Gitesh Desai ji, President Sewa Houston Chapter, won the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas held at Varanasi on Jan 23, 2019 for Community Service and Leadership. The award was presented by Ram Nath Kovind, President of India to 28 eminent NRIs and two organizations of the Indian diaspora for their achievements in various fields. Please join us in congratulating Gitesh ji on this occasion.
Gitesh ji is a very dedicated karyakarta and led the Sewa Houston Chapter during Hurricane Harvey recovery. His own home was inundated and the first floor completely destroyed and he had to leave his home in the middle of the night during the disaster. This did not deter him from leading the Sewa Houston team from the motel where he had to spend over a year as his home was restored. He is also active politically and has served on many boards locally and nationally.
Photo: Gitesh Desai, receiving the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (PBD) Award from the President of India on January 23, 2019. Looking on is Sushma Swaraj ji, External Affairs Minister of India. PBD was held from January 21-23, 2019 at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
San Francisco (December 24, 2018): Sewa International team, working with a group of local volunteers headed by Heather Helwig, a long-time resident of Loomis, Placer County, CA, organized a Christmas luncheon for 200 fire evacuees of the devastating fires that ravaged Northern California in early November. The fire that originated in Butte County, CA, burnt most part of the three cities of Paradise, Magalia, and Concow to a cinder killing 83 people.
The event was held at the Blue Goose Event Center in Loomis, on Sunday, December 23. Over $7,500 in gifts, gift certificates, and laptop donations were distributed to the individual attendees at the event. This brought some holiday cheer in the lives of the people who lost everything in the deadly fire.
The attendees were offered a delectable menu of traditional Christmas food, holiday pies, cookies, and more. A variety of activities awaited the attendees of all age groups: face painting, fashioning balloon animals, and a raffles game. There was a Christmas craft corner, and photos with Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus for the young and old alike. The attendees had an opportunity to participate in a raffles game and win several gift-hampers prepared by Sewa volunteers and the local volunteer team.
Melissa Johnson, a recipient, was very appreciative of the laptop donation and said “Thank you, Sewa. This is going to help me in my nursing career and going back to school.” Another mother at the event who escaped the fire said, “Thanks Sewa for making Christmas doable for my kids. Paradise will stay strong because of you guys.”
In the coming weeks, the Sewa International team will focus on rehabilitation work in collaboration with the victims. “Sewa means selfless service, and we are here to serve in any way possible,” said Jyothsna Prasad, Sewa volunteer and the Chief Organizer of this event. “The enormity of the fires and the tragic consequences are still fresh in our minds, and any cheer and support we can offer, we consider it a privilege and an honor,” she said.
“An opportunity to serve the victims of this destructive natural event was the best holiday gift we received from this successful event,” quipped Minal Joshi, a full-time Family Services Coordinator for Sewa International.
Contributing to Sewa International’s outreach effort were three other NGOs - Annapoorna of Sacramento, CA, Bharati Tamil Sangam, California and the VHP of America (VHPA), whose generosity helped Sewa International reach out to the distressed Loomis community.
About Sewa International
Sewa International (www.sewausa.org) is a 501 (c)(3) Hindu faith-based charitable nonprofit that works in the areas of disaster recovery, education and development. Sewa has 43 Chapters across the USA and serves regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability or national origin. The Sewa movement works with communities in need and is active in 22 countries including USA, Canada, Caribbean, India, and the UK.
