“We serve selflessly, believing the whole world is one family”
Mr. Shyam Parande, Global Coordinator, Sewa International and Secretary General, Antar-Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad, speaks to India Empire Magazine on the pioneering global role of Sewa International in mobilizing the Indian diaspora to carry out selfless service for thousands of affected persons, especially at the height of the second wave of the C-19 pandemic
Please give us an overview of Sewa International. Is it run primarily by Overseas Indians and NRIs?
Twenty eight years back, post the Latur (Maharashtra) earthquake (1993), a group of members of the Indian diaspora decided to come forward to reach out to the victims in India. What then began as a movement for the diaspora to serve their native community back in India, resulted into a non-profit organization in 1997 as it set up its base in New Delhi, to effectively serve the disaster-affected communities in India with active support of the Indian diaspora.
As we stand in 2021, we are fortunate to have the movement spreading in 25+ countries so far. With overseas Indians and NRIs leading the movement in their respective countries as independent Sewa International units, we are currently serving the local population across all 5 continents in the world. Each country unit has its own independent registration, designated team members and volunteers who look after the operations of that particular country.
From the President of the United States recently thanking Sewa International USA for the vaccination efforts, to the government of Australia sharing their biggest COVID-19 grant (non-profit) to us, we have been active across the globe, driving the spirit of ‘sewa’ or selfless service for humanitarian causes.
We understand that Sewa International coordinated the maximum possible relief, among any single Overseas Indian entity, during the ongoing C-19 pandemic. Can you kindly throw some light on this?
The COVID-19 second wave was a disaster like no other. Impacting the entire length and breadth of India, the impact goes much deeper in the mental and psychological health of the entire nation. With the scale of the loss of lives and livelihood, the volunteers of Sewa also globally coordinated to drive one of the biggest crowd-funding initiatives for resources, and massive volunteer mobilization for ground-work.
During the second wave, we distributed more than 10,000 oxygen concentrators, 1,70,000+ food kits and our trucks traveled more than 2,49,950 km across the country to deliver the medical equipment, approximately 6 times the length of the equator.
Even beyond the immediate relief efforts, we have been active in the rehabilitation of families post the wave. With a large number of families losing their breadwinners, immediate action was needed to support them. We realized that the best way to strengthen the nation in these times of distress would be to hand-hold these families and children to get back up and become independent, giving them hope and strength for a better future.
To do the same, we introduced SHE-CAF and SaC-CAF (sanitisation, hygiene, and empowerment-Covid affected families, sponsor a child-Covid affected families) to support women and children, respectively.
Currently, we are in the process of distributing diagnostic equipment to almost 1,00,000 villages under our project ‘Mission Niramayah’ and have also started a free telemedicine service called SAATH to prepare in case of a third wave, and improve India’s public health systems.