Washington, DC (May 14, 2022): In the backdrop of monumental relief work done during the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, and its second wave in India in 2020-2021, Sewa International volunteers gathered for Sewa’s 16th Annual National Conference in Washington, DC.
Meeting after two virtual conferences in 2020 and 2021, nearly 100 Sewa volunteers, including Sewa’s board members, advisors, and the executive team, met on May 7 and 8 in the nation’s capital. Volunteers from Sewa’s 19 chapters participated in the conference.
As the air filled with the excitement of meeting each other after a long gap, Sewa teams discussed and debated strategies to keep the growth and the momentum generated last year by its volunteers’ brave and timely work. Sewa International raised over $45 million from various corporations, foundations, and individuals for its pandemic relief efforts in 2021, and catapulted to the tenth place from its 375th spot last year on Benevity’s list of “Top Ten Charitable Causes Supported by Companies”.
Ramakant Rambhatla, Vice President and Chief Engineer of Invacare Corporation, a US oxygen concentrator manufacturer was felicitated for helping Sewa procure the much-needed oxygen concentrators to help India deal with the second wave of the pandemic. Invacare dramatically scaled up its production to help Sewa serve people in need. “We wanted to help and got a call from Sewa. We had a conference call on a Saturday morning at which our top Invacare officials participated. On Sunday, our production facilities geared up to meet the demand,” Rambhatla told the appreciative Sewa audience.
Sewa International also felicitated organization’s Honorary Board Member Prof. Radheshyam Dwivedi at the conference. Portraying Prof. Dwivedi’s decades long service to the community and his unwavering commitment to Sewa’s vision, mission and work, Prof. Yashwant Pathak, member, Sewa’s board of advisors said Prof. Dwivedi personified an ideal Sewa volunteer. Sewa’s President Arun Kankani, former President Prof. Sree Sreenath and members of the executive team felicitated Prof. Dwivedi.
“Human greed and a western belief that humans run everything has caused a grave imbalance in the world causing man-made catastrophes. In 1950 the world population was 2.5 billion, and within 70 years the human population has exploded to eight billion. Only an integrated approach to life as espoused by Hindu philosophy can save us from a disaster,” Suresh Jain, member, Sewa’s board of directors, said in his key note address at the inaugural session.
“Time is now ripe for Sewa to frame a Hindu faith-based service concept that promotes a holistic and symbiotic relationship with mother earth, culture, society, and family. Guided by dharma, this approach to life can create balance and effectively control deforestation, global warming, and other such destructive phenomena.”
“Many of today’s service organizations are religious in nature, and they play a critical role in policy making in the West. They raise funds and resources through their congregations but mixing service with congregational goals can be problematic. Sewa should build a global narrative where the happiness of all and considering the whole world as one family are the principles guiding our outreach to communities and to those in need,” Suresh Jain said.
Emphasizing the extended family-like atmosphere that inspires and binds Sewa volunteers, President Arun Kankani asked Sewa chapters to share their experiences and resources to build sustainable teams. “What got us here may not take us to the next level. To sustain growth and promote volunteering in the community, we need to organize more events that connect us with each other at a deeper level,” he said.
Sewa for Inner Joy
In his concluding remarks, Saumitra Gokhale, Global Coordinator for the Hindu Swayamasevak Sangh, said Sewa is now at an inflection point. “The organization achieved phenomenal growth while serving during the pandemic. We all want to serve as much as we can as it increases our inner joy. Compartmentalizing life into different activities is an often recommended western technique but it results in more stress. The Sewa way is to integrate our family, work, and service to live with joy,” he said.
“The great Indian epic Mahabharata clearly says that the divine forces always align with the well deliberated, thought-through, and boldly implemented good actions. Volunteers and donors are Sewa’s great strength and caring and appreciating them will help Sewa scale greater heights,” Gokhale said.
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.
Atlanta, GA (April 19, 2022): Sewa International, through its Vasundhara Sewa program and its continued commitment to environmental causes, is supporting the Save Soil movement.
Save Soil is a global initiative launched by yogi and visionary Sadhguru to “invoke a conscious approach to soil and the planet.” One of Save Soil’s main objectives is to have countries across the globe enact necessary laws and policies that will “increase the organic content in cultivable soil” and address the catastrophic environmental degradation issues facing humanity. Joining the Save Soil movement are thousands of experts, community leaders, celebrities, governmental agencies, and heads of state.
