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  • 5 Jun 2021 12:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    - Manali Kide

    A dailywage worker and farmer from Nanded in the Indian state of Maharashtra started posting messages seeking help during the Sewa International Facebook live session that was held a couple of weeks ago. Due to the multiple messages posted, the session moderator messaged to him to check what was going on. The person from Nanded mentioned that he needed immediate help and if he did not get  any he would commit sucide along with his family.

    The volunteer who was moderating the Facebook live session immediately forwarded the concerned person’s  details to Sewa International volunteer located in India to follow-up. Sewa India volunteer contacted Lok Kalyan Samiti (World Welfare Committee), a Sewa’s  partner organization in Nanded, Maharashtra to find a volunteer to get in touch with this person. Within 15 mins, a Lok Kalyan Samiti volunteer from Nanded got in touch with the daily wage worker to check what type of help was required.

    The person being helped by the Lok Kalyan Samiti hailed from a small village near  Nanded and he was in deep financial trouble. His mother went through a knee treatment and needed more medical assistance. His sister, a cancer patient, too needed immediate medical assistance and his wife was expecting and was due to deliver a baby soon. As this person was out of job for more than a year and his farmland was not yielding enough to support his family’s needs, he was disheartened and desperately looking for a solution to his woes.

    He had borrowed some money and it increased his burden further and while searching for a solution on Facebook he had come across the Sewa International page and started posting repetitive messages asking for help.

    The Jan Kalyan Samiti  and the Sewa International volunteers counselled him over the phone multiple times to dissuade him from taking his life and found a free hospital in the area for his family to get free medical treatment. They also organized a fundraising campaign to provide some financial assistance to his family. His wife gave birth to a healthy girl child recently. He thanked the Sewa and Lok Kalyan Samiti volunteers for all  the help he received and said he would help someone in the future to pay back the help he got. He also said, due to the financial crisis, he had to stop his Bachelors of Computer Application ( BCA) course in the middle and now intended to find a job and continue his education. He is pinning all his hopes on his new-born daughter and hoping she will bring good luck and Lakshmi (the Hindu goddess of wealth) in his life.

  • 26 May 2021 11:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    - Jyothsna Prasad, Sewa Volunteer, California, USA

    During the first wave of the pandemic last year, although initially, I was oblivious to the situation outside and its impact on people's lives. As I started helping COVID-19 patients and their families, I understood its impact and the havoc it wreaked.    

    I worried about my family in India. Waking up to hearing about losing someone in my circle of extended family and friends became a new normal.  As the number of new Coronavirus cases dropped in India and people breathed a sigh of relief, I decided to visit India in March 2021 to see my mom as it had been two years since I last saw her.  

    Two weeks into my visit, the number of COVID-19 Cases started to rise again. The current second wave made the last one look like a ripple in the sand. As the world was trying to figure out what was behind the unprecedented surge, many fingers pointed to a series of unfortunate events including a specific COVID-19 variant, unrestricted crowds, and inadequate vaccine coverage.  Unlike in the first wave, when the individuals were testing positive and the rest of their families remained fine, during the second wave entire families got infected.  

    The shortage of oxygen and hospital beds proved fatal. Bodies started lining up at the crematoriums. It felt like people were dying not because of the virus but because they were not able to get basic treatment on time. The entire country came to a standstill.  The everyday hustle and bustle of the cities suddenly gave way to an eerie silence, which is so uncommon in India, only to be  interrupted by the blaring sound of an ambulance passing by. I prayed and asked God to make sure whoever was in that ambulance would came back home safe.  

    One day, my cousin described how he was trying to look for a hospital bed for his friend’s dad. They had visited every hospital in town with an oxygen cylinder attached to the patient in the back seat of his car only to be denied admission;  all their efforts were in vain – the next day, while they were traveling to find a hospital, his friend’s dad passed away. Hearing this heart-wrenching incident, I was devastated.  

    As the infections spread, people started turning to Social Media like What’s App, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to save their loved ones. These platforms became the unofficial COVID-19 Helplines for families.

    In the first week of April, I got a call in the middle of the night from a friend from my Engineering college to help her dad who lived in Bangalore to find an Oxygen Cylinder. She sounded desperate sitting thousands of miles away in the San Francisco Bay area.  I dialed all the helpline numbers I found and Googled till I could find someone to purchase oxygen from. I was happy I was able to intervene on time.

    The next morning my friend called and said, unfortunately, her dad’s oxygen level was dropping, and he needed a bed at a hospital. That’s when panic struck me, and I must have dialed every hospital in town only to be told- sorry, no beds available. Then another call came in from a friend who needed help for her mother-in-law who was diabetic and tested positive.  I knew I could not do this alone; I was exhausted.  

    I reached out to my group of friends who had supported me several times in the past. I knew I could rely on them to help as they are part of my Sewa International family. We started receiving distress calls from friends who lived in California to help their families in India as I was on the ground in India at that time. They felt that there was someone fighting for their loved ones in a location physically closer than they were. Little did they know, that I was as helpless as they were. We formed a WhatsApp group and called it the “Sewa COVID Task Force”.  

