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
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.
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.
Houston, TX (June 21, 2021): Within eight weeks of starting its ‘Help India Defeat COVID-19’ campaign, Sewa International has distributed over 5,996 oxygen concentrators and 177 ventilators to 566 hospitals and COVID-19 Care Centers across India, covering 26 of 28 Indian states.
Sewa International, India has received over 7,900 oxygen concentrators so far from Sewa units around the globe and 6,850 of them from USA. Sewa International USA has procured and shipped over 10,000 oxygen concentrators to India so far and some of them are still in transit. As COVID-19 situation is improving in India, Sewa is keeping some concentrators in reserve for future use.
Overcoming numerous challenges, starting from transporting odd sized pallets, housing oxygen concentrators from the airport to the warehouse to supplying lifesaving equipment to hard-to-reach corners of India, volunteers from Sewa and its partner organizations have successfully tackled a huge logistical challenge in the middle of a raging pandemic.
Sleeping less than optimal hours a day and braving the pandemic while many of the Sewa volunteers tested positive with the virus, the team arranged 60+ trucks for transporting the essential medical equipment, have already distributed medicine and food kits to 1,25,000+ households, and juggled between priorities while working under constant pressure to pick the right hospitals and NGOs from among a long list.
Working with a well-tested hub-and-spokes model, Sewa volunteers worked from the primary hub in New Delhi, where they received the supplies sent from the US and other countries. They later transported the oxygen concentrators and other supplies to 44 secondary hubs in the country, and then to nearby 410+ locations by trucks and couriers, supported by partner NGOs.
Kumar Subham, Chief Operating Officer, Sewa International, India is coordinating the distribution of oxygen concentrators. He said that over 1,000 Sewa volunteers and more than 10,000 volunteers from Sewa’s partner organizations are involved in the distribution: “Yes, the work has been demanding and the team has been working round the clock. But it is not tiring at all. It’s like working for our families. In this case it is the extended family, the whole of India, as we say, Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam, so none of us mind the hours we put in” he said.
Sewa distributed equipment in seven phases and prioritized their delivery based on the severity of cases and population density. Maharashtra which reported the highest number of cases in India, got 725 concentrators. Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Assam, and Tamil Nadu received 485, 400, 301, 300, 300 and 235 concentrators respectively and occupied the top seven spots.
“In the last 50+ days, we doubled our partnerships in India to 240+ partners, and Indian Diaspora from 35+ countries have supported us. So much was possible due to the collective strength of Global Indians and the non-profit ecosystem in India. Thanks to the spirit of Sewa in the Indian ethos”.,” Shyam Parande, the Global Coordinator of Sewa International said.
“In Sewa, we say, Together We Server Better. All the work that has been done in the past two months by Sewa International teams in the USA, in India, and many other countries across the world amply reflect the essence of this statement. We are glad that we have been able to serve India in its direst hour of need,” said Arun Kankani, Sewa International’s President.
Sandeep Khadkekar reiterated Sewa International’s mission and said that non-profit organizations are pivotal in bringing aid and serving people in the world in times of distress. “Sewa International, is rooted in the Hindu ideals of perceiving the world as one family, looking at service to humanity as service to divinity, and serving everyone without expecting anything in return. Because of these principles, Sewa provides a refreshingly distinct idea of service to the world. This unique approach to service, I believe, will help humanity move towards peace and prosperity by reducing conflict. I feel honored to be a part of Sewa and represent it here in its mission to Help India Defeat COVID-19,” he said.
Houston, TX (May 24, 2021): Sewa International will be funding the installation of 100 oxygen generation plants in hospitals across India to ease oxygen scarcity in the country. It has ordered 20-tonn Zeolites (molecular sieves that absorb nitrogen and produce oxygen as a product) from Honeywell to establish up to 30 plants immediately. As part of these efforts, it has placed orders for 15 oxygen generation plants to be set up in the next 8-12 weeks at a cost of about $1.8 million.
Sewa International has started a fundraising campaign to construct these oxygen plants. A donation of $61,000, $81,000 or $121,000 can help establish one such oxygen plant of a desired size. The campaign will help distribute oxygen generation capability equitably to different parts of the country bridging the urban and rural divide in India’s healthcare sector. “Based on our reading of the current situation, Sewa International has made a strategic decision to establish oxygen generating plants in India to enhance India’s capacity to face the present COVID-19 crisis. This will also make India future-ready to face a possible third wave of the pandemic,” said Arun Kankani, President of Sewa International.