By Pat Fotedar CLEVELAND: A light steady rain couldn’t dampen the spirit of 125 runners and volunteers and organizers who turned out for the fourth annual run for Sewa at Weiss Field in Avon Lake, Ohio on Sunday, September 9, 2018. This annual event is a fund raiser for Sewa’s ASPIRE (Active Student Participation Inspires Real Engagement) program – a tutorial and mentoring program for at risk high school students in Euclid High School and Garfield Heights High School in greater Cleveland area. The marshalling area under the covered pavilion bustled with activity. Volunteers from Sew International, Cognizant and Moen as well as officials from Hermes Sports and Events helped with prerace set up and organization. Old friends met up to chat, while the more serious runners stretched and prepared for the run. The event began with opening remarks from Dr. Hira Fotedar, President and Dr. Rupesh Raina, Chairman, Advisory Board of Sewa International Cleveland. Avon Lake Mayor, Greg Zilka welcomed the diverse crowd consisting of 145 people from across the Northern Ohio area and thanked everyone for supporting this worthy cause. Drs. Reem Gulati, Priyanka Sharma and Geetu Pehlajani got the runners stretching and moving to the beat of some Bollywood tunes. The race was whistled off at 9:00am The overall male winner was Alexander Hopkins of Cleveland with a time of 20:02.9. The over all female winner was Stephanie Logosh of Cleveland with a time of 27:50.8. First, second, and third place medals were awarded in nine different age categories. A quick survey of runners found that most of them preferred running in light rain to hot sun. Lance Polen a member of Cleveland’s dedicated running community and the first place winner in Male 55-59 age group, said “the Run for Sewa is the most family friendly run he has participated in”. He also applauded Sewa’s ASPIRE program and the positive impact it is making in Euclid and Garfield Heights high schools. The 2018 Run for Sewa raised $10,000 for the ASPIRE program. Post-race refreshments were provided by Cuisine of India in Parma Heights. Mahesh Desai of Krishna Video, captured all the exciting moments on film. TV Asia covered the Run for Sewa on September 12 in their community round up segment. www.sewausa.org/cleveland
From left to right: Rogerio Branco, Executive Vice President, Eaton; Padma Jambunath, Director, SewaASPIRE; and Dr. Hira Fotedar, President, Sewa International, Cleveland Chapter.
Cleveland, OH: Eaton Charitable Fund awarded a grant of $15,000 last month in support of Sewa International’s ASPIRE (Active Student Participation Inspires Real Engagement) Tutorial and MentoringProgram in Cleveland to help at-risk high school students improve their grades in science, math and English. This is the third year that Eaton has provided this support to ASPIRE. Rogerio Branco, Executive Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer at Eaton presented the check to Dr. Hira Fotedar, President, and Padma Jambunath, Director, Sewa ASPIRE at a ceremony held at Eaton Corporation in Beachwood, OH. anization in this country as all of its leadership takes no salary, and most of the work is done by volunteers. He also noted that although the Sewa ASPIRE program began by assisting Bhutanese refugee children in 2009, the program has been adapted to the needs of Cleveland high school students, many of them from economically disadvantaged homes and communities. Mr. Branco praised the Sewa International team for excellent progress achieved by ASPIRE in the last two years at Euclid High School and Garfield Heights High School. Ten students have received tutorial help to improve their grades, graduated from high school, and have gone on to college with scholarships. For more details about Sewa ASPIRE contact: Padma Jambunath 440-635-7088.
Houston, TX (August 6, 2018): The American Red Cross awarded Sewa International a $500,000 grant to rebuild homes of the economically underprivileged devastated by Hurricane Harvey in Rosharon Village, Brazoria County, TX. This grant in the next 18 months will help Sewa reconstruct 11 completely destroyed homes and 24 partially-damaged homes thus benefitting 154 men and women, including 35 seniors and 47 children.
Known as Little Cambodia, Rosharon with a population of approximately 1,400, is 30 miles south of Houston in an underserved rural area. Home to predominantly Cambodians refugees, and some Laotian and Mexican refugees, the majority eke out a livelihood in this insular setting through subsistence farming. Families here had fled Cambodia in the late 1970s escaping the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge. Nearly fifty percent of the families are involved in growing water spinach, a staple of Asian cuisine. When Hurricane Harvey roared through South Texas it devastated Little Cambodia, bringing down houses rendering people homeless, and leveling greenhouses thus destroying livelihoods.
The Sewa International team members in Houston, many of whom themselves had to bear losses to their homes, have been hard at work, in raising funds from its supporters across the US, and then applying for grants from organizations who sought the help of trustworthy and qualified groups to carry out relief and rehabilitation. Sewa raised over $2 million for disaster recovery in less than a year since Hurricane Harvey hit, including the latest American Red Cross grant of $500,000.
Sewa was the recipient of a $397,000 grant awarded by the Greater Houston Community Foundation (GHCF) in December 2017, providing case management help for 600 individuals. Completing the work in record time, Sewa International ended up helping 1,600 individuals from minority and underprivileged communities, earning kudos from GHCF. Thus, this grant from the American Red Cross is an affirmation of the good work done by Sewa as well as acknowledgement of the can-do spirit of this Hindu faith-based charitable organization standing out amongst its mainstream peers. The total cost for rebuilding and repairing homes at Rosharon for this project is estimated to be about $675,000, out of which Sewa International’s donors are contributing $175,000 or 25%.
