October 2021 \ Interviews \ Interview - Social and Philanthropic Space
“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

Sewa International distributed 950 school kits across various schools in Karnataka as the schools reopened


You are also the Secretary-General of the Antar-Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad. How do you mesh that position with your work at Sewa International?

Both Sewa International and Antar-Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad work with the Indian Diaspora, serving the Diaspora as well as the society and underprivileged communities in India. Primarily, Sewa International works as a do-tank with grassroots work for humanitarian causes, while ARSP works as a think-tank to generate knowledge and create meaningful partnerships between Diaspora, civil society in India and Government of India. This is highly complementary in nature.

Sewa International encourages diaspora to serve the local communities in their respective countries in various dimensions and the Antar-Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad, with its decades of experience of working with the diaspora, engages with the Diaspora organizations in various countries- both PIO and NRI, understands their challenges and their expectations from their mother country, and tries to encourage the Indian government to address them or form policies according to their needs.

The activities of ARSP and Sewa International are complementary and mutually reinforcing in the interest of the diaspora and India. Thus, while serving the local communities in those countries through Sewa International, I get the feel of the challenges and the problems of the diaspora in those countries. ARSP interacts with Overseas Indian Affairs, MEA to work on those challenges. ARSP has a database of more than 600 Indian Diaspora organizations which then also work with Sewa International at a grassroot level in those countries during calamities and needs.

Have diaspora Indians served their local populations, or even other diaspora organizations, through Sewa International?

Maintaining a tightly knit diaspora, and inspiring the spirit of ‘sewa’ has been one of the most important agendas of Sewa International. Members of the diaspora who get associated with us do so because they have an inclination towards the dharmic principles of selfless service which is why serving their local populations and communities comes naturally to them.

For instance, in the UK, 3500+ volunteers got together and sourced and donated 1.5 million worth of food. In the USA, 750,000 people have been served and $15 million worth of food and medical supplies have been distributed. In Bangladesh, 3000+ families were supported through relief kits and masks, 100+ families received flood support kits in Sri Lanka and a total of 57,218 beneficiaries received health services in Trinidad and Tobago including 25000+ vaccinations donated by the Government of India to Sewa T & T. In Kenya, every year 5 million+ hot meals are served and 20,000 children have received support for education.

As mentioned, Sewa International has teams and volunteers in 25+ countries, across 5 continents and contributes massively to the development of areas where the volunteers are placed.

This is also well reflected in the recent letter of gratitude by Joe Biden (President, United States) for Sewa International USA. Sewa International has been recognised with an exceptional 4-star rating (highest rating) with Charity Navigator in the USA, which is the most reputed rating system for non-profits.

In what way would you view Sewa International as an instrument for soft power diplomacy?

Sewa International is a global movement, rooted in the Indian principles of ‘Sewa’ & “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” serving selflessly believing the whole world is one family.

Wherever we work, we serve the native communities. The Indian Diaspora has a much better understanding of the native culture, problems of their respective regions and countries and help by providing food to the homeless, serving fruits and other health consumables to hospitals during Indian festivals and help resolve issues related to the environment by hosting awareness programs, planting trees, providing school kits to children, conducting after school tution classes. Intense back and forth communication with these communities occurs at regular intervals that help us get a better picture of the circumstances and keep the communities and inter-connectivity amongst the Diaspora intact. Better relations with local communities are formed and maintained, all the while promoting the Indian values of selfless service. This generates immense respect and understanding in the local communities for India, and deepens their emotional bond with India. Even the second-generation NRIs feel a sense of belonging and security because of the comfort and assurance provided by the network of volunteers and Sewa team members throughout the globe. Serving people without exploitation, without religious conversion, without any self interest are some of the major principles that lay the foundation of all of our initiatives.

Also, given that the Indian diaspora is the most successful Diaspora world over, a major part of the Diaspora being very well positioned, doing well economically and serving beyond just paying taxes, are encouraged by being involved in charity activity conducted by Sewa International. This generates goodwill for India- Indian society and helps maintain a positive connection with India, even at the highest levels of leadership in those nations. With many Indian origin parliamentarians globally, these sewa activities also generate a positive outlook for a rising India, and hence contribute to India’s soft power.