Sewa has identified three vendors from India to supply machinery required to build these plants. The first 15 plants will be a mix of 250 LPM and 500 LPM capacity and each can support about 20 to 40 ICU beds. Sewa International is working with forty to fifty hospitals across India to establish these plants. The number of hospitals we work with is expected to grow to more than 100 depending on support from donors.
“The primary targets for installing these oxygen generation plants are charitable hospitals in the rural and tribal areas and second and third tier cities. The plants, with good care and maintenance, have a life of twenty years,” Mukund Kute, Project Manager for Sewa’s oxygen generation plant initiative said. According to Kute, Sewa International has established technical team of experts and project managers to assist selected hospitals in seeking permits, setting up electrical systems, pipelines, and in constructing industrial workshops, training, etc., to install and operate such plants quickly and efficiently.
“Sewa is going to be involved from concept to completion in installing these plants. Once operational, they will eliminate the need for transporting liquid oxygen from place to place. The Zeolites we have ordered from Honeywell are going to be shipped to India very soon. It is going to take about 10-14 weeks for these plants to become operational as some of the mechanical components required are on back order,” Sewa’s Vice President for Technology Services, Anil Deshpande said.
“One 500 LPM plant can support a 200-bed hospital with 40 ICU beds or can produce 110 cylinders of oxygen a day. Including site preparation expenses and taxes, one such plant would cost about $121,000. When we calculate the initial investment and annual maintenance costs, it will still work out to be less expensive for hospitals than buying oxygen cylinders or liquid oxygen from a vendor,” Deshpande said.
India’s daily production capacity of oxygen is 7127 MT per day, and 46 percent of which is for industrial consumption and 3842 MT is used for medical consumption. Medical consumption is expected to increase to about 6,000 to 7,000 MT per day going forward with the current trajectory of COVID cases and any potential third wave of the pandemic. The more than 100 oxygen generation plants that Sewa International is planning to set up with the help of donors is going to help rural and semi-urban India prepare to face future challenges more confidently.
Houston, Tx (May 18, 2021): Sewa International has announced $100,000 in aid to Nepal and $50,000 to Trinidad and Tobago for COVID -19 relief efforts as the second wave of the pandemic is gaining strength in the two countries. The COVID-19 second wave is rapidly spreading in Nepal and the test positive rate has crossed 47 percent.
“Similar to our ongoing campaign to help India, we have launched ‘Help Nepal Defeat COVID-19’ campaign to raise funds to send oxygen concentrators, ventilators and other lifesaving equipment to Nepal,” Sewa International’s Vice President for Administration, Ashwani Garg said.
According to Swadesh Katoch, Sewa International’s Vice President for Disaster Recovery, Sewa is planning to send 54 oxygen concentrators, 500 oximeters, 250 infrared thermometers, and 250 electronic blood pressure monitors to Trinidad and Tobago as the initial shipment in a week. Sewa International of Trinidad and Tobago is working with its partner organizations to distribute food, medicine, and other essentials to people who are in need.
“Sewa is working with the Nepal Medical Association, Aggrawal Sewa Kendra, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, and Upkar Sewa and our other partner organizations. Many Nepal related organizations in the US have been reaching out to Sewa to collaborate in this effort. Sewa International Nepal in collaboration with its partner organizations started our first COVID isolation center in Aggrawal Kendra in Kathmandu, Nepal on Monday, May 17. Vinay Mohan Kwatra, the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, inaugurated the center,” Ashwani Garg said.
The COVID Care Center has 22 rooms that accommodate two patients each. It also has three big dormitories that house more than 80 beds. If required, bed capacity can be increased to 150 in these dormitories. Sewa International has also started work in three other places in Nepal where food and basic medicines are being distributed to people in need.
“Sewa carried out major disaster relief and recovery activities in Nepal during the 2015 earthquake and we have the experience working in Nepal and we have volunteers on the ground. We are grateful to Americans who gave their generous support to our India campaign and request them to extend their complete support to Nepal to fight COVID-19 at this hour as Nepal is not really equipped to face a crisis of this magnitude,” said Arun Kankani, President of Sewa International.
Houston, TX (May 14, 2021): To relieve the strain placed on the Indian healthcare system by the current surge in coronavirus cases, the American Association of Physicians of Indian-Origin (AAPI) and Sewa International have partnered with eGlobalDoctors (https://eglobaldoctors.com/#/) to provide medical advice for COVID-19 patients from India via telehealth. This online platform gives patients an opportunity to meet privately with volunteer medical professionals, who offer counseling with the aim of identifying those with mild or severe cases of infection.
