals, and we could have sankirtana meetings to increase book distribution,” she says.
The community center may also host music performances by the many local devotee musicians. And its dedicated temple room, home to beautiful marble Gaura Nitai Deities, will be used for Krishna conscious programs like bhajans, kirtans, and lectures.
While there’s a small suggested donations for using the facility for workshops and seminars, all donations will go directly to the care of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai as well as towards improving the courses.
“It’s all about service,” says Mahattama, and that’s clearly her modus operandi. The center has two rooms upstairs that can accommodate visiting sannyasis and senior devotees, while she regularly provides prasadam (sanctified food) for homeless devotees and youth, whom she particularly likes to care for.
“Any hungry gurukuli or youth can come and there will be a plate of prasada waiting for them, anytime of the day,” she says.
Ultimately, Mahattama wants the center to be open to all. “This is a blessing for me to have a home where we can receive young and old, Krishna conscious or not, to instruct them or to guide them or help them in their spiritual path,” she says. “I met a group of Mexican people the other day who were interested in the English classes, so they will come for that and little by little, they will get prasada and be introduced to temple. It’s a great facility for that.”
The Arts and Languages Center in Alachua is now open for use. For more information, please contact Mahattama Dasi at email@example.com[ alachua ] [ arts ] [ florida ] [ language ]