Sewa volunteers bring smile on the face of Hurricane Harvey victims in USA
Source :NewsBharati   Date :02-Sep-2017


Houston (USA), Sept 2: They stand for Selfless Efforts for Welfare of All (SEWA) and their efforts in the last week’s crisis proved this beyond doubt! Yes. The young volunteers of Sewa International, committed as they are to serve the victims of the Hurricane Harvey, exhibited excellent spirit of selfless service and strong determination to help those even risking their own welfare. 

"This is the spirit of service", says Arun Kankani, Executive VP of Sewa International in his email message. “Rescue and Relief work done by team here, with minimum resources and no experience and expertise, is beyond my expectation and imagination. It is amazing. I think this is a great live example of how passion, perseverance, kindness, dedication and desire to serve can compensate for the skills and experience", Kankani adds.

Comparing with the more professional EMS Centre, he pats the Sewa’s amateur team’s handling the distress calls to rescue the affected people and providing relief to them as the “first major successful rescue and relief operation carried out by Sewa in USA and it has made us all proud…Truly inspirational…”

The Hurricane Harvey made a landfall in Southeast Texas as category 4 hurricane almost at the time when major Indian regions were reeling under unprecedented rains and floods, and Mumbai, the financial capital of India, was submerged due to excessive rains. Houston, the major city of this region was under siege of water for almost a week. Most neighborhoods were submerged and thousands of residents have their houses flooded with over a few feet of water, said a press release issued by Sewa.

This forced the people to go naturally without food and water. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said, “Houston flooding may be the worst we have ever seen. The loss is in billions of dollars.”

The city of Rockport took the Category 4 hurricane head-on with winds blowing at more than 130 miles per hour. Corpus Christi and Houston are expected to get 50 inches of rain. Though downgraded to Category 2, the slow-moving Hurricane Harvey is expected to persist in the area for days of downpour causing catastrophic epic flooding. Some roads in the area are submerged under 25 feet of water. There are reports of people dying in flooded cars and flooded houses.

Sewa International volunteers were there to accept this challenge and immediately mobilised their workforce to rescue the stranded people, provide them food and water and medical relief.

The President of Sewa International’s Houston Chapter, Gitesh Desai who had to take shelter in a nearby hotel as his house was flooded, constantly communicated and monitored in these relief efforts as if nothing has happened, from his hotel room.

Preeti Kankikarla, a young professional living with her 65-year-old mother was stranded in her ground floor apartment as the water level kept rising inside her apartment. She heard the radio announcement and called the Sewa hotline.


Sewa volunteers in the neighborhood immediately reached her and helped her move into a first-floor apartment. Preeti says, “My deepest gratitude for all the help I received from you during the toughest of our times. I couldn’t thank you enough for the prompt actions in response to my request”, a press release issued by Sewa International said.

The President of Sewa International’s Houston Chapter, Gitesh Desai said, “The residents of Houston are staying strong through the crisis and coordinating citizen-led efforts to help thousands of people who are stranded in flooded houses without food and water.”


Many Indian businesses and places of worship have opened their doors to give shelter to displaced families. Indian restaurants and individual families are providing free packets of freshly prepared Indian food. Sewa is helping in the logistics.

Desai said that “Major Indian organizations such as, India House, India Cultural Centre, Indo-American Charity Foundation, Hindus of Greater Houston and Indo-American Political Action Committee have decided to coordinate all the relief efforts of the Indian community through Sewa International.”

A list of all the free food, shelter and medical help resources is being maintained on the Sewa International website. Teams of volunteers are constantly working the phones coordinating neighborhood relief efforts that Sewa volunteers are conducting in their own local Houston municipalities.

Since most of the important connecting roads are flooded and out of service, this coordination is crucial. In addition, Sewa International volunteers are helping people find shelter and are delivering food to stranded people. Many international students from India at the University of Houston have had their first-floor apartments completely flooded and they have had to move in with their friends on second and third floors.

Sewa has rescued and relocated many such students. “A system for pre-registration for volunteers has been set up for clean-up work after the water levels subsides,” Desai said. Sewa International has appealed to all the people to stay safe and stay inside as much as possible. They have also appealed to all the businesses and non-profits in the area to offer help in whatever form they can and their resources will be listed in the help directory on the Sewa International website and will be publicized widely in the community. People seeking help can call 281-909-SEWA (281-909-7392).



The Sewa volunteers handled 452 requests for rescue and relief received over phone, whatsapp, facebook and twitter. With a battery of over 500 volunteers they rescued 613 people including students, and senior citizens, and served 2500 meals in just two days.

Some of the prominent office-bearers of Sewa International had to suffer due to flooding. Gitesh Desai, the Chapter President had to stay in a hotel as his house was flooded, Nikhil Jain, Joint Coordinator of the Chapter had to be evacuated with his family and parents as his house too was flooded, and Kavita Tewary, Project Coordinator who was on two-month leave due to health reasons, had to evacuate her family and parents to a friend’s house due to excessive flooding.


These are some of the examples to show how the Sewa team worked overcoming all such difficulties and hardships, says Arun Kankani adding that people whom they were helping had no idea that they were being supported by people whose loss was much bigger.

“Achalesh, Anuja, Vivek, Noopur, Sachin, Madhukar…There are many such selfless workers who are working and helping others effectively in this tough situation, putting aside all their own personal challenges and difficulties. They make Sewa Great”, Kankani said.


Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has sought $7.85 bn for the Hurricane Harvey relief. Trump has asked the US Congress for this fund to provide relief to the affected people in the hurricane hit areas.

The White House has said that it would make multiple requests for aid from Congress to fund the Harvey recovery effort. White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert told reporters on Thursday aid funding requests would come in stages as more became known about the impact of the storm.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said that his state may need more than $125 billion.