By Pashwa Jhala
Dear SAM family,
The SAM 2023 team would like to say Thank You to Swashikshan for giving us the opportunity, and entrusting us with the responsibility to host this SAM. We are all grateful for this chance to have served the beautiful SAM legacy in some small way.
We are grateful to Hema Jain for initiating SAM 2023 and bringing this team together. We were all enthusiastic but not having had any previous experience (except for Shweta Anand who had supported the last SAM), we were a bit daunted and nervous about how it would all pan out.
We would like to thank Urmila Samson, Hema Jain, Priya Ravi and Nandita Deosthale for the initial conversations, for their suggestions and for offering to be there to support us.
Our team was happy to discover that we were all so aligned with each other, both, in temperament and thinking, and there was not a single clash, argument or disagreement between any of us. Only a sense of care and goodwill to work together to make it as fun and meaningful a gathering as we could.
This was the first SAM after almost 3 years…with a long covid break in between. We had so many applications from veteran unschooling/homeschooling families as well as from families who have begun this journey more recently. And we were sad not to have had the space and facilities to accept them all. We hope they will be able to attend next time.
SAM seemed to go beautifully in so many ways and it feels like it was connecting and enriching for all of us, of all ages. We have been quite overwhelmed by the generous feedback!
We were lucky to find a gorgeous venue, with a warm and welcoming team that worked so generously to support our needs and go out of their way to meet all the requests they possibly could. They seemed to be touched by the SAM family too. In fact, they said that they would be happy to host more SAMs there in future! Veda Dhaul of the Shoonya Farm Retreat and her family and team have become part of our families too.
Manish Freeman was an integral part in co-creating the gathering with us… with planning and ideas, and his enthusiasm, energy and experience. Everyone seemed to happily dance to his playful and patient charm over these past 4 days.
Having John and Niom Samson there, with their honest, generous and poignant voices was very lovely too. Their presence was reassuring and thought-provoking for many, and we are grateful for that. Niom has a quality of gentle, playful maturity which was inspiring for many of the parents, and very grounding and loving for the youth.
We had planned a few special events. The “TOD Talks” was a space for youth to speak about their lives. In the hall, the youth chose to sit close together in front, to create a safe and supportive platform for each other. And we were all touched by the raw and honest vulnerabilty of their sharings.
The third evening of the Meet culminated in a Mela on the lawn where youth and children shared their creations in colourful displays set up on tables across the lawn, amidst warm chai and chutney sandwiches.
A planned, “Evening of sharing” spontaneously turned into three evenings of it, entertaining us all with much singing and festivity.
Veda Dhaul and Isha Anand kindly offered a relaxing Sound Healing session on the lawn, for anyone who wanted to be bathed in their soothing chimes.
Shoonya Farm Retreat generously went above and beyond, and arranged two Commando Sessions for youth and adults in their obstacle course at their Boot Camp close by. These were much enjoyed by all who took part.
SAM 2023 went better than any of us expected. The beautiful, spacious venue held us all in a safe and free way. The food was delicious. The energy was full of dance, music, art, play, and reflective and honest sharings. There was happy laughter, there were heartful hugs and there were gentle tears at the beauty of supporting each other on this journey.
Throughout the gathering, children of all ages ran, played, swam and interacted seamlessly. Older youth supported each other, held each other through common struggles and organized things for themselves in order to play and connect together.
Parents joined in the play too. And people came forth to offer a host of diverse sessions. We huddled together on the grass discussing, sharing and exploring many things; clarifying our perceptions about our lives, ourselves and our children, and discovering how to care for each other in wiser and more loving ways.
The SAM family has grown, our learnings have deepened and we all seem to have left the Meet carrying a warm seed of love and understanding that will hopefully sprout and flower and nurture us in times to come.
Thank you again, Swashikshan for all the care and support we’ve received.
Lots of love to you all. ♥️
Tejas, Nrupesh, Shweta and Pashwa