“Despite the generous support of funding agencies, the task at hand is enormous,” said Achalesh Amar, Coordinator of Sewa Houston who has continued spearheading the disaster recovery efforts in Rosharon for nearly a year. Ecstatic on hearing the award of this grant, he continued, “The experience of rebuilding Rosharon has been demanding, sometimes frustrating, but more often rewarding and always an optimistic one. The American Red Cross grant allows us to lay the foundation, literally – one home at a time -- to rebuild and revitalize Little Cambodia.”
Gitesh Desai, President of the Houston Chapter of Sewa International who has for months lived in a hotel room as his house was flooded, said “We are honored for the recognition by American Red Cross, a major humanitarian organization. We are grateful to them for reposing their trust and confidence in us through this amazing gift. The grant further strengthens Sewa International’s resolve to fulfill our mission of giving back to the society through selfless service – a cornerstone of our Hindu faith.”
For further information, contact: Achalesh Amar, email@example.com, phone: 713-357-8216.
Photo 1 (R to L): Sewa International Houston Chapter Coordinator Achalesh Amar discussing house rebuilding plans with Sewa Construction Supervisor Pham and a Harvey affected resident in Rosharon, TX.
Photo 2: Sewa International's Houston Chapter Coordinator Achalesh Amar (in yellow T-Shirt) supervising the distribution of construction materials to Harvey affected residents in Rosharon, TX.
Washington DC Chapter started Diwali Food Drive in the DC Metro area in the month of November that successfully concluded in December. Thanks to the generous contributions from various like-minded organizations, we have collected over 1200 pounds of rice. The DC Central Kitchen has picked up rice on 12/11/2016 that will serve the needy for at least three months.
We’re pleased to tell you that you’ve been selected as a Hero of Houston.
Your picture will be part of our Wall of Heroes installation on Discovery Green, Houston. The display will take place from May 10th – 13th from 7am to 10pm, so make sure you drop by to see yourself!
From everyone at Shell, we extend our sincere appreciation to you and the many other volunteers who joined the effort to support Houston after the hurricane.
Early on that unforgettable Monday morning, as Hurricane Harvey brought the Barker Reservoir's waters up his front yard and then under the front door, Gitesh Desai knew his own recovery efforts would have to be sidetracked.
Desai's neighborhood, Fleetwood, sits in the flood pool of the reservoir on Memorial Drive in the Energy Corridor. Most of the houses in the subdivision took on at least 7 feet of water and two weeks after the storm had passed, Fleetwood was still inaccessible to its residents.
"The first floor is completely gone, everything I possessed was destroyed," Desai said. "My books, my memories, irreplaceable pictures and albums - it's all gone."
Desa is president of the Houston chapter of Sewa International, a nonprofit that participates in disaster rescue and recovery worldwide.
Sewa means selfless service - service above self - in Sanskrit.
In the storm's immediate aftermath, the 63-year-old coordinated Sewa's partnership with 40 organizations in the Indian community. Sewa recruited more than 1,200 volunteers who logged nearly 45,000 work-hours, brought in 21 truckloads of supplies, set up a 24-hour helpline and rescued 687 people from floodwaters.
Vijay Pallod, a leader in the local Indian community, met Desai in 1993, during relief efforts for the Latur earthquake in India. That earthquake destroyed 52 villages, killed nearly 10,000 people and injured 30,000 more.
"I was very impressed with his dedicated volunteer work to help the community," Pallod said. "He is well-respected as a true leader in the community."
As in the earthquake and countless other natural disasters since, Pallod said, Desai emerged as a community leader when Harvey struck.
"He never talked about his own problems and being away from his home, but he was ready to listen to others' problems," Pallod said.
Three months have passed since Desai's home was flooded and he is still living in a hotel. He has plans to repair his home, Desai said, but the execution is going slowly.
Though Houston has seen more than one rainstorm since Harvey and life has returned to normal for many, Desai and Sewa continue to help rebuild the lives of those who lost everything.
The organization's work is mostly based in Rosharon, Desai said. It has raised $450,000 to aid in relief efforts.
