A woman known around the world as "the hugging saint" will visit a flood-ravaged area of eastern Iowa this week to offer people her own unusual style of healing.

Toni Rubin, of Iowa City, is an Iowa spokeswoman for Amma, which means "mother" in the nation of India.  "She’s a very unique individual in what she does," Rubin says.  ‘I certainly have never met before someone who’s whole life is focused on alleviating human suffering."

In the past 33 years, Rubin says Amma has physically embraced more than 24 million people, noting that Amma’s compassion crosses all barriers of nationality, race, caste and religion.  "The way she does this is very simple, one person at a time, embrace that people say imparts a tangible feeling of unconditional love," Rubin says.

Amma has won a host of recognition from the international community, including addressing the United Nations World Peace Summit and being presented with the Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence, given in recognition of her lifelong work in furthering the principles of non-violence.

Amma first visited Coralville about a year ago and when she learned of the thousands of people evacuated recently by the destructive flooding, Rubin says she was glad to make a return trip.  "She receives you. She’s completely present with you and completely attuned to the state of your heart and your trouble," Rubin says. "Somehow, like a mother would her own child, she’ll take you in this embrace and people spontaneously feel relieved and moved by this very simple, touching gesture."

Amma will be appearing on Wednesday and Thursday at the Coralville Marriott and Convention Center. Free public programs will be held starting at 10 a.m. and at 7 p.m. each day. For more information, go to Amma’s website at www.amma.org .



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