According to the Chairman and Co-founder of eGlobalDoctors, Dr. Sreeni Gangasani, over 100 volunteer physicians from AAPI and “Doctors for Sewa” have been registered on the platform in the past ten days. In that time, the website has been visited more than 100,000 times, at least 2,000 patients have filled out the COVID-19 Registration Form, and 500 patients have already received medical counseling. More than 200 volunteers from the US and India are working together to follow-up with those who filled out the online form but were unable to show up at their scheduled consultation time.
Sewa volunteers have been instrumental in facilitating these one-on-one sessions, matching patients to doctors who speak the same language and placing them in a private breakout consultation room. “The Sewa team is helping connect volunteer physicians and patients by phone, especially those who do not have video access or capabilities of smart phones or access to the internet. Sewa’s work on the ground is streamlining the process by reaching the people who are most in need—even those from smaller, rural areas,” said Dr. Gangasani. “Indeed, patients have been logging on from all across India—from Jammu to Kolkata to Tamil Nadu,” he added.
According to Dr. Anupama Gotimukala, AAPI President-elect, teleconsultations began in Whatsapp groups and Zoom webinars before moving to the eGlobalDoctors platform, where over 1,000 patients are being counseled per day. Dr. Gotimukala said, “Doctors must guide patients daily for a week to ten days. In the system, a patient is registered and then they can offer timings and meet with the same physician on multiple dates, allowing us to follow-up with close care. The goal of telehealth is to treat patients remotely, using technology to help us. Doctors and patients can be at home, rendering services very efficiently. In some cases, an entire family can receive counseling at once.”
Through online counseling, physicians offer medical advice regarding triage, prognosis, and management protocol. Dr. Prasad Garimella said, “Our objective is to keep patients with mild symptoms out of the ER and identify those who need to go to the hospital sooner. Decreasing the burden on hospitals involves lowering panic and decreasing misinformation about the pandemic that patients might have”.
Houston, TX (May 13, 2021) – Sewa International has procured 7,482 oxygen concentrators, 20,500 pulse oximeters, 250 ventilators, 256 co-ventilators and other much needed medical equipment and has shipped most of these to India via UPS over the past two weeks. Working with its partners in India, Sewa International has distributed more than 4,000 medicine kits, and 5,000 essential kits. As Indian hospitals and care agencies struggle to meet this dire medical emergency, Sewa volunteers have been working across the country, in small towns and big cities to offer information about hospital bed availability, medical equipment distribution, vaccinations, and testing for COVID-19. Sewa International has already spent more than $7.5 million procuring and shipping equipment, and helping distribute needed medicines, food, and other supplies.
Detailing some of the work done by the Sewa International team in India, Viswanath Koppaka, National Marketing Director for Sewa International said, “Sewa International volunteers facilitated the COVID-19 testing at the Government Hospital in Hiriyur, in the Indian state of Karnataka on Tuesday, May 11. Sewa volunteers went door-to-door to create awareness among people in this small town about the significance of timely testing for COVID-19”. He said that “Oxygen concentrators sent from the US has also reached Lucknow, the capital city of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, May 11. Sewa has sent 70 concentrators to the city for immediate use as they will fulfill the urgent needs of various Covid Care Centers across the city. Uttar Pradesh reported 20,435 fresh cases on May 11 and had 2,16,057 active cases. The big challenge right now in India is the sheer number of people testing positive; the lack of medical equipment; and the difficulty for volunteers to work efficiently, quickly, and without hindrance in a country that is essentially under lockdown.”
Donations Pour In
Sewa International has reached the 105,000-donor mark and raised over $16 million from its ‘Help India Defeat COVID-19’ Facebook campaign and through their website campaign. As of May 10, Sewa International had procured 7,482 oxygen-concentrators and airlifted 5,482 of them to India. The highlight of the fundraising campaign was the recent $2.5 million pledge made by Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter. “We are happy that CEOs of multinational corporations and ordinary citizens of America are coming to the aid of India in this hour of need, and we are thankful that they have put their trust in us to offer medical aid in India quickly, efficiently, and professionally,” said Arun Kankani, President, Sewa International. “We will do our best to help those suffering in India, and we will do as much as we can, quickly, to relieve the pressure that hospitals and care agencies are under,” Kankani said, pointing out the challenges in procuring and shipping the needed equipment and getting quick clearance on the ground in India to send the equipment to cities, towns, and villages across the country.
“There are so many generous donors that we cannot name them all, but to all of them a big thank you,” said Kankani, mentioning that among the big donors were the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, which donated $535,000 and Dr. Alok Agrawal, founder of the Global Pragathi (Global Progress), who has donated $500,000.
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