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Federation Of Kerala Association In North America (FOKANA)

Veena Pillai

Dr. Omprakash Pillai, a medical doctor specializing in infectious disease for the state of Connecticut, has dedicated himself as well to enriching the culture and tradition of the Kerala community in New England. Generously giving both time and talent to Kerala programs and friends in the United States, Dr. Omprakash sings for professional groups in the U.S. and abroad. Furthermore, as an accomplished artist, he paints scenery for stage shows and has both acted in and directed many dramatic productions. His talents in these artistic endeavors have earned him awards. Dr.Omprakash understands and cherishes the Kerala traditions that build community, nurture youth, and foster good will among diverse peoples. His professionalism, generosity, and talents have made him a leader in the Kerala community. Dr. Pillai, Regional Vice President of FOKANA for New England extends an invitation to all to attend the FOKANA Convention 2003, Convention which will be held August 22-23 in Trivandrum at the Kovalam Hotel.

FOKANA’s long history in the United States as an organization fostering the values of Kerala culture and heritage finds its formal beginnings in the early 1980s. The need for an umbrella organization that would unite the increasing number of Kerala Associations throughout the U.S. and Canada was identified far earlier as the number of Indian Americans grew rapidly, especially after the Immigration Act of 1960.

Inspired by this need, an exploratory meeting was held in Chicago in 1982 to make plans for an umbrella organization to unite the smaller Kerala Associations. His Excellency K. R. Narayanan, then Indian Ambassador to the United States and former President of India, chaired this historic meeting. Other renowned dignitaries present at this meeting included D. C. Kerakaemurri, V. K. Madhavankutty, M. P. Virendra Kumar, Dr. Ramachandra Puthucherri, Late Most Rev. Dr. Marthoma Metropolitan and cine artists Madhu and Sreevidya. The initiative and wisdom of this 1982 group launched the undertaking that ultimately grew into the united organization we now know as the Federation of Kerala Associations in North America (FOKANA).

The first Kerala Convention was held in 1983 in New York City. Both Dr. Syed Muhammaed, Indian Commissioner in London, and Mr. Vayalar Ravi, Home Minister of Kerala, attended this first convention, helping to bring to fruition the plans for the umbrella organization known as FOKANA.

Since 1982, FOKANA Conventions have been held every two years in the cities of Philadelphia, Chicago, Orlando, Washington D.C., Toronto, Dallas, and San Jose. FOKANA has indeed been fortunate to secure as keynote speakers such dignitaries as the legendary literary maestro Sri Thakazhi Sivasankana Pillai, as renowned film director Adoor Gopalakrishnan, as the Minister of Kerala Mr. E.K. Nayanar, as Kerala writers Punathil Kunjabdulla, M. M. Madhavankutty, D. Vinayachandran, and Sree Kumaran Thambi. The renown of these dignitaries has helped FOKANA inspire its membership to create and produce numerous programs fostering Kerala culture and heritage.

The 1990s were also important for initiating the Indian Youth Leadership Conferences held first in Washington D.C., later in New York and Houston. These conferences for Kerala youth inculcate leadership skills, political awareness, the significance of heritage, and civic responsibility among our youth. Civic projects such as the “Home for the Homeless” also began in the middle 1990s as Kerala Associations in America continued to grow.

In 2001, FOKANA hosted for the first time in its history an International Convention at Cochin, Kerala.

In 2002, Chicago hosted the tenth international convention. At this meeting, FOKANA elected new officers: President George Koshy, Vice President Paul Karukappillil, Secretary Matthew Cheruvil, Joint Secretary George Varughese, Treasurer Sunny Poulose, Joint Treasurer Dr. Sathi Nair. FOKANA’s Board of Trustees includes a chairman, a vice chairman, a secretary, and six members. FOKANA is divided into nine regions, each with its own regional vice president. FOKANA has been instrumental in strengthening the Kerala communities by initiating Voter Registration drives, by helping Keralites obtain dual citizenship, by encouraging some youth members to work for U.S. congressmen. FOKANA has, in addition, promoted the Malayalam language and brought to members the expertise and inspiration of noted journalists and novelists, of famous musicians and dancers.

The 2003 FOKANA Convention will be held August 22-23 in Trivandrum at the Kovalam Hotel (formerly known as the Ashoka Hotel). Highlights of the 2003 Convention include:

Internet Malayalam Class To be inaugurated at the 2003 FOKANA Convention, this class will allow interested members to deepen their knowledge of the Malayalam language.
Health Awareness Program Created by a group of physicians from the US and many other countries, this program will provide information about medicine and health.
National Women’s Forum Under the leadership of Chairperson Dr. Sathi Nair, this group will discuss the role of women in our changing world. Specifically, participants will consider the education and nurturing of our young women who will assume great responsibility for carrying on our culture and tradition.
Bhashakkoru Dollar This scholarship fund supports high school students in the US and Canada as well as undergraduates and graduates in Kerala.
Voter Registration The FOKANA website will provide information concerning dual citizenship and voter registration.
National Blood Donation The FOKANA website will provide information concerning this important event.
FOKANA Charitable Foundation We will inaugurate this foundation at the 2003 Convention so that FOKANA members may support the Malayalees in Kerala.
Youth Programs Various youth programs respond to the needs of youth who, raised in America, wish to sustain their Kerala culture as they prepare to become the leaders of the next generation.
FOKANA Business Meeting We understand the crucial role FOKANA business people play in our organization, since they dignify their professions in America as well as provide, through their committed work in Kerala, many jobs for Keralites. The FOKANA Business Meeting is indeed a highlight of the Convention.

FOKANA website www.fokanaonline.com will keep this information updated.
FOKANA members are delighted to be able to build a bridge between the American Malayalee community and Malayalee in Kerala. We hope to support our youth through contributing to the Bhashakkoru Dollar Scholarship Program, and to support Keralites through FOKANA’s established Charitable Foundation. We remain grateful for the accomplishments of our business people in the US and in Kerala. Endeavors like these strengthen our community and deepen our sensitivity and commitment to the Kerala culture and tradition that have sustained our families and friends for generations.

FOKANA will be hosting a two day convention on August 22, and 23, 2003 at Kovalam Hotels - The first, finest and largest Five star Beach Resort of Kerala, offers 193 rooms (386Beds) including 4 Royal Suites in the Halcyon Castle, the summer retreat of the erstwhile Travancore Maharaja. The hotel has 3 fresh water swimming pools and a large convention center to accommodate more than 750 delegates.

2004 FOKANA Convention: July 1,2,3,4, 2004 Check out on 5th. Place: Garden State Exhibition and Convention Center, Somerset, New Jersey.
Centrally located in New Jersey in one of America's most dynamic corporate communities, the Doubletree Hotel Somerset is adjacent to the Garden State Convention Center. Guest enjoy the 16 landscaped acres and excellent nearby shopping. This is just 45 minutes form Newark International Airport.
For more information please feel free to contact: Dr. Omprakash Pillai, The Regional Vice President of FOKANA for New England.
(860) 683-0224 Pillaio@aol.com

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