"It's hard to describe how hard it is," Desai said. "But it doesn't break our spirit. That's why we keep doing it."
Deepawali in Nepal
In Nepal, Deepawali is celebrated as Tihar. It is a five-day-long festival celebrated during Yama-Panchak which starts from Dhan-Teras and lasts up to Bhai-Dooj. The five-day festival is considered to be of great importance as it shows reverence to not just the humans and the Gods, but also to the animals like crows, cows and dogs who maintain an intense relationship with humans.
AT GIRLS HOSTEL IN CHITWAN DISTRICT
Girls staying in the Hostel in Bharatpur, Chitwan, merrily celebrated the beautiful festival 'Deepawali'. This hostel is funded by Bay Area, CA coalition of Livermore Temple, Indian Association of San Joaquin County (IASJC), Indian Association of Sacrameto through Sewa International, USA. In addition, IASJC is sponsoring 4 children annually under the Sewa’s Sponsor a Child program for their upkeep.
After its hugely successful Nrityameva Jayate event in 2016, the Boston Chapter of Sewa International hosted a similar event at the Keefe Technical School in Framingham, MA on November 5, 2017, for its fifth annual fundraiser. Over 825 people attended the event which raised over $45,000 to be used for various community service projects of Sewa International such as rehabilitating victims of Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria, feeding the hungry, yoga for humanity and education of underserved children.
The Nrityameva Jayate’17 program was organized to promote volunteerism and create awakening among people to serve those in need. 286 Students from 19 leading dance schools of the New England area participated in a dance competition with spellbinding performances of Classical, Folk and Bollywood dance forms captivating the audience for seven hours. In addition, 15 students of music enthralled the audience with musical performances. The program received overwhelming support from the community.
The program began with a melodious rendition of invocation mantras by students of Poorna Chandrika School of Music and ‘deep prajwallan’ (Light of lamp) by judges for the event. The buoyant emcee Ms. Yogita Miharia welcomed the audience, the chief guest; Dr. Udit Batra, dance & music participants, the dance Gurus and distinguished Judges. She kept the audience engaged and appealed to them to generously donate to Sewa International for supporting the service projects. Ms. Taejasvi Narayan, and Ms. Raji Jakkam introduced to the audience each of the 41 entries in the event.
The program was arranged in four age groups. While distributing prizes to event’s youngest participants in the 6-9 year’s age group, Shri Ashwani Garg, VP of Administration in the national team of Sewa International, explained to the audience how the act of Sewa is a Yagna and thanked each dance participant and audience for contributing their ‘Ahuti’ (offering) in this yagna. He also thanked Mahadev Group, a financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial for their continued support to Sewa International. Shri Srinivas Bachu, President of the Telugu Association of Greater Boston, and guest of honor for the event, distributed prizes to winners in the 10-13 year’s age group. He talked about the importance of community service. The performances by participants in 13-17 year’s age group invited great applause from the audience. Ms. Priya Rathod, Director of Nursing Services at Amrit Sabha Adult Day Care Center and Guest of honor for the event, distributed prizes to the winners in this category. She shared with the audience how Amrit Sabha has had a long-standing partnership with Sewa International and conveyed her deep appreciation for the work done by Sewa’s volunteers.
This was followed by high-octane dance performances by the adult age group which mesmerized the audience with their talent. During the concluding ceremony, Sewa volunteer Mr. Subba Raju Datla talked about Sewa’s rescue, relief, and rehabilitation efforts to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria. He introduced the chief guest of the event Dr. Udit Batra, CEO MilliporeSigma a Life Sciences company of Merck KGaA. Dr. Batra congratulated all the Sewa volunteers for organizing such a successful event and explained that Sewa means performing service without expecting anything in return. Dr. Batra presided over the concluding ceremony and distributed prizes to the winners in the adult age group.
Sewa also hosted Rangoli and Henna (Mehandi) competitions during the event and several people participated in them. The program ended with a vote of thanks by Sewa volunteer Dr. Pramod Pandey who expressed gratitude to every attendee and participant in the event for supporting the Sewa’s cause. He invited the audience to join the Sewa team and become an active part of this historic movement.
EVENT PICTURES (courtsey Subroto Mukherjee Photography )
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Sewa International is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) non profit organization registered in Georgia.
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