Fani’s Fury & Trail of Destruction
Cyclone Fani, that hit India’s east coast on May 3 with the same deadly force as a category 4 hurricane has claimed 49 lives in India so far and forced more than a million people out of their homes. The cyclone has affected 15 million in the states of Odisha and West Bengal and as per initial estimates at least 3 million people have lost their homes and livelihood. The cyclone has increased ocean water flow into Asia’s largest brackish water lake, Chilka, increasing threat to marine life.
Torrential rain, gushing winds and razing ocean have damaged more than 500,000 houses, killed 3.4 million cattle and uprooted millions of trees. The cyclone also destroyed power and telecom infrastructure across Odisha’s costal districts and has left a trail of damaged homes, schools, and businesses.
Sewa International’s partner on the ground, Utkal Bipanna Sahayatha Samithi (UBSS), is operating shelters in Odisha and has served freshly cooked meals to more than 8,000 victims. UBSS has distributed 9.4 tons of flattened rice (chuda), 1.89 tons of sugar candy (gur), 5250 packets of dry food and 415 cartons of cookies (biscuits).
More than 2,000 UBSS volunteers are working in coastal towns and villages of Bhuvaneshwar, Puri, Khorda, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapada, Cuttack and Jajpur districts. They are working with local people to clear roads of debris and removing fallen trees for vehicle movement. They are also working on distributing food and other material.
Sewa Relief Efforts
Sewa International volunteers visited Puri and adjoining areas in Odisha on Saturday, May 4, to assess the damage caused by Cyclone Fani. Sewa International is operating 13 shelters in the three worst-affected districts -- Puri, Khordha, and Cuttack. Utkal Bipanna Sahayata Samiti (UBSS), Sewa’s partner organization and a nonprofit based in Odisha, is coordinating the relief efforts. Sewa volunteers are serving freshly cooked meals in the shelters and distributing drinking water and food packets to people in need. They are also serving the cyclone victims in Bhubaneswar, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapada and Jajpur.
Food & Medicines
UBSS is distributing essentials such as food, medicine, tarpaulin sheets to cover damaged roofs, solar lights, ready-to-wear clothes, school supplies, candles, mosquito repellents and match boxes. It has so far distributed 42,200 tarpaulins and 7500 pieces of Polytene. UBSS is planning to open more shelters and distribution centers.
The village well-known for handicrafts, Raghurajpur (known for woodcraft, palm leaf paintings and stonework) of Puri, and many fishing villages are in complete disarray as artists lost their homes and tools and fishermen have lost their fishing nets and boats. In West Bengal, many weavers have lost their looms.
Villages in Dark
Contacting volunteers on the ground has been a challenge as the telecommunications and electric infrastructure damaged by the rains are yet to be restored in many places. Many villages in Puri may not get electricity for months to come. Water supply is also affected in many places.
Sriram & His Friends and Their Robotics Dream
Sriram, a high school student sent a message to UBSS volunteers about destruction in his hometown, Kakatpur. He met with a UBSS volunteer in December 2018 and had shared his plans to build a robotics team in his school. But Cyclone Fani has derailed his plans for now. Sriram and his friends need help to get back to school and keep their robotics dream alive.
Help Cyclone Fani Victims - Donate to Sewa
www.sewausa.org/donate (In “Donate For Project” dropdown, Select “Cyclone Fani on Eastern India Coast”.)
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Atlanta, GA (February 20, 2019): Sewa International condemns the terrorist attack that killed 45 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and injured many others on February 14, in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir.
“Sewa prays for the brave men who lost their lives, and offers strength and support to the loved ones of the departed. We also pray for the speedy recovery of people who were injured in the attack,” Sewa President Professor Sree N. Sreenath said.
Quoting from the Bhagavad Gita (2:20), Prof. Sreenath said, “na jaayate mriyate vaa kadaachin naayam bhuthva bhavithaa na bhooyah/ ajo nithyah saasvato'yam puraano na hanyate hanyamaane sareere”. “The Spirit is neither born nor does it die at any time. It does not come into being or cease to exist. It is unborn, eternal, permanent, and primeval. The Spirit is not destroyed when the body is destroyed”.
Cruel And Cowardly Attack
Sensing the mood and anguish of Sewa supporters, Prof. Sreenath said, “Many of our volunteers, donors and supporters are in great grief and cannot fathom the cruelty and cowardice of the terrorists who planned and carried out this heinous attack, and in this hour of grief we thank those who are standing in support of Indians and Indian-Americans”.
“We thank the US government for asking Pakistan to immediately end support and safe haven to all terror groups operating on its soil and supporting India in this sad moment,” Prof. Sreenath said.
Sewa volunteers and donors have begun to raise money to support families of the slain and those injured in the attack. Prof. Sreenath urged donors to contribute via the “Bharat Ke Veer” fund created to support families of Indian security personnel (https://bharatkeveer.gov.in).
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, The Caribbean, India, and the UK.
Atlanta, GA ( February 05, 2019): As part of its long-term program to rehabilitate flood-affected people of Kodagu district in the southern state of Karnataka in India, Sewa International is organizing a wide-ranging training program to help people find jobs or start a business.
“We are partnering with industry experts to prepare unemployed youth from Kodagu get jobs in corporate, government or non-profit sectors in India, ” said Swadesh Katoch, Sewa International’s Director for Disaster Relief and Bhutanese Empowerment project.
“Sewa has invited applications for this training from people of all educational backgrounds. We will formalize training modules and locations based on the response we receive. While in training, needy candidates will receive help with their food and stay,” Mr. Katoch added.
Repair School Buildings:
Thanking the state administration led by Karnataka’s Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and Kodagu district administration for their support in Sewa’s rehabilitation efforts, Mr. Katoch mentioned that Sewa volunteers are also working on repairing school buildings and computer labs damaged in the 2018 floods.
Recalling how hundreds of Sewa volunteers helped evacuate families and provided food and shelter to affected people in Houston, TX when Hurricane Harvey hit the city in 2017, Mr. Katoch said, “Sewa has built a great reputation for helping people affected by natural disasters. City officials, general public, and the US media have appreciated our efforts”.
Highlights of Proposed Training* for Unemployed Youth
* subject to registration response
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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Sewa International is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) non profit organization registered in Georgia.
Copyright © 2018 Sewa International. All rights reserved.