WASHINGTON: Over 1,500 members of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangha in the US are carrying out one of the largest ever relief operations in the country and raising funds for those badly hit by the raging coronavirus pandemic.
Leading this effort is Sewa International, a part of the Sangha Parivar in the US, that has so far raised more than USD 500,000 in the past several weeks as part of the relief work in as many as 28 states in the country.
"Sangha Swayamsevaks have been engaged in COVID-19 relief work in the US. It is the Sangha tradition to help local communities in the situations of distress," Vikas Deshpande, the joint communication director, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangha, a US-based non-profit body that seeks inspiration from RSS in India, told PTI.
At least 869,376 coronavirus cases, including over 49,900 deaths, have been recorded in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. Deshpande said thAT the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangha would continue the relief work in the coming time depending on the intensity of the crisis. "As the community is growing, we are having more capacity to help the local community in the US," Deshpande said.
In the efforts led by Sewa International, more than 200 Indian Americans and other US organisations have agreed to work and co-ordinate their coronavirus relief work. All the COVID-19 relief work is being carried out by more than 2,500 volunteers from other organisations.
Sewa International, which seeks to raise USD 3.5 million to carry out its COVID-19 relief work among others, is running as many as eight helplines. It has also launched an online Plasma registry, on which 60 donors have registered.
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, a prominent spiritual body, has commended Sewa International "for its vision and execution for all the relief efforts" undertaken by it during the coronavirus pandemic. "The work being done by Sewa International is critical to the well being of so many in the American community as well as the Hindu communities. And indeed, in times like this we become one community," said Shaitanyamurtidass Swami, who is from BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.
Sewa International has brought together a large group of 50 physicians and attorneys for guidance and support to people in distress, donated thousands of masks and other protective equipment to health care workers. It has been helping a large number of international students by providing free accommodation, food and groceries.
Overseas Volunteers for a Better India (OVBI) is among few other organisations that has donated 25,000 meals to the New York food bank for the homeless and daily wage earners without a job, donated 4,000 N95 masks to JFK medical center in Edison, New Jersey for the health care professionals.
Sewa4Community, a project coordinated by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, has raised about USD 100,000 in the North Eastern region comprising the states of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and New England.
It has brought together over 75 organisations for its coronavirus relief work.