After initial media coverage in the US, where Sadhguru was interviewed by Trevor Noah and Joe Rogan on March 21, he began a 100-day, 20,000-mile motorcycle journey across 27 countries. Sadhguru has traversed major European countries and cities, where he spreads the Save Soil message at large public events and in meetings with experts. He has engaged with major European media as well as government leaders. He emphasizes the pressing need to formulate policies that address the looming threat of soil degradation, how to regenerate soil, and work to ensure the health of Mother Earth.
Globally, 52 percent of agricultural land is already degraded, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization predicts we only have 60 years of soil use left. Fortunately, there are proven solutions that could help reverse this calamitous trend if concerted steps are immediately initiated. Leading agencies such as the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and United Nations Environment Program are offering their support and expertise to ensure the success of these efforts. The movement has also received resounding support from several Caribbean nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the “4 per 1,000” Initiative, the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, among others.
Sewa International will support Save Soil’s efforts through initiatives that engage its volunteers and the communities they live in. In alignment with the “Students for Soil” global initiative, Sewa will kick off a poster campaign involving the youth, amplifying their messages and designs through social media. Sewa then plans to continue the momentum by encouraging children to adopt and care for plants as well as join nature outings. These efforts reflect a commitment to join hands to facilitate Sadhguru's vision of spreading the Save Soil message to 3.5 billion people.
One thousand plus LEAD (a program engaging high school and college students) participants will be conducting various activities and managing campaigns bringing awareness about soil health to their communities. They will also be participating in the Earth Day poster campaign.
Sewa International’s forty-three chapters will be conducting soil conservation and awareness activities. They will also be involved in observing Earth Day on April 23 and are organizing a national evening webinar to unite experts and environmental leaders. Those involved will take the "Vasundhara Sewa" pledge: “I pledge to take steps toward the betterment of my Mother Earth. I will spread awareness to others. I will expand my knowledge and actions to reduce the carbon footprint and improve the environment and my community.” The pledge can be taken at sewausa.org/savesoilpledge.
“We in Sewa have always promoted the principle of serving all beings, sentient and non-sentient. Sewa means selfless service, and helping Sadhguru and his team spread this message of protecting the Earth is very much part of our goal to serve people by helping them lead safe and healthy lives in a beautiful environment,” said Prem Pusuloori, Director of Projects and Programs, Sewa International.
Houston, TX (March 09, 2022): Sewa International Europe played a key role in evacuating 467 African students, including 367 from Nigeria, and another 100 from Namibia, Zambia, and South Africa, from Sumy, the northern region of Ukraine bordering Russia, on Tuesday, March 8. Sewa volunteers coordinated the evacuation efforts responding to a request by Shina Alege, the Nigerian Ambassador to Ukraine.
Nigeria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geofferey Onyema, thanked Sewa International Europe for “their amazing facilitation and coordination”. In his message, he also thanked the Government of Ukraine for providing the buses, and Shina Alege, Nigeria’s Ambassador, “for his determination and perseverance”.
Sewa Europe volunteers received the request on March 5 from the ambassador and worked closely with the Sumy State University coordinators, Sumy city administration, and the Nigerian Student Representative, Moses Fehintola. The evacuation took place around 1:20 PM Ukrainian time. The students were taken from Sumy to the Romanian border where they are expected to board flights to their countries.
Sewa International volunteers in Europe have helped nearly 12,000 individuals in the last sixteen days since the war started. Over 100 Sewa volunteers are working within Ukraine, and fifty volunteers are working in the border locations assisting people to cross the border. So far, Sewa has helped stranded people from twelve nations.
Sewa helplines continue to receive calls from stranded people and 350 additional volunteers are involved in answering the helplines and arranging for food, shelter, transportation, and other types of help in Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Finland, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Sewa is receiving outstanding support and cooperation from many Hindu religious (dharmic) organizations such as the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) and Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) as well as citizens in bordering countries such as Poland and Romania. Volunteers from ISKCON and BAPS are working together with Sewa volunteers in serving food, providing shelter, and in reaching out to people who need help.
“It is really heartening to see that Sewa’s efforts to help the African students have been fruitful and they have been evacuated from Sumy. We thank the Ukrainian Government for providing the buses and a green corridor to help these students leave the war zone. We thank Ambassador Shina Alege for providing Sewa an opportunity to serve these students who were stuck in Sumy and facing danger,” Sewa volunteers Atul Sethi from Ukraine, Nilesh Solanki from the United Kingdom, Divyang Pandya from Norway, and Heramb Kulkarni from Finland said over a WhatsApp call.
Sewa Europe is continuing its efforts to help stranded people and people affected by the war in Ukraine.
To volunteer or for information on Sewa’s efforts, please visit https://sewaeurope.org, https://fr-fr.facebook.com/SewaEuropeOfficial/ or call +35 8504839418.