    By the 3rd week of April, our team had grown. As the COVID-19 second wave got bigger with the number of cases skyrocketing, daily fatalities alarmingly raising, and healthcare infrastructure crumbling, we decided to ramp up our efforts and make it more structured. A number of Sewa International LEAD interns joined our efforts, and Sewa volunteers started helping us from both India and the US. The idea was straight forward; It was going to be a helpline of sorts - there were requests, there were resources, and we would help match the requests to the resources. It sounded simple.

    With the help of high school students participating in the Sewa Bay Area Chapter’s LEAD program , we came up with a Google form to intake cases since the hospitals wanted us to submit requests in a specific format. Students also helped build a COVID information-rich resource website that was updated constantly, and the intake form fed into a case spreadsheet that was picked up by the volunteers. The volunteers working on cases would then match the resources to the patient's needs and relay their findings back to the families.

    We thought we could do this easily since our volunteer base had gone up to 100+ and the number of cases we were handling was in the 50 to 100 at any given time. That is when we realized that it was one of the hardest things we had ever done in our lives. The healthcare resources such as hospital beds with ventilators and oxygen supply changed dynamically by the minute and there was an acute shortage of most medical necessities that a patient going through COVID would need.

    The WhatsApp group also became a platform where SOS calls would be posted. The system had finally come together, but unfortunately, it was too little, too late most of the time. When we started this, we had two choices, either to blame the system or work  with the system to find solutions. We chose the second option, from not knowing anything about oxygen concentrators to learning how the simple air we breathe is turned into Oxygen-rich air was a big change for all of us. We did stumble a few times, but we were resilient.  

    As a group, we continue to strive to make sure every patient gets his/her needs met until we exhaust our resources. There are many heroes in our group who do not complain even once how tired they are at 4 in the morning trying to help families facing difficulties to arrange care for their loved ones. Sanjana, a 22-year-old volunteer from India, said she felt guilty even going to sleep.  “When there were so many calls and text messages asking for help, how could I just leave them unattended and go to sleep?”, she asked.

    I recall seeing an SOS post on a Facebook group at 2 AM from Delhi. I called the family and they were desperately seeking Remedisivir, the so-called miracle drug, which was hard to find anywhere. The girl on the other end of the phone needed it for her dad who was very sick and I tried checking various leads, but no one picked up my calls that late in the night. I conveyed the information to her and went to bed. When I woke up in the morning, I saw a message from her. It said, "He is no more “- with a lot of broken heart emojis. Before I could finish reading her text, got another SOS call and I was busy answering it. I did not even have time to think. What hits you hard is not the 20 people you could help, but it is the 10 that you couldn’t. That is when I feel completely devastated. I have to admit, I have broken down in tears on so many occasions in these past few days. Losing someone you are trying to help is not easy.  

    On the positive side, The sense of community is stronger than ever. It's heartwarming to witness this human chain of kindness hard at work to save lives. We can only do this together. We will overcome this pandemic as a society determined to collaborate, as a country united to fight and as a world resolved to leave no one behind.

  • 24 May 2021 11:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Ravindra, a cook in a small hotel, lives with his wife and two kids, in Bengaluru, India. Due to the Covid pandemic the hotel he was working at lost business and Ravindra was laid off. Meeting his family’s daily needs is the biggest challenge for him now, as he is a heart patient, and the only bread earner of the family. Ravindra says essential food items and necessary medicine that Sewa distributed came as a ray of hope to his family. He expects Sewa to help him get vaccinated. He also appreciates Sewa International for coming forward to help his family, in such a difficult time.

     

     


    The Covid-19 pandemic has upended many lives. The loss of lives and the livelihood have made this disease a devastating on in recent human memory. One such example is of a family from Bengaluru, India. Sunil an auto rickshaw driver lived with his wife an employee at a private company are now worried about putting food on the table and their kids’ education. Living in Gavipuram Guttahalli the neighbourhood of Bengaluru, they managed their family needs, well in their limited earnings. Due to the pandemic, Sunil’s earnings dwindled and his wife’s salary, was cut in half. The couple felt helpless and grocery kit with essential food grains and edible oil distributed by Sewa was a timely help to feed the kids and the family for a few days. Sunil’s family is happy for the well-timed help of Sewa International at the direst stretch of Covid.

     

     


    Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, many under-privileged people, begin their day with a question- how are we going to feed our family today? From the last one and a half years repeated partial or full lockdowns have made their lives unpredictable, as they are not sure where their next day meal will come from.

    The silicon city of India, Bengaluru, has been their home forRamesh, an auto driver and Rudraprasad, a street vegetable vendor. Before the pandemic, both had fairly stable income that greased the wheels of their lives. As the pandemic situation in the city worsened, from the past twenty days their income was lost, and their future turned bleak.

    At this crucial moment, food kits that the volunteers of Sewa International supplied to their door steps, proved to them that every cloud has a silver lining. Becoming emotional with folded hands, they thanked Sewa volunteers for coming to their rescue, at their hour of need. They also appealed to Sewa volunteers to reach out to other needy families in their neighbourhood. They got reassurance from the volunteers that they would be back with more food kits.


