Tag Archives: #stayathome

Bay Area Sewa Chapter Distributes 28,000 Masks

Sewa International’s Bay Area Chapter donated 28,000 surgical, N95, and KN95 masks to first responders such as healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters, and hospital staff. They also distributed 1500 meals to families in need on Sunday, May 3 in an invitation-only drive-through event as part of its COVID-19 relief efforts.

“We wholeheartedly pledge to support the courageous healthcare workers, firefighters, police officers, and many others who are working hard to make our community COVID-19 free.  As part of our pledge, Sewa International has committed to providing these front-line workers with the personal protection gear (PPE) they need to stay safe,” said Sewa International Bay Area Chapter President Jayant Somani.

Supplies were distributed to 20 agencies including San Mateo Medical Center, Oakland Children’s Hospital, City of Sunnyvale, City of Cupertino, and the Mountain View Police Department. Ten volunteers and key donors were at the event to ensure that the event was a success.  “We pledge to continue to support these essential workers each week until the situation improves,” said Mr. Somani.

Mayor of Cupertino Steven Scharf, Mayor of Sunnyvale Larry Klein, San Mateo Medical Center CEO John Jurow, and the City Manager for the City of San Mateo Drew Corbett were present during the drive.

Volunteers at the Sewa International Bay Area Chapter’s drive-through mask drive on Sunday, May 3 in Milpitas, CA

Building Community

“I appreciate what Sewa is doing. It is bringing people together in our communities.  I especially appreciate what Sewa is doing today in handing out these masks and food to organizations and different people in our community who really need it.  I appreciate Sewa’s building this community which is a critical thing, and I appreciate everything they’re doing around the bay and around the world,” said Larry Klein, Mayor of the City of Sunnyvale. 

“I just wanted to say thank you to Sewa for the masks for the community. We are currently seeing a tremendous need out in the community for all the folks who need masks to do critical things, even go to the grocery store. For instance, all the cloth masks Sewa donated today will be delivered to our vulnerable senior population who are not necessarily able to get their own masks right now. They are helping serve a tremendous need in our community, and, on behalf of the city of San Mateo, I would like to thank Sewa for its generosity during this difficult time,” said Drew Corbett, City Manager for the City of San Mateo.

Food to the Homeless

In addition to the protective gear, Sewa volunteers also distributed over 1500 food packets and meals to the Oakland and Mountain View homeless communities, Fremont families in need, the Muslim Community Center of Pleasanton, the Alcosta Senior Center in Livermore, and many others.   “Sewa International and the Mountain View Police Department have been partnering for about three weeks now to help our homeless population get the food that they need and the masks out to the vulnerable population, and we really appreciate this partnership,” said Police Sergeant Wahed Magee with the City of Mountain View.   

Prior to this event, the Bay Area chapter had distributed almost 20,000 KN95, N95, surgical and hand-made masks and face shields to the United States Postal Service, Valley Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, San Ramon Police Department and many other medical and emergency service responders.  

Nationwide, Sewa International has donated over 300,000 masks, 1000 liters of sanitizer, 4000 hot meals each week, and over $100,000 to food pantries during this COVID-19 crisis.  Through the hard work of more than 2500 volunteers across 43 chapters and 22 metro areas and in collaboration with over 250 organizations across the country, Sewa International has committed to supporting all essential workers and service industries in these trying times.  In addition, Sewa International has set up eight national helpline centers to the field and monitor all calls for help and information. Through the information received via these helplines, Sewa International launched the Plasma Registry Drive which led to successful registry matches for four COVID-19 patients.  

For more information on Sewa International’s efforts to support communities nationwide during the COVID-19 crisis, please visit https://sewausa.org/covid-19.  

Sewa International is a Hindu faith-based, humanitarian, nonprofit service organization.  Founded in 2003, Sewa strives to serve humanity irrespective of race, color, religion, gender, or nationality.  Sewa’s development programs focus on family services; child, tribal, and refugee welfare; women empowerment; health; and education.  

For more information on Sewa International and its activities, please visit www.sewausa.org.

Mothering During Shelter in Place

Try entertaining a toddler without shelter in place and you will find yourself exhausted beyond belief at the end of the day. A study has shown that even athletes are unable to keep up with tots. And then try entertaining a toddler with a shelter in place and without external stimulation of friends, playgroups, storytimes, or babysitters involved. The internet is bursting with tips on how to do this. Mothers are looking for outlets to save them, and as a mother, I can vouch for the fact that every mother is asked this question: How can you do this with little ones? To that I say with much thought, as mothers, we can do this because nothing surprises a mother.

For me personally, this time reminds me of my maternity leave. A period where women step into the unknown. I was apprehensive. It was a time when the mind and body were met with unexpected challenges. A time of withdrawal. A time when nothing turned out as it was planned. External stressors such as lack of sleep, learning to care for a new child, and accepting a major life change kept me on my toes. The period lasted way longer than I thought. And even though others had been through it and in that sense it was a collective experience, my journey was my own with its unique set of parts and players. On that lonely ride, I learned to look within for the inner strength that would not only ride me, but catapult me through that time.

Unlike some others facing the general challenges of this time, mothers do not have the time and luxury to binge watch Netflix, or read novels at length or take an online class. Their lives demand action at every moment. But no one is more equipped to do this. Mothers have faced it all. Mothers are always in survival mode and take on a storm because they are always aware of the creeping dangers in the unsettling yet redeeming experience of motherhood. Their instincts to protect their children make them rise to all possibilities. Fear is always on a mother’s mind, she is like an animal keeping guard and ready to fight for her child’s safety.

Anyone who has ever been a mother would agree that mothers are used to not getting what they want. We are used to our lives being run by events and desires outside of ourselves. The universe of children throws curve balls when least expected. Illnesses, accidents, backfired travel plans, failed attempts at showing up at important work presentations, and even more disastrous attempts at working from home! Oh, how could she ever face the day again? And yet she does. Wiser and stronger than ever before, and more in tune with the ebbs and flow of the rhythm of life.

Every mother has gone through some form of deep inner transformation, whether she knows it or not. She knows that even though externally she appears to be in control or has to create her own reigns, that providence is in charge. She is fueled by a power that she digs from within herself. She has all the help and support from God and the universe. And she never takes anything for granted, for she knows the value of freedom and the greater value of bondage. Through this very bondage, she realizes that all things pass and that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

As the world faces this challenge, my heart says a deep prayer for all mothers to be during this pandemic. It stands united with all other mothers having to make do at this time. But what I see behind the depth of this darkness is that we mothers have another opportunity not only to protect, provide, love, and entertain, but to be proud and humbled at another lesson, and have another go at being and doing what we never thought we could.

Preeti Hay is a freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in publications including The Times of India, Yoga International, Khabar Magazine, India Currents, and anthologies of poetry and fiction.

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. 

Looking for the Good Within

Breathe, and take a moment to think about how you truly feel in these uncontrollable times. We all feel some level of anxiety, some more than others. How we manage and handle this anxiety will impact both us and those around us. 

There is COVID-19 news everywhere we turn and we feel like a pressure cooker at home, lonely, anxious and ready to explode. Some of us feel lost and unable to control things for us and our loved ones. What feels overnight, we have been confined to our homes with or without family members.

As it is said that,” You can’t calm the storm… so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.” We need to gather ourselves and stay calm for ourselves but also our elderly, our children and the immune-compromised. 

What can I say to help you in this time of need? What if we tried to change your thought process by changing your frame of mind? Can we try to change the story you are telling yourself? At this time, tell yourself that the Universe is giving the world a chance to reset itself by slowing down, for you to look at life from a different perspective and reconsider our ways. Sometimes taking time to do nothing brings everything in perspective.

We realize that we are deeply interconnected with human interaction that we have taken for granted. Becoming aware of what we had and being grateful for the smallest of things we have now, will help us move forward. You are alive and breathing if you are reading this and we need to feel the warmth of gratitude. You may like to place a ‘gratitude jar’ in your home and let everyone put in a slip for expressing what they are grateful for. You will realize that there are chaos and difficulty in the real world, but you are still able to find things that you are thankful for in this present moment. Writing and reading these slips of gratitude will help change your thought process to look for the good! As I mention in my book, ‘You Are the Cake’, “The simple daily act of gratitude can lower our stress levels and ground us for a healthier and happier life… Be in the moment and feel how fortunate you are in so many ways. Count your blessings.” Read these slips of gratitude and over time your mind will automatically look for the good. 

Send out your positive vibes to others and those suffering. But in all this do not lose focus that you must practice self-care and compassion. You have time now to spare, so sit down and be steadfast and reduce your anxiety. Don’t give all your attention to the external world. Look for the good within. How do you do this and reduce stress? Meditation, Visualization Tapping are different ways of achieving this (you can find more information in my book, You Are the Cake). At this time of need, I have made the kindle version available at virtually no cost to everyone.

Here is a short Metta or loving-kindness meditation and visualization we can use to reduce our fears and send out positive vibes to the world. 

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes.
  2. Breathe in and out regulating the breath. 
  3. Visualize yourself, your family, your loved ones, the community and the people of the world one by one.  
  4. Say this in your mind with a feeling of compassion.

May I and the others be happy, safe and well. 

May there be peace, wellness, and love. 

All is okay 

  1.  Continue breathing with calmness in every breath. 
  2.  Close your eyes and picture that you are gathering all your negative stressful thoughts. Visualize yourself taking a broom and sweeping up all the negativity. Picture it being put into a bag and thrown away. Let go of this stress and move forward towards looking for the good. 
  3. Visualize yourself calm, well and happy. Breathe, be grateful and open your eyes gently. Let that smile linger on your face and in your heart. 
  4.  Feel the stillness deep inside and keep some energy and balance within.

Mental and social isolation can get to one. I suggest that you connect with your friends and family via phone, video conferencing, emails or so many more ways. I can video-chat, participate in group calls or multiplayer social games with my friends. This laughter and connection make me feel good and centered.   

Listen to the fact that we need to shelter-in-place to provide safety and flatten the curve of this deadly outbreak. To those who can offer help to the elderly via shopping or other errands, please reach out safely. You can donate to the families of the first responders, our heroes or the homeless. Donate blood at the Red Cross. Some people are printing 3D face masks for the responders, others sewing masks. Do whatever you can to help this hurting world. Working on a hobby will keep you focused and fulfilled. I enjoy painting and trying to sing, but when I do then everyone leaves the room!

We can take turns becoming a balm for each other. Let’s not worry about being perfect or getting it all right. Know that you are doing the best you can. 

Reduce your stress, be in the moment and be grateful for the smallest of things. Stress makes you believe that everything needs to happen right now while faith assures you that everything will happen at the right and perfect time. Have faith and move towards looking for the good. 

Geetanjali Arunkumar is the author of ‘You Are the Cake’ and a wellness coach. 

Fierce Helpers

Fierce Helpers, started by two Bay Area teens, is a Cupertino-based organization aiming to help vulnerable populations get through the COVID-19 pandemic.  A key struggle, for those susceptible to the virus, was obtaining groceries and supplies. People who are at-risk, the elderly and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions, are especially vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 and thus, risk their lives whenever they enter public spaces. In places like grocery stores, it is difficult to maintain social distancing due to the confined space. 

Ramana Kolady dropping off groceries for an elder.

Alex and Ramana started the organization to help alleviate the stress placed on those in at-risk groups by offering free and safe delivery of groceries and supplies. Ramana had prior experience working with seniors through his nonprofit organization, Students and Seniors United, and understood many of the seniors’ concerns. After observing threats to high-risk groups, Alex and Ramana could not simply sit back and watch.

The delivery of groceries drastically cuts down on the risk of exposure to the virus; instead of being exposed to potentially hundreds of people, the customer is only exposed to one person – the deliverer. Furthermore, the deliverer is checked to be in the low-risk bracket of contracting COVID19 and deliverer takes precautionary measures when shopping and delivering supplies.

Alex and Ramana have both observed the issues people in high-risk groups may face and wish to help keep the community close together by making everyone feel safe and secure during this unprecedented time.

Volunteers are in the low-risk category which includes those who are young, without respiratory conditions. Many of the current volunteers are college or high school students who are looking to fill up their free time by helping their community.

Do you know anyone who would like to help out or anyone in need of some help? Volunteers can easily register at Fierce Helpers and begin helping their community immediately. Requesting a delivery is just as easy; all you have to do is visit the website and fill out a simple form. Customer orders are usually fulfilled within 3 days.

Ramana Kolady is currently a Junior at Cupertino High School and is the founder of Students and Seniors United, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the elderly and learning more from them, through research and community service. Ramana aspires to become a geriatric physician in the future and is extremely interested in the geriatrics field.

Alexander Wang is currently a Junior at Cupertino High School and started Fierce Helpers to help those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic after he noticed the struggle that those in at-risk groups faced when trying to carry out everyday tasks. 

This piece was edited by Assistant Editor, Srishti Prabha.