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, serves in 16 countries across the world regardless of race, color, religion, sex, gender, age, disability, or national origin.
Houston, TX (March 02, 2022): As airstrikes cause extensive damage and people flee Ukraine in large numbers, Sewa International volunteers in Europe have helped more than 3,200 individuals in the past six days to cross the border to reach safety. Sewa volunteers are working with another 3,680 people who have registered for evacuation through the Sewa helpline.
Over 250 Sewa volunteers spread across many countries in Europe are coordinating relief efforts in eighteen Ukrainian cities. Working closely with Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) volunteers, Sewa units in Ukraine, Finland, Poland, Romania, Hungary, and Denmark are fielding calls from stranded students and others seeking help and directing them to a volunteer who lives close to them for further assistance.
“The situation on the ground is as challenging as it can get. Sewa and HSS volunteers are taking calls from people in distress and working 24 x 7 to help them evacuate. More than 35 Sewa volunteers are working on the ground in Ukraine. We are seeing an increased call volume as the war intensifies,” a Sewa volunteer from Ukraine, deeply involved in coordinating the relief work, explained over a WhatsApp call.
Sewa is helping people to reach Ukraine’s western border by bus, train, or other modes of transport. They are distributing food packets, establishing temporary shelters, or working with local hotel owners to provide fleeing students a place to stay until they leave for their home country.
“After a student from India was killed in shelling in Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine and an epicenter of the current war, there has been a heightened fear among students. Due to the danger posed by the war to civilian lives in the city, helping people leave Kharkiv has been our top priority. In nearly 80 percent of the situations, we have been able to help the caller when they call the Sewa help number for the first time,” Heramb Kulkarni, a Sewa volunteer from Finland said.
As per reports, about 9,400 students from India are in Ukraine and seeking help to leave the country. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, over 660,000 people, mostly women and children, have left Ukraine within five days of the beginning of the war. Students stranded in Ukraine are facing multiple challenges, including threat to their lives, non-cooperation from local officials, not being allowed to cross the Ukrainian border, lack of food, and money.
To register for assistance, Sewa is asking people to complete an online form at -- https://bit.ly/SewaUkraineHelpline. More information related to Sewa’s Ukraine relief efforts can be accessed at https://linktr.ee/sewaeurope, https://www.facebook.com/SewaEuropeOfficial, or https://www.instagram.com/sewaeurope/sites.
Houston, TX (February 28, 2022): As the conflict in Ukraine continues, and hundreds of thousands flee the country, Sewa International in the USA has started a helpline to assist international students stranded in the country, arranging transportation to the nearest border post, and providing food and shelter during their journey. So far, over 4,000 students have already registered on Sewa International’s helpline and the Sewa volunteers are in touch with another 400 people to help them evacuate.
Sewa Europe, an independent partner organization, and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) are working in ten Ukrainian cities to assist people affected by the war. On February 26, Sewa Europe helped a group of 150 students to travel from Vinnitsa to Chernovtsy by bus. At Chernovtsy Sewa provided them shelter, food, and transport for their onward journey to the Romanian border.
“Sewa International is immediately releasing $10,000 for the Ukrainian relief efforts and started a Facebook fundraising campaign to help people who are threatened by this humanitarian crisis. The messages and videos we are getting from the war zone show the fear, anxiety, and danger people are facing as they run to safety. As the global Sewa network rises to face this challenge, I request people to support Sewa International in this rescue effort,” Arun Kankani, President, Sewa International, USA said.
“The war between Russia and Ukraine has affected all people in the region and caused serious distress in a world that is still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Sewa International in the USA, and, HSS volunteers in Europe, the US, and India are receiving hundreds of messages seeking help from people who are stuck in the war zone,” he said.
Sewa Europe has released an evacuation checklist to advise people about the most essential items to carry. It lists passport and visa documents, flashlight, five liters of drinking water, match box, winter jacket, sleeping bag, dry fruits and snacks, and COVID-19 vaccine certificates.
To register for assistance, Sewa is asking people to fill in the online form at -- https://bit.ly/SewaUkraineHelpline -- and more information related to Sewa’s Ukraine relief efforts directing people to their https://linktr.ee/sewaeurope, https://www.facebook.com/SewaEuropeOfficial or https://www.instagram.com/sewaeurope/sites.
According to official estimates, about 18,000 Indian students are studying in universities across Ukraine. Due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, they are currently stranded, facing a severe shortage of food, and are in dire need of transport and shelter. The Indian Embassy in Kyiv is advising these students on how to reach country’s western borders to reach Poland, Romania, or Hungary from where they can board Air India flights specially operated by the Indian Government to reach India.
