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Saheli Starts Support Group In Shrewsbury



It is no accident that South Asia’s ascendancy on the global stage is paralleled by an increased visibility of South Asians in the public sphere and popular culture of the United States. Well known figures such as Louisiana’s Governor, Bobby Jindal, actor Kal Penn and a host of other artists, media personalities and journalists, mark a coming-of-age for South Asian communities (peoples ethnically linked with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) that have had a long and continuous presence in North America, dating back to the late nineteenth century. Massachusetts, too, has recorded a growing presence of South Asians, particularly in the Metrowest Boston area where they represent more than one-fifth of the Asian population.

While the growing numbers of South Asians in MA has contributed significantly to the tapestry-like quality of the American experience, for many, life here presents anxieties of adaptation that are common to many immigrant communities. It is in order to address the realities of the lived experience of South Asians that a non-profit organization such as SAHELI was created, with a particular focus on the needs of women, who are often the more vulnerable group during cultural transitions. Founded in 1996, Saheli (which mean “friend” in Hindi) is a community based not-for-profit 501(c) 3 organization in Massachusetts with over 400 members, and a lead provider of resources to immigrant South Asian women and their families. Some of the areas that Saheli has helped in include family support services, immigration and legal issues, and health education. Saheli has also been instrumental in building economic opportunities for women through job training and computer literacy classes. Advocating for women’s rights has been at the center of its activities: victims of domestic violence, marriage abuse, abandonment, and child custody battles (all taboo subjects within the South Asian community) have received much needed support and resources through Saheli’s legal services and community outreach.  Saheli has also resourcefully positioned itself as a liaison between the South Asian community and local administrative organizations. In 2007-2008, Saheli trained over 350 police officers in the 11 Towns of MA on cultural awareness and provided cultural awareness training for social service providers.
Saheli currently organizes two women’s support group, one in Burlington and the other in Shrewsbury, to create opportunities for women to come together, share their experiences, and build a sense of community. The Shrewsbury group meets the first Saturday of every month from 3:00-4:45 at the Shrewsbury Public Library, and has organized a series of workshops and events to promote its activities and causes. The Burlington Support group meets 3rd Wednesday, every Month from 6:30-8:00 pm at the Burlington Library. Please call 1-866-472-4354 for further information and visit our Facebook page.

Aruna Krishnamurthy (akrishnamurthy@fsc.edu)

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