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Celebrated Humanitarian Visits Alexandria Virginia

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By Cathy Carter

Thousands of people will travel to Alexandria Virginia this weekend to be embraced by a woman known as the "hugging saint."

An ordinary hotel ballroom has been transformed into a place of worship as people from all walks of life and religions wait for their turn to be hugged by Amma, a small smiling woman from India.

It's called Darshan or blessing, but Amma doesn't espouse one particular religion.

"She encourages Jews to be better Jews, Christians to be better Christians and so forth, Muslims to be better Muslims 'cause at the essence of all these religions is compassion," says Rob Sidon, a volunteer traveling with Amma on her annual U.S tour.

Considered a living saint in her homeland, Amma's worlwide charities including disaster relief programs, hospitals, orphanages, and free food programs including Amma's Kitchen in Rockville, Maryland and Fairfax, Virginia.

The free public program, including hugs, runs through Sunday at the Mark Center Hilton in Alexandria.

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