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Sewa Volunteers Mobilize to Help Katrina Victims

Sewa International, a global volunteer organization and Hindus of Greater Houston, an umbrella organization of Hindu temples and organizations from Houston, Texas have joined hands in helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Sewa International has raised over $100,000 for Karina relief. Hundreds of Sewa volunteers across the country have joined in the relief efforts. In response to the Interfaith Ministries’ call for the various faith communities to support this united effort and based on their personal beliefs, Hindus are volunteering in large numbers. Many of these volunteers are members of the second generation and also include persons of non-Indian origin.

In Houston, there are more than 150,000 evacuees from Louisiana. The Hindu community in Houston has accepted the responsibility of providing 240 volunteers for feeding people in shelters for one day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) in addition to helping with the other Indian-American community organizations.

Showing their strong commitment to helping the needy, Sewa volunteers, within a day, put together 1000 hygiene packets (of soap, toothbrush, shampoo, etc.) and delivered them to the Astrodome, Houston on Sunday, Sept. 4.

Sewa International is also coordinating the volunteer service with the various Hindu temples, Indian-American organizations and others. In addition to serving meals, helping with computer centers in the shelters, and providing the hygiene packets, volunteers are also working to find alternative accommodation for families that had arrived earlier and had been staying in hotels and motels.

Sewa International is also working with Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), a Hindu volunteer organization with 90 branches spread all over the country. Many of HSS branches are currently involved in volunteering for relief activities. Many of the HSS-Balagokulam children and youth are organizing and managing various aspects of the volunteer work. HSS office in Houston has been designated for the coordination of relief activities.

The city of San Antonio is housing more than 25,000 Katrina evacuees. On Sept. 3 and 4 Sewa International-USA volunteers swung into action to help the victims. All volunteers became registered as volunteers with the American Red Cross (ARC), an official agency giving relief to the victims. At the request of ARC for emergency help, the volunteers provided more than 700 sandwiches. Within three hours Sewa workers procured all supplies, made sandwiches and delivered them to the Red Cross, and they were immediately distributed to people waiting in line.

Sewa volunteers are working with the local Indian doctors group in San Antonio. Dr. Malathi Koli, a leading psychiatrist has started counseling services for the victims. Dr. Koli is very experienced in counseling disaster victims as she, on Sewa International’s invitation, ran medical camps in Tsunami-affected areas of Tamil Nadu. Also, a number of San Antonio-based software programmers are registered with the ARC relief camp to provide computer training. Hindu volunteers are helping evacuees who had been living in motels get settled into apartments and houses. Helping get the school-age children into schools has also been a high priority for volunteers. The volunteers are also providing assistance to students of Indian origin from Louisiana.

Texas volunteers have not found Hindus in the various shelters possibly because they may be staying in hotels or motels. Some, of course also had family members who were able to take them in.

Sewa International – USA’s motto is: “Vasudhaika Kutumbakam” - Whole world is one family and “Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah” - Let everyone be happy

Although the shelter residents do not include Hindus, Sewa International volunteers and other Hindu volunteers are working hard to help all who are in need. They are putting into practice their belief that service to humanity is service to God.

Non-perishable items are being collected and can be dropped off at HSS Houston office, Keshav Smruthi from 5 to 7 pm. On-line credit cards donations can be made on www.sewausa.org

For more information you can call

Sewa International - Houston coordinator Dhiraj Rathi 713-384-0068
San Antonio coordinator Venkat Subramaniam - 512-689-3256
Sewa International – National Coordinator Srikanth Konda at 678-362-7480
Media coordinator Gaurav Verma at 678-462-6203
Hindus of Greater Houston: Girish Naik at 281-851-6866

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