News Media: Houston, TX
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Your picture will be part of our Wall of Heroes installation on Discovery Green, Houston. The display will take place from May 10th – 13th from 7am to 10pm, so make sure you drop by to see yourself!
From everyone at Shell, we extend our sincere appreciation to you and the many other volunteers who joined the effort to support Houston after the hurricane.
Early on that unforgettable Monday morning, as Hurricane Harvey brought the Barker Reservoir's waters up his front yard and then under the front door, Gitesh Desai knew his own recovery efforts would have to be sidetracked.
Desai's neighborhood, Fleetwood, sits in the flood pool of the reservoir on Memorial Drive in the Energy Corridor. Most of the houses in the subdivision took on at least 7 feet of water and two weeks after the storm had passed, Fleetwood was still inaccessible to its residents.
"The first floor is completely gone, everything I possessed was destroyed," Desai said. "My books, my memories, irreplaceable pictures and albums - it's all gone."
Desa is president of the Houston chapter of Sewa International, a nonprofit that participates in disaster rescue and recovery worldwide.
Sewa means selfless service - service above self - in Sanskrit.
In the storm's immediate aftermath, the 63-year-old coordinated Sewa's partnership with 40 organizations in the Indian community. Sewa recruited more than 1,200 volunteers who logged nearly 45,000 work-hours, brought in 21 truckloads of supplies, set up a 24-hour helpline and rescued 687 people from floodwaters.
Vijay Pallod, a leader in the local Indian community, met Desai in 1993, during relief efforts for the Latur earthquake in India. That earthquake destroyed 52 villages, killed nearly 10,000 people and injured 30,000 more.
"I was very impressed with his dedicated volunteer work to help the community," Pallod said. "He is well-respected as a true leader in the community."
As in the earthquake and countless other natural disasters since, Pallod said, Desai emerged as a community leader when Harvey struck.
"He never talked about his own problems and being away from his home, but he was ready to listen to others' problems," Pallod said.
Three months have passed since Desai's home was flooded and he is still living in a hotel. He has plans to repair his home, Desai said, but the execution is going slowly.
Though Houston has seen more than one rainstorm since Harvey and life has returned to normal for many, Desai and Sewa continue to help rebuild the lives of those who lost everything.
The organization's work is mostly based in Rosharon, Desai said. It has raised $450,000 to aid in relief efforts.
"It's hard to describe how hard it is," Desai said. "But it doesn't break our spirit. That's why we keep doing it."
Last month Sewa International was awarded a $397,590 grant by the Greater Houston Community Foundation (GHCF)
Recovery of hurricane Harvey-hit places may take more time, even a couple of years, said Gitesh Desai, president of Indian American community organization Sewa International’s Houston Chapter.
Recovery “will take long time; a number of months to a couple of years. We don’t know how it will take at this juncture,” said Desai while speaking to abc13.
“We had to raise money as we were going in the early hours of this Harvey and reach out to the community to support and donate money, so we can buy supplies and support,” he added.
Sewa International has been in the forefront helping people finding shelters and providing them with food ever since hurricane Harvey hit Houston.
Sewa has set up a partnership with various rescue agencies in the US to help communities struck in the hurricane, said Kavita Tewary, executive director, Sewa International.
“We set up a partnership with various rescue agencies; the US coast guard, the Texas coast guard, and volunteers from New Orleans who had experience from Katrina,” said Tewary.
“A lot of Asian families felt comfortable contacting us because they knew us, they knew that there is someone on the other side of the line who could understand them well,” she added.
Last month Sewa International was awarded a $397,590 grant by the Greater Houston Community Foundation (GHCF) in its second round of grants for providing financial aid and services to Houston/Harris County flood victims.
The funds provided to Sewa International will be used for helping 600 persons in assessing their “individual/family needs resulting from a specific disaster event, help them develop a recovery plan, and screen for duplication of benefits and provide them access to resources for their unmet needs.”
Founded in 2003, Sewa International is a Hindu faith-based, humanitarian, nonprofit service organization. It is part of a larger movement that started in India in 1989 and is active in twenty countries.
Sewa InternationalP.O. Box 820867, Houston, Texas 77282-0867
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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.