September 06, 2005
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Hurricane Katrina has been an extraordinary human disaster. It is the
responsibility of every citizen of the world to respond to the resultant
human tragedy with any form of help possible.
Such a response is
what sanaatana dharma (eternal dharma) is all about. Dharma is an ordering
principle. Such activities are referred to as seva in the languages of
India. Selfless-service is the purest form of yoga where every aatman
seeks out the paramaatman through seva. This seeking out is yoga. Culture
is an automatic pattern of good behavior. This is dharma in action. This
is what Andre Gide said in French: l'acte gratuite, unmotivated action.
This is what is seen in the actions of relief organizations described
below. I and all members of my family join all families of America,
offering prayers for America, with tears in our eyes. May dharma protect
America. It is heartening to note that the following organizations, IDRF,
HSS, American Red Cross are engaging in this dharma in action.
India Development and Relief Fund
The IDRF operates on
the simple principle that “Service to Humanity is Service to God”. In
1999, IDRF was effective in helping us get assistance to the families of
Indian soldiers who died in protecting India from global terrorism in the
snowy heights of Kargil. In 2001, IDRF sent $25000 to the families of New
York firefighters who died trying to save the victims in the World Trade
Center terrorist attack. Known for quiet effectiveness, both in swift
emergency response and long-term support for grassroots reconstruction
projects that empower the local people, IDRF provided the means for
Indian-Americans to deliver effective relief and rehabilitation following
such mega-disasters as the Orissa Cyclone, the Gujarat earthquake, and t
organization’s tsunami relief efforts from Dec.26, 2004 onwards, are seen
at this page. Now they are collecting funds to help neighbors hit by the
hurricane and flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi. From :
“Our volunteers in
Baton Rouge, LA are working with American Red Cross and local voluntary
organizations to assist in providing relief efforts. There is a need for
long term rehabilitation and all your contributions will be directed to
the grass roots organizations.”
One of the
organizations that IDRF uses in India to deliver reliable, effective
support to the grassroots is Sewa International. Sewa can also be reached
through the HSS. From their Press Release:
The Hindu Swayamsevak
Sangh has designated Amit Misra,
firstname.lastname@example.org as contact
for relief activities.
All 90 chapters of HSS
in the US are helping through collecting donations, canned foods, cookies,
crackers, bottled water, juices, medical supplies and blankets. HSS
requests all monetary contributions directed to Sewa International or
American Red Cross. Dozens of volunteers from Houston, including children
attending several Balagokulams, have already started the collection. The
HSS office at Keshav Smrithi, 4018 Westhollow Pkwy, Houston, TX 77082 has
been designated as the contact point for all relief efforts.
HSS is working with
authorities in Houston in meeting the immediate needs of the displaced
people arriving from New Orleans. The government officials and American
Red Cross have opened various shelters in Houston. HSS volunteers will
serve in these local Red
Cross shelters in
Houston and other area. Volunteers are also coordinating with other
shelters and motels, which have become temporary homes for victims.
Volunteers are also contacting
them to contribute their time and medical supplies and businesses to
provide material help.
American Red Cross:
“The American Red
Cross, with support of the worldwide Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement,
is launching a Web site and hotline to help assist family members who are
seeking news about loved ones living in the path of Hurricane Katrina.”
Various contact and
volunteer participation mechanisms are given on the Red Cross website. One
of the resources they operate is the
Family News Network of
the International Committee of the Red Cross
Here are some
suggestions from their site, valid for all disasters: Volunteers coming in
contact with the survivors should especially help the survivors in this:
“With widespread power
and communications outages and roads under water, it’s important to go
back to communication basics to ensure that your family and friends know
you are safe:
out of town contact to let them know you are safe.
to spread the word to your family and friends.
sure your contact lives far enough away that they are not affected by the
assured that emergency responders are working as quickly as possible and
are doing all that they can to help those affected.
that storms mean power outages and downed phone lines. Please keep trying
and be patient.
lines are often overwhelmed after a disaster. Try sending an email if you
can—sometimes email works when phones don’t.”
“American Red Cross
disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time
and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands
of disasters across the country each year by making a financial gift to
the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross
to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to those in
need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Donations are also
being accepted at Coinstar machines at select grocery stores across
America. To find the nearest Coinstar machine, visit www.coinstar.com.
Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to your local
American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P. O. Box 37243,
Washington, DC 20013. Internet users can make a secure online contribution
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