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LET ALL BE HAPPY - Sewa Houston chapter president Gitesh Desai interviewed by Wood Group

Sewa Houston chapter president Gitesh Desai interviewed by Wood Group for the magazine "PULSE" 
Senior Civil Structural Engineer Gitesh Desai has been at Wood Group for more than 10 years. His manager, Curtis Stroup, describes Gitesh as “someone who has always had a passion for helping as well as serving others at work and in our community. As a solution-oriented, goal-driven problem solver, this appointment is a perfect match with his attributes and talents.”

Gitesh wants everyone to see the good in everyone, and it was that mentality the Sewa board of directors saw in him.

On June 1, Gitesh was appointed the president of Sewa International, Houston Chapter. He has been involved with Sewa for more than seven years, but never had a very large role.

He previously served on the General Appeals Board of the City of Houston, as the president of the Indo-American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), and has provided service to the local community for decades. His leadership and communication skills make him a perfect candidate to serve the Greater Houston community.

Initially, he hesitated accepting the position knowing the responsibility would take much of his time and resources. However, he felt this opportunity was presented to him to connect different people within the community to fill Sewa’s mission, which is to serve humanity in distress, aid local communities and promote volunteerism.

A Hindu faith-based, humanitarian, nonprofit service organization, Sewa International is driven by universal Hindu principles that cut across religious and ethnic lines. In Sanskrit, Sewa means selfless service, which is performed without any expectation of result or reward for performing it. According to the Sewa website, the principle of “Serving Humanity is Serving Divinity” provides a spiritual dictum for Sewa to serve humanity. “Let all be Happy” ensures a fundamental entitlement of every human being to be happy. And the principle of “The Earth is one Family” rejects discrimination and urges acceptance across humanity, ethnicity, religions and classes, and encompasses all living beings and nonliving matter.

Sewa originated in India in 1989, and it has spread to 20 countries, with more than 20 active chapters within the United States. Sewa Houston is one of the most active chapters, with a wide range of projects and activities covering health, education, community development and refugee empowerment. Projects include family services, cultural development, disaster relief and volunteer engagement, however, one of its greatest accomplishments is the ASPIRE program.

Sewa’s ASPIRE tutorial centers are located within three apartment complexes in Southwest Houston that are home to primarily low-income, foreign-born families. For the most part, the adults in these communities are either unemployed or work day-labor jobs that are often strenuous, involve long hours and do not provide a steady or adequate income for their families. The goal of the ASPIRE program is to increase the number of residents served, enhance the academic support offered, increase the cultural exposure students receive by providing field trips and provide positive college-educated role models to students by implementing a mentorship program. They offer STEM and ESL-focused curriculum based on the students’ academic needs.

When asked about his driving force behind his involvement with Sewa, Gitesh responded, “Education is a key issue in our community. Texas is behind on the curve, and I want to expand the ASPIRE program and build additional centers. Education is key to success, and it played a major role in my life.”

Gitesh explains, “I am anxious to see how Sewa will grow unless meaningful support from the business community is made available. It is crucial that more corporate citizens engage and partner with Sewa, so that additional people could benefit as there is an immense need of ASPIRE and other service projects across the community in Greater Houston.” By gaining visibility and through community outreach, more connections can be made, and in return, more funding can be raised.

Sewa International USA Executive VP Arun Kankani believes “Sewa Houston is on a solid foundation with all the hard work of Houstonians and will certainly reach new heights with Gitesh’s leadership.”

Congratulations, Gitesh!