     

    The Covid19 pandemic has taught us the importance of hygiene and the value of charity, to relieve others sorrow.  We have been getting several stories about Sewa International volunteers extending their support to the people who are in need. The volunteers from Sewa’s partner organization, Sewa Bharathi offered food packets and water bottles to truck drivers, as the eateries dot the highways are closed due to lockdown. 

    The Sewa volunteers have been serving all sections of the society including the people who are often overlooked. A community of transgender people, who live near Nelamangala, a town on Bengaluru-Tumkur highway, in the Indian state of Karnataka. Due to the lockdown caused by the Covid19 second wave, they are struggling hard to pay rent or to buy food. Being away from their families, and living a life of unacknowledged existence, their livelihood has been snatched away by the pandemic.

    Sewa International Bangalore team drove more than 200 kms on Bengaluru-Tumkur highway & Bengaluru-Kunigal highway to distribute grocery and medicine kits to the homes of over 100 of them. The transgender community appreciated Sewa’s timely help.
  • 3 Apr 2020 11:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dedicated Sewa International Volunteers Keep the Spirit of Service Alive

    These days, it’s quite normal to start the conversation with “We live in strange times, don’t we?” Yes, indeed, we do live in very strange and challenging times. 

    COVID-19 has caused unprecedented global challenge and has many unique aspects. It’s a global health and economic disaster along with being an invisible and seemingly invincible enemy. The coronavirus has leading authorities and administrations scrambling to find solutions against this novel threat.

    It’s during this time of confusion, that Sewa International’s volunteers have once again come together to provide relief, information, and more to the community. I am immensely happy and proud that I work with a dedicated group of volunteers across the 43 Sewa chapters in the USA that have been able to provide much needed services to the community. In less than two weeks, the whole organization was working together effectively in multiple cities across the country. Some of the efforts are highlighted below. (https://www.sewausa.org/covid-19)

    • Seven helplines in different cities across the country to provide answers and solutions. 
    • More than 15 webinars conducted by renowned doctors, global health experts, family counsellors and legal experts that have been viewed by more than 50,000 people so far.
    • More than 20,000 masks distributed to first responders, doctors, medical facilities, and hospitals.
    • Providing services to the seniors including delivering groceries and medicines. 
    • Providing free meals to first responders like police and health worker. 
    • Helping international students by answering their visa questions, providing temporary housing, meals, groceries etc. 

    During initial brainstorming about relief efforts, we thought that our reach would be limited due to social distancing restrictions. However, as we launched helplines in four cities to cover all time zones, on the very first day we realized the drastic needs of the community that remained unfulfilled. We launched a series of webinars to educate people and answer their questions. On our request, over 20 doctors from the Houston area came forth to volunteer their time and knowledge. The very first webinar was viewed by over 6000+ people. The volume and nature of requests and needs have shaped the plans for providing immediate and long-term relief.

    Currently, there is an immediate financial need of $3.5 million nationally that we are fundraising to continue to support our communities at every level during this pandemic. Of course, generous donors may donate directly at the Sewa International USA website ( https://www.sewausa.org/Donate) or on Facebook (https://bit.ly/FBDonateSewa ).

    As we discussed how to address the anxiety and fear across the community, we came up with idea of the campaign, “Pledge for Service” (‘Sewa Sankalp’) to build confidence — the antidote to fear. We are now taking up this nationwide campaign, with two main areas of focus: 

    • Build the confidence within community
    • Help build the capacity of Dharmic and Sewa organizations in the US to effectively reach out and help their community members. 

    In next 2 weeks, we are planning to reach out to over 1,000 organizations in more than 50 cities with this campaign. I encourage all of you to join hands to fight this pandemic together. Please find more details on www.sewausa.org/sewasankalpa. Our collective conscious and confidence will pave the way for our collective success against this huge challenge.

    Knowing the dedication of the team, it is no surprise to me that Sewa International has been recognized by Charity Navigator – the premier nonprofit rating agency – as one of “10 Highly Rated Charities Relying on Private Contributions.” We have, for the last three years, continuously scored the highest rating from Charity Navigator, and have earned perfect scores for our Financial HealthAccountability, and Transparency

    Sewa International volunteers work on the time-tested Hindu principles of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (“The world is one family”), Sarve janah sukhinau bhavantu (“May all be happy”), and Nara seva, Narayana seva (“Serving humanity is serving divinity”). Our committed volunteers don’t expect personal recognition or glory. We simply do what needs to be done; we serve. We organize people, collaborate with other organizations and institutions to collectively achieve the results. We truly believe  “Together, we serve better”. 

    Recent news reports:

    https://abc13.com/6067202/

    https://abc13.com/blood-of-recovered-covid-patients-could-be-key/6064255/

     

    Arun Kankani is Executive Vice President of Sewa International, USA, a Hindu faith-based nonprofit. He is also Director of Inventory Management at Star Pipe Products Inc in Houston, TX.

     

    Indiaspora

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