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Hindu community aids in COVID relief

By Rama K. Ramaswamy

While 2020 is officially hindsight, the effects of its extreme precariousness are not. The country suffered through racial strife, mismanaging of the pandemic, raging giga-fires, economic insecurity and uncertainty about our fate and social disorder. 

Food insecurity is as ongoing as the pandemic, but towards the end of the last year, the local chapter of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA (HSS) managed to make a dent in it. Throughout the latter part of 2020, volunteers donated about 2,500 pounds of food at the South Worcester Neighborhood Center (SWNIC) drop-off location as part of their Nationwide #SewaDiwali initiative (sewadiwali.org). The SewaDiwali project is a collection of organizations and individuals that are led by HSS and are rooted in “Sewa Dharma,” which means service to humanity is service to divinity. The SewaDiwali 2020 project donated approximately 300,000+ pounds of food nationally to more than 400 food collection centers across 26 states with participation from 180 organizations and over 1500 volunteers.

Wellesley resident and local chapter members Dr. Lakshmi Thalanki and the staff of Family Orthodontics, Hudson, made notable group donations of more than 850 pounds, while the Batch of ‘95 from Hostel-4 at IIT Bombay donated 550 pounds. Dr. Thalanki said she hopes this “might serve as an inspiration to many” towards achieving community service goals. Furthermore, Dr. Thalanki explained that Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights that is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists (Dharmic culture), as well as those who are non-denominational. Diwali symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. “Especially in these challenging COVID times," Dr. Thalanki said, "hunger can be seen as one ‘evil’ that’s engulfing the country that needs to be collectively addressed.”

At the final December food drop-off, State Senator Michael Moore of Worcester's second district was joined by local community leader Jonjy Ananth, statewide commissioner of the Asian American Commission. Alongside them were with Rajoo Ananth, Srikanth Rudra, Mohan Gundu, Dr. Suresh Mamidala, Mohan Sonti, Dr. Lakshmi Thalanki, Bharat Thabati and two eighth-grade HSS teen volunteers, Kruthi Gundu and Anika Mamidala. Moore said that he “appreciated the community getting together to help each other during these challenging times.” He was also all praises for the HSS and SWNIC volunteers for the “great” job they’d done, and personally thanked students Gundu and Mamidala for being socially conscious at such a young age; he encouraged the young ladies to continue their community service endeavors. Director Tom L'Ecuyer of SWNIC thanked the HSS team for their generosity, as well as his team of volunteers, who worked tirelessly to feed the hungry. 

In addition to assisting with closing the food insecurity gap, HSS has taken on other COVID relief efforts, such as making masks and providing elder-care food donation services. For more information, visit www.hssus.org.

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