Tag Archives: Hindu Community Institute

Indian Led Bay Area Nonprofits Respond

The world as we knew it a few weeks ago has been turned on its head by the invasion of the alien virus we call COVID-19.  Normal activity has ceased over much of our globe; for a very large majority, being told to stay in place where they are and off the streets is tantamount to taking away their livelihood – it’s a sentence to starve. Many of our elderly need help to obtain food, medicine, and other essentials. The emotional impact has spared no one.  Mother Earth, it seems, has stopped processing, stopped spinning, and stopped orbiting; she is free-falling through space, trying to escape the bonds of gravity.

In any crisis, our humanity and community spirit take over. People jump in to help in any way they can.  Inventing new and creative solutions. Checking on each other. Making masks. Generating optimism and goodwill. Showing gratitude by banging pots and pans and cheering on the frontline medical workers as they put their own lives on the line to try and save others. Three Bay Area nonprofits exemplify this spirit. 

Sukham is an all-volunteer organization that advocates for healthy aging, living well and being prepared for life’s transitions in the Bay Area.  Under the leadership of one of its members Saroj Pathak, Sukham is pairing seniors with a younger volunteer living in the same area who could assist in shopping for groceries, picking up medicines or run other essential errands on a mutually agreed-upon schedule. They can also be that friendly voice that calls up to check in and say hello. If you or someon you know could use this service, inform Sukham or send them an email to sukhaminfo@gmail.com. Provide the name, address and phone number of the senior citizen needing assistance.

The Hindu Community Institute (HCI)  is a service-learning organization dedicated to serving the community by integrating contemporary knowledge, technologies and Hindu wisdom and traditions. Under the banner “Community for Immunity,” HCI – led by Board member Gaurav Rastogi – is now offering free daily online sessions for yoga and meditation via Zoom.  If social distancing is getting you down, or you are struggling to deal with self-isolation, do try out these sessions led by seasoned practitioners. Register at https://www.hinduci.org/online-yoga.  Special yoga sessions catering to seniors and kids are also available.

On a more somber note, HCI has prepared a Hindu last rites process checklist to assist those dealing with a death in the family to handle all the formalities in the current COVID-19 environment. They also offer families the option of talking to knowledgeable individuals who can offer guidance and counsel in their time of loss.  The checklist, as well as contact information for counselors, can be found at  https://www.hinduci.org/last-rites.

Indians for Collective Action (ICA) is a Bay Area nonprofit founded in 1968  to support sustainable development in India by partnering with dedicated non-government organizations (NGO’s) and individuals.  A core mission of ICA has been to help victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and drought. Now, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, ICA has organized the Forum initiative, a webinar and video-conference series that connects and enables nonprofits, partners, and interested individuals in India and the US to exchange ideas and share best practices as they bring help to India during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Forum is moderated by ICA’s Dr. Anju Sahay who can be reached at anjusahay@gmail.com. In the first webinar late last month, Snehalaya shared their approach to mobilize and distribute food and supplies to the needy slum dwellers and their plan to distribute food packages to 45000 people. Other projects being prioritized by ICA are listed on their website: https://icaonline.org/donation-for-covid-19/. The next webinar with other project leaders sharing their approach to fight COVID-19 is on April 17. 

Let’s support each other and do all we can. Together we can – and will – put these dark days behind us!

Mukund Acharya is a co-founder of Sukham, an all-volunteer non-profit organization in the Bay Area established to advocate for healthy aging within the South Asian community. 

Dreams Take Doing: Sevadars Now Trained & Qualified To Serve

On August 18th 2019, twenty Counselors of Hindu Tradition (CHT) lined up to receive their certificates and begin serving families and institutions. They were graduates of Hindu Community Institute’s (HCI) inaugural course of one-year long Sunday classes. 

HCI, founded in May 2018 by a group of senior professionals and executives of the Silicon Valley, provides world-class service learning and quality of life education. The students are working or retired  professionals who want to “give back” and “learn to serve” the community. The course, taught by world class faculty, combines contemporary counseling knowledge, technologies and Hindu wisdom. 

The morning started with the recitation of Gayatri Mantra and Maha Mrityunjaya Jaap in Sanskrit, Hindi and English by children of Yoga Bharati and the Gayatri Pariwar Sunday schools. This is the first time I have heard these powerful mantras recited in Hindi and English. This pure energy set the tone for the rest of the morning. Scholars walked on to the stage to receive their CHT certification. Pride shone in the eyes of the spouses, children and friends of the new graduates who additionally also received framed a Certificate of Congressional Recognition signed by Congressman Ro Khanna and a Certificate of Recognition by Assembly member Ash Kalra as well.

A spirit of seva and happiness pervaded the room. 

“Doing things for others gives great satisfaction,” said Gaurav Rastogi, Academic Dean- Hindu Community Institute. There is a huge latent desire in us to serve. We come with the desire to serve and at HCI, scholars learn the knowhow of serving. In the Jewish tradition when a child is born the Rabbi shows up at the door with books and explains the traditions of the faith to the family. It is this knowhow of the highest quality that HCI has developed. 

“In the Hindu system the clergy and seva have been separate,” explained Mr. Kailash Joshi, founder and President of HCI. “Traditionally clergy was devoted to divine affairs and extended- family stepped in to meet the traditional needs and support for  the individual. For the diaspora HCI is creating a community- mechanism that generation after generation can carry forward and use, as trusted and well-trained resource, to meet those needs of the individual through informed seva.”

“We follow the cycle of Learn- Serve- Serve,” said Naras Bhat, Dean of Academic Affairs. Course Valedictorian Mangala Kumar, spoke of her transformative experience while doing the course. She was later invited to serve on  the Board of HCI.

We learned that the mission of HCI is to marry contemporary knowledge and technology with Hindu wisdom. They have a multi-prong approach for this:

Service Learning via the CHT Certification Course. Register here.

In parallel, they are developing a Service Corps to serve the community . For this the CHT’s will receive  additional practical training with realistic field experience. For this HCI will partner with institutions such as Stanford Hospital and Livermore temple.  

Social Infrastructure: The Samskara Guidance System or SGS  is currently being tested and will help members analyze incoming calls on the toll free number, assess the request and respond with accurate and compassionate help.

Process Excellence: The Field Operations Manual or FOM , a living document, will be the go-to manual for service corps members. The goal is to professionalize the delivery of community services through open-source processes and collaborations between Hindu-Vedic and interfaith organizations. 

Speakers stressed the need for raising US Dollar donations to create a vital long-term infrastructure. HCI operates at a 9x leverage, for every $1 received in donations, HCI volunteers contribute Nine “Om Dollars” worth of actual value.These “Om Dollars” bless the giver and the receiver. 

As the Hindu diaspora becomes mainstream, it needs institutions like HCI to support the rich traditions and serve the wider society. There is an opportunity to join in on this very exciting journey.

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