The New England community leaders organized a virtual meet on November 2nd as part of the 2nd annual meeting of the Indo-American Leadership Forum. Due to the pandemic, the event was held online but the agenda was just as robust. More than 35 community organizations came together for this virtual meet. The event was kicked off by Shri Vikas Deshpande (a volunteer with Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh), one of the organizers of the Leadership Forum. Shri Vikas Deshpande welcomed everyone and set the pace of the meet by sharing the philosophy behind the Indo Leadership Forum and how it will show the strength of the Indian community in times of need. Shri Nilesh Agrawal, a volunteer with the Dharma Center of America, welcomed the Honorary Consulate General of India, Shri Randhir Jaiswal who greeted all the community leaders and provided his guidance. Shri Jaiswal spoke to the strength of the community and provided updates related to administrative changes in the Consular process. Randhir ji, also talked about the increased responsibility of the Indian community to give back to the society in these difficult times. He appreciated all the work the various organizations are doing and also urged them to think collectively of innovative ways to support a section of the Indian society that needs more help – single parents, families facing challenging domestic issues, among others. His comments were certainly thought provoking and provided direction on areas where the Leadership forum can work collectively.
Our guest speaker, Shri Urgen ji Sherpa, who is the President of the United Sherpa Association, spoke of the history and contribution of the Nepalese, Tibetan and Buddhist communities in the US and their contributions to the COVID-19 relief efforts. He inspired one and all with narration of the monumental work efforts by the communities despite its limited presence and appealed to the self-motivation that individuals need to bring during difficult times to step up and give back. Shri Hetal Joshi, Founder, Academy of Creative arts, represented the audience and moderated a Q&A session with Urgen ji.
Shri Arun Kankani ji, President of Sewa International, the largest Hindu charitable organization in the US, shared his thoughts on the spirit of volunteering. He talked about