Sewa lives up to its name
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Sewa lives up to its name

Sewa USA is actively inspiring by action, efforts towards helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina, writes Meeta Chaitanya.

india Updated: Sep 14, 2005 17:05 IST

As people and organisations come forward to contribute heartily to the

rescueand rehabilitation efforts in Louisiana, Sewa International, a global Indian volunteer organisation is amongst the first to spearhead the Indian endeavour in the US in this regard.

Along with Hindus of Greater Houston, an umbrella organisation of Hindu temples and other tertiary organisations from Texas, Sewa USA is actively inspiring by action, efforts towards helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The organisation has already raised over $100,000 for Katrina relief. Already, scores of Sewa volunteers, many of whom are second generation Indians and their non-Indian friends and colleagues, have aligned themselves with the relief operations in any capacity that has been offered to them.

Sewa volunteers from across the nation tirelessly put together nearly 1000 hygiene packs comprising soaps, shampoos, among other things and delivered them to the Astrodome in Houston this Sunday.

Huge cartons filled with other necessities and amenities including personal care items are consistently being sent to the nucleus of this mission, Houston, Texas. Volunteers from the community are also doing their bit in providing all forms of assistance to students and others of Indian origin displaced by Katrina.

More importantly, as efforts began to materialize for the mammoth task of assisting those worst affected by the hurricane, many Indian Americans took it upon themselves to prepare and serve food to the hundreds displaced from New Orleans and other places and currently residing in neighbouring states of Texas and Georgia.

Others have spread the word by mobilising the community through awareness programs in temples and other leading Indian organisations across the US. Of the displaced evacuees, numbering nearly 150,000 in Houston alone, the Hindu community has taken upon itself to assist in providing food to the shelters for one day. 240 volunteers have been identified for this purpose.

As is the wont of our faith as a people in compassion and the equality of man, the community has risen to the credo of 'serve humanity, serve God' by being effectively involved in the local volunteer machinery everywhere, including Atlanta.

Indians have in fact, volunteered to go beyond immediate relief by identifying and implementing long term strategic needs in concord with the government and local administrative bodies.

In order to maximise the aid efforts Sewa has aligned itself with the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), another reputed volunteer organisation with 90 branches spread all over the country. Together, they are striving to find, assess and assist with alternative accommodation, families that have been staying in motels so far.

A worthy parallel to this aid work is the fact that many Indians from Atlanta and Texas have registered as volunteers with the American Red Cross. At the behest of the ARC, Sewa members put together and delivered several supplies including more than 700 sandwiches within three hours to the organisation for immediate distribution among people waiting in lines.

By mobilising the community and ensuring speedy service to the evacuees in need, Sewa has lived upto its motto- Vasudhaika Kutumbakam that translates to 'the whole world is one family'. More than that, Indian Americans have rendered themselves invaluable to the scores they have helped by way of much needed supplies and service.

It is the community, the people who have made the difference in adhering to time-tested and revered values of service to humanity without disparity. It may be the least that can be done for those whose lives are saved, but forever impaired. But, it is this zealous service that is the difference between despair and death and evacuation and survival.

As hurricane Katrina smashed to smithereens remnants of a vivid New Orleans civilization over the last couple of days, Atlanta rose in strength to help those affected by this latest manifestation of nature's ire with all it could muster.

The ordeal undergone by countless men, women and children struck by Katrina is even more horrific given the state of mayhem that has clouded hope for those worst affected by the hurricane. The state machinery, despite its zeal has fared poorly in implementing relief and rescue strategy.

Amid offers of support that are pouring in from all over the world, India, who has herself undergone the wrath of Tsunami and the Maharashtra floods more recently, stands tall. Indians in Atlanta too have joined the fraternity in pledging support for the needy.

With Louisiana's prime seat being declared a ghost town of no soul or substance, neighbouring states including Georgia have come forward with whatever they have at their disposal to enable speedy resettlement for evacuees of whom more than 42,000 people left the city. Reportedly, at least 1,000 Katrina evacuees are in Georgia shelters. Officials have taken measures within their jurisdiction by opening up airbases as Cobb County's Dobbins Air Reserve Base near Marietta to them. Temporary food and housing is being made available to those displaced and suffering.

People suffering from growing maladies as dysentery and vomiting in Mississippi have been bused to Georgia. In Georgia's hospitals, such as Atlanta's Grady, emergency medical aid has proven to be effective and timely. Public schools in Atlanta are doing their bit in resettling kids into normalcy or a semblance thereof. Many have waived off mandatory provisos as birth certificates, academic transcripts etc. They are also giving out school packs, books and other stationery to children that have enrolled over the past few days as a result of relocation.

TV channels and leading news agencies are full of stories of people moving out of the disaster struck areas in much hurry. These people, most of who are setting up temporary new homes in the Southeast, are ill prepared for the burden of their days ahead. Most of the families that fled in haste took only that which they could lay their hands on easily -- shoes, clothes, toys for their kids, limited supplies of food and water.

They expect, even now to be 'back home' in a month. That's the least it's going to take for rudimentary revival, they have been told by officials. Given the state of affairs in New Orleans, they may well be chasing an elusive dream. It is to these people that Atlanta's community of Indians, Hispanics, and others have pledged support in the form of therapy, shelter, employment, even baby clothes, cribs and cots.

In the wake of the disastrous conditions prevailing in the rescue shelters as regards basic amenities such as food, water and clothing, Atlanta's citizens have generously opened up their hearts and homes to families displaced by the calamity. Innumerable bulletin boards on the net and calls connecting people through chains of acquaintances have paved the way for what could easily be one of the most effective disaster management and rehabilitation programs.

For evacuees form Louisiana and Mississippi, this is just the beginning of uncertainty and despair. They have no address, no money, no food, and no livelihood. For most of them the number plate on their car is their only proof of identity. For them to be greeted by strangers with as much warmth is therefore, overwhelming.

The effort of the community in Atlanta ought to be lauded for its eager help.

First Published: Sep 14, 2005 17:05 IST