Summer 2009 Call to Serve

On June 22, 2009, President Obama called on Americans to participate in the nation’s recovery and renewal by serving communities. This clarion call to serve resonated culturally and spiritually with the community.  Many Hindu Americans united and expanded their ongoing diverse seva projects.

For the first time, the diverse Hindu community was nationally mobilized, largely through word-of-mouth and mass emailings, to serve collectively.  There is no Hindu American central leadership.  (Gurus and Swamis lead some Hindu sansthas (congregations) and temples are managed independently). However, service is the common aspect for all which brings many Hindu Americans together.  Hence, Hindu community leaders immediately came forth to augment the call to serve by leveraging their networks. 

 Temples, ashrams, spiritual and professional organizations from coast to coast increased the ongoing seva projects they normally undertake.  Over 120 "Seva Centers" supported the United We Serve campaign.  Thousands of volunteers undertook considerably more than 1,300* humanitarian seva projects and performed without outside assistance.  (*Undercount as some were significantly large projects).

 O people! Those of you who have attained higher, middle or lower status in your respective fields of work, enjoy the wealth thus gained together as one. With the resources for the production of material goods at your disposal, dedicate your life to eradicate the evils of society and strive at all times for the well-being of the people.      Rig Veda 5.60.6

 Hindu American Seva Charities[1] coordinated the groundbreaking national seva initiative, majority of which were interfaith collaboration. This mobilization is a start to bring the community together for service.  We hope to continue the coordinated seva efforts.

HASC was developed with the guidance of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. OFBNP provided a context, a voice and learning opportunities to bridge the gap between the U.S. government and Hindu/Dharmic institutions[2].

 Primary objectives of Hindu American Seva Charities are to:

 1.      Support and encourage millions of Hindu Americans to volunteer, build and strengthen all American Communities through seva nationally and at grass roots levels


2.      Provide broader exposure and promote development of coalitions/ partnerships of "Seva Centers" (Community Service Centers - stand alone or part of temples) to accomplish common goals and address community needs.


The ultimate goal is to strengthen the infrastructure capacity of the seva component of the Hindu and Dharmic community. 

Poverty reduction was the primary focus of the Hindu and Dharmic American organizations who participated in the summer of 2009; through: soup kitchens in local churches, fundraising walk-a-thons, holiday meals, building homes, clothing and shoe drives, care packages and free hotel/motel rooms for U.S. soldiers and homeless, prison yoga, educational forums on home foreclosures/preservation and stimulus package strategies for survival, etc.[3]

The Hindu Organization of Long Island conducted food drives for the community and provided to the Interfaith Nutrition Network.  Vedic Cultural Center of Sammamish, WA runs a free restaurant where people pay or do not pay according to their means.  Chinmaya Vrindavan made meal baskets for individuals and families. Hindu Temple of Minnesota gave food to 300 people in Sharing and Caring Hands, in downtown Minneapolis.  Arsha Vidya Gurukulam starting collecting food cans mid-July and within 4 weeks was the larger provider to its local food bank. MA Math held hundreds of seva projects from cleaning highways in Alabama to soup kitchens.

 Many such projects to alleviate the economic impact (described in more detail in the interview section) were initiated by Jain Mission, Bala Vikas in Virginia, Allentown Hindu Temple, Anoopam Mission, Arya Samaj, ISKCON, Barsana Dham, Badarikashram Center, Dada Vaswani Center, DRSA in NJ, Laksmi-Narayan Spiritual Organization in California, Asian American Hotel Owners Association, and others[4].

Health camps are traditionally organized on a regular basis in temples. For the first time on a national basis, synchronized health events for the uninsured Americans were held primarily on August 1-2. Thousands of physicians, nurses, and individuals provided comprehensive Health Fairs with medical screening presentations[5].  American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and National Association of Indian Nurses of America participated across the country.

 South Asian Total Health Initiative (SATHI)[6] prepared health presentations for the United we Serve campaign with UMDNJ students. These were shown at most temples. Comprehensive health fairs were held by the Sai Center in Atlanta, Hindu Society of North East Florida, Durga Temple, Indian Association of Western Washington, Ganesh temple NY, and others.

 The Durga Temple of Virginia holds a monthly health clinic. The monthly preventative health clinic is for insured and the uninsured and serves to raise awareness among the community of heart attack problems; blood pressure; cholesterol.

 Along with the Indo American Medical Association of North-East Florida, the Hindu Society of Florida provided a health day this summer which included health screening, education, blood testing and ECG for high-risk participants and evaluation in different medical specialties with 30 to 40 doctors and health care providers.

 During the summer of 2009, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha conducted over 450 health-care related projects at over 30 different locations around the U.S. Comprehensive Health Fairs for screening and diagnosis of needy populations were instituted at 27 locations, with a total of 1,718 doctors and healthcare providers offering voluntary service to screen a total of 9,422 patients. Medical professionals provided individual counseling in Internal Medicine, Dentistry, Cardiology, Ophthalmology, Gastroenterology, Endocrinology, Orthopedics, Dermatology, Pediatrics, Podiatry, Neurology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Physical Therapy, Urology and many more.  BAPS also organized Blood Drives at 13 centers collecting 637 units of blood which will help save up to 1911 lives. A total of 7 Health Awareness Lectures organized at 50 locations, helped educate hundreds of people on health problems which Hindu-Americans are at high risk, such as diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, etc. 


See section on interviews for more examples of seva…


Youth volunteers took a lead role and worked on improving the environment to clean and clear roadsides, beaches, parks, and plant trees in the community.  Education projects included filling backpacks with school supplies for low-income children. Volunteers visited ailing elderly.


 Many assisted Bhutanese refugees in adapting to America.  Sewa International with Hindu Temple of Minnesota, AIM for Seva,  and others are helping them meet the most pressing needs financial assistance, employment, and basic material needs and providing support to help them make the transition to the new land.

 Interfaith dialogues were held throughout the country to improve understanding. To illustrate, the Siva Vishnu Temple in Washington DC hosted a discussion where each faith Christian (Presbyterian, Orthodox, Baptist, Methodist, Quaker;) Jewish, Sikh, Jain, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha’i, Hindu addressed their role on "Fasting and Feasting" during Ramadan.  World Council of Religious Leaders[7] convened a Hindu-Jewish Summit in New York and Washington D.C. with American Jewish Committee and Hindu Acharya Sabha in 2009.

.As demonstrated, the New Americans strive to become integrated in all aspects of American life.  They see that temples in America play a major role in communal life and are becoming a focal point for religious and cultural activities and now for growing social services, a destination place for children and adults. 

[1] Hindu American Seva Charities

[2] White House Initiative-APA Outreach by Anju Bhargava, Community Builder Fellow

[3] India Abroad -

[4] Survey of Summer 2009 Activities -

[5] Hindu Americans Respond to President Obama's Call to Service

[6] South Asian Total Health Initiative – 

[7] World Council of Religious Leaders