Houston, TX (January 21, 2022): Benevity Inc., the leading provider of global corporate purpose software, ranked Sewa International among the top of charitable organizations supported by companies and their employees in 2021. In 2020 Sewa International was ranked 375 in Benevity’s list, and at 690 in 2019.
Benevity announced on January 20, 2022, its list of the annual top 10 causes receiving support from companies, including those that offer matching funds to employee contributions, demonstrating that the pandemic and other global events and crises influenced the generous attitude of corporations and their employees. “We are grateful to these companies and their thousands of employees who thought it fit to offer their generous support to Sewa International. They saw in us both our dedication to serving humanity as well as the will, the enterprise, and the commitment to delivering support efficiently, quickly, and professionally in a time of crisis by our volunteers and mission-oriented staff. This recognition of our work and of our standing will energize us to rededicate our efforts to come to the aid of society in times of crises here in the US and around the world,” said Arun Kankani, President, Sewa International.
According to Benevity, five of the top ten causes from 2020 remained on the list in 2021, while health-focused non-profits, including national and state cancer societies, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and Planned Parenthood, returned to the top 10 in 2021. “When the Delta variant hit India last year, we saw companies and their employees mobilize to help,” said Birger Stamperdahl, Give2Asia’s President and CEO. “Their generosity made lifesaving projects possible that delivered oxygen concentrators, protective gear for health workers and emergency food rations to those hit hardest by the pandemic.”
Houston, TX (December 20, 2021): Sewa International had a gala celebration on December 12, 2021, highlighting the year-round work of its volunteers and their accomplishments in responding to and combating the COVID-19 pandemic as well as serving the local communities in other ways and making an impact beyond the city’s borders.
Houston Chapter President, Gitesh Desai, welcomed the Indian Consul General Aseem R Mahajan, Congresswoman Lizzie fletcher, and Dr. Peter Hotez to the gala and thanked them for gracing the occasion. He said that " local presence and global impact" was the theme of the Chapter’s twelfth annual fundraising event.
Participating in the virtual event, Consul General of India, Aseem Mahajan, (commended Sewa for working with several community initiatives organizing food distribution, imparting education, and offering other services in a demanding and challenging year. “Sewa has played a vital role in promoting people-to-people contact between the two countries and deepening India's partnership with the US,” he said.
Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, who was the chief guest, said that he valued working hand in hand with the Indian government's extraordinary developers in Hyderabad, India, of the COVAXIN vaccine to combat COVID-19. He wished to scale up the vaccination production, as billions of doses are needed to vaccinate the world, including the African continent and many Southeast Asian countries. He thanked Sewa International for joining hands in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I'm with you in spirit celebrating the Sewa Houston chapter in its accomplishments," said Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher” She added, "Sewa International is working tirelessly in responding to COVID-19 affected families in our community in recent years, helping even through days of heavy rainfall and flooding events. Thank you for working for our community as your mobilizational efforts have resulted in transformational changes in our community. Thank you for all you do."
Arun Kankani, President, Sewa International, USA, said the clarion call for service was heard by Sewa in 2021. He recounted the selfless service of thousands of Sewa volunteers who rose to the occasion with compassion in their hearts and the courage of a fighter. He made a special mention of Madan Luthra, a senior volunteer who, forgetting his age, served COVID- impacted families. He added, “We are humbled by the accolades, recognition, and awards given to us by the President of United States, elected officials, and various community organizations for recognizing the impact created by Sewa International during tough times: “2021 marked the tremendous collaboration with community organizations, corporations, media partners, elected officials, and more importantly, more than 150,000 donors who supported Sewa completely in serving the community. We continue to serve through vaccination drives, food distribution, and various initiatives across the globe to support families impacted by the pandemic”.
During the virtual gala had Sewa Houston showcased and appreciated partner organizations (more than one hundred). In the cultural events was a dance performance by Dr. Lavanya Rajagopalan, Manjusha Jadhav and their team, and another performance by Kalpana Subbarao, Nilamani Venisetty, and Supradipta Dattaa. The gala ended with a melodious musical performance choreographed by Hemang Thakkar (Rhythm of Dreams) with Mansi Pandya and Tanweer Mian mesmerizing the audience with their rendition of old and new songs
Sewa volunteers delivered delicious dinners to more than 150 homes all around Houston within a three-hour window
India's Ambassador to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Chief Guest at the event, presented the award to Sewa International’s President Arun Kankani and the Houston Chapter President Gitesh Desai. More than 600 business and community leaders from Houston participated in the gala. Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, at the Baylor School of Medicine in Houston delivered the keynote speech. Sylvester Turner, the Mayor of Houston, Aseem Mahajan, Consul General of India in Houston, Congressman Al Green, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Harris County Judge Linda Hidalgo, and Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George attended the event.
In the gala, a video presentation showcased the services that Sewa International offered COVID-19 patients and their families in Houston, including distributing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE kits) to frontline and essential service workers, and food to the needy in the community. Highlighted in the video was President Biden’s letter to Sewa praising its contribution to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the ASPIRE educational program for underprivileged and underserved communities, Case Management and Family Services, the LEED internship for high school students, the Stop Diabetes Movement (SDM), Know Your Healthy SELF, and Sewa’s partnership with AmeriCorps.
Gitesh Desai, in his acceptance speech said, "We feel happy and proud that the Indian Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston has given its Community Service Award to Sewa during this Diwali. We did not make this journey alone as people and organizations supported us. We thank all Sewa donors, volunteers, and supporters. The recognition will inspire to us remain focused and dedicated to our service projects and achieve more in the future."
"Our sincere gratitude goes to the Indian Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH) for recognizing Sewa and the work done by volunteers. The award will help us increase our reach," Sewa’s President Arun Kankani said.
“We owe our gratitude to our volunteers, first. Their dedication to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of people is an indication of their belief that the world is one. In these times of the coronavirus pandemic, we cannot sit back and let only the frontline workers – doctors, nurses, health professionals, the police and emergency medical staff – do all the heavy-lifting. We want to help them, and we want to work with public officials to ensure that our communities are safe,” said Arun Kankani, President, Sewa International. “Indeed this commendation from the White House therefore is a recognition of the efforts of our volunteers,” he said.
Sewa International’s volunteers in seventeen chapters have actively participated in FEMA-led or in state, city, or county level vaccination drives. Over 600 volunteers have assisted with FEMA vaccination drives in both medical and non-medical capacities in nine cities and states. Another 200-plus volunteers have contributed to vaccination efforts in state, city, or countywide efforts. Available data indicate that these volunteers helped with vaccination of close to half a million Americans. The places that Sewa International volunteers have stepped in to offer much needed help in these efforts to get people vaccinated include Atlanta (GA), Phoenix (AZ), Denver (CO), Portland (OR), Washington DC, Houston (TX), Dallas (TX), Austin (TX), Tampa (FL), Los Angeles (CA), Las Vegas (NV), Albuquerque (NM), Santa Fe (NM), Bay Area (CA), Indiana, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey.
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.
MedStar Foundation donated over $1.4 million worth of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and two CPAP machines to Sewa International on Friday, July 9 in an event held at the Foundation’s warehouse in Hyattsville, Maryland. The PPE received by Sewa include N-95 equivalent masks, face shields, gloves, goggles, and full length PP attire.
Ed Robinson, MedStar Health’s Vice President of Integrated Support Operations, presented the PPE material to the Maryland Chapter Coordinator of Sewa International Dr. Anita Roy. Dr. Siva Subramanian, Indian American community leader from Washington DC, and pediatric cardiologist at the Georgetown Medical Center acted as liaison between MedStar and Sewa International. Right after the event, the donated material was sent from Hyattsville, MD to Sewa International’s Atlanta, GA warehouse in seven 18-wheeler trucks.
“We saw some of the challenges caused by the shortages of PPE in the rest of the world and we had some surplus PPE in or system. We thought it would be great if we could donate it to some other relief efforts that are going on. I thank Dr. Siva for connecting Sewa with MedStar and we wish Sewa the best and appreciate the work they are doing,” Ed Robinson said, speaking at the event.
Largest in-kind Donation
“This is the largest in-kind Medical equipment donation Sewa has received from a hospital system in the US. Sewa is sending the PPE to Trinidad and Tobago and to a few countries in South America which are experiencing the second wave of COVID-19 cases. The CPAP machines will go to India,” said Prof. Sree Sreenath, former president of Sewa International, who was present at the event.
Dr. Siva Subramanian, speaking at the event, said the PPE will help patients as well as frontline COVID-19 workers such as physicians, police officers, firefighters, and healthcare workers to stay safe while they strive to stop the spread of the pandemic. Dr. Anita Roy, who received the PPE on behalf of Sewa, thanked MedStar for their donation and said that Sewa International would put the PPE to great use. Volunteers from Sewa‘s Maryland and Washington DC chapters were present at the event.
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Sewa International is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) non profit organization registered in Georgia.
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