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Sewa And Dharma

Mohan Sonti

Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA (HSS), non-profit organization, works on aligning the vision of people for betterment of the society, as in making it more inclusive, harmonious, cohesive and constructive - on the lines of Dharmic principles like 'Vasudaiva Kutumbakam' ('The Whole World is One Large Family'). When any part of the society is in need or in distress, the HSS steps up to help, like they would do for a fellow family member. HSS is an eminent organization with highly disciplined volunteers (Karyakarta) who are trained to organize the society in times of need to gather people and communities to achieve an effective response to any crisis that the society faces. 

Sewa means Selfless Service, and that comes natural to HSS and deeply ingrained in it's ethos. The COVID-19 is a new challenge that our society is facing. HSS in collaboration with many other community organizations and people, immediately stepped up their Sewa activities to face the COVID-19 challenge. Besides initiating several programs of their own, they also got involved with several community projects to shoulder the burden and do what they can to help tide the crisis. In line with their core values such as 'sarva Dharma sambhavam' (people of all faiths/ideas/cultures can coexist), the Sewa services are offered by HSS compassionately to all in need irrespective of receiver's faith, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and such. 

The work that the regional Greater Boston Chapter of HSS does for COVID-19 can generally be divided into 6 broad categories: 

1) Help Line -

One of the first action was to setup a Helpline where people can reach out for help. The requested help could be of any form like - questions about the crisis, requiring food and other resources, looking for a job or just support for students and elderly who are stuck at a place and are relatively immobile. There are about 10-15 volunteers who work in this actively and direct them to suitable people in the local area who can provide the needed help. Recently a case had come up where a person was stuck with a roommate who was tested COVID-19 positive and couldn't leave the house for groceries (quarantined). With quick coordination, one of the volunteers was assigned to provide groceries and contacts of doctors he can reach out to for advice. 

2) Mask Mission -

We could always sense from the beginning that masks are important in protecting one self and others. About 80 volunteers have set this as a mission and set a target for themselves to make at least about 3000 masks to be distributed to various people, hospitals and communities that are in dire need for them. So far the target was exceeded by dedicated women volunteers and about 2700 are distributed to Bay State Medical, Rosie's Place, Saint Vincent Hospital, Bhutanese community etc. 

3) Webinar -

Due to the criticality of this crisis there is an over abundance of information on this subject everywhere leading to 'information overload'. To many, this has lead to some confusion and panic, being unable to weed out irrelevant from relevant things. About 10 webinars were arranged with frontline doctors and healthcare providers to disseminate accurate information as well as answer individual questions. This has greatly helped in allaying the fears and bring the right perspective. Several participants listened to the entire webinar diligently and were very appreciative of conducting the event. 

4) Food -

HSS Greater Boston Chapter recognizes that the Healthcare workers, Police and Firemen are battling this menace standing in the frontlines. About 100 volunteers have stepped up to provide over 1000 meals to these brave men and women who are working hard everyday risking their lives. On April 29th, for example, food was distributed to 3 Fire Stations in Shrewsbury. They were all not only extremely enthusiastic and thankful for the gesture, Captain Shawn Lawlor wanted to know more about the organization and what they do. 

5) Resourceful People -

A team of doctors was put together who provide their services for free. It is so people can quickly call them up for suggestions, prescriptions and needed advice to take care of their health. 

6) Partner Organizations -

Many organizations share the same vision of helping the community in this time of need. HSS Greater Boston Chapter roped in and collaborated with about 10 organizations to coordinate the efforts, like Dharma Center, Sewa International,  New England Marathi Mandal, Tamil Makkal Mandram, Telugu Association of Greater Boston, India Circle for Caring, Art of Living etc. This is to increase the reach and bring together everyone's skills and manpower. 

Even though HSS Greater Boston Chapter has very limited resources and manpower, given the highly disciplined and benevolent culture of the organization, it's not surprising to see the vast spread of their impact in the society. With the motto of 'swayameva mrugendrata' ('we achieve by our own efforts'), I'm sure the presence of HSS will always be felt in every place the society needs a helping hand. 

HSS, the nation’s largest Hindu-American organization,  conducts a values education program for Hindu-Americans of all ages through its 220 branches nationwide. For more information, visit www.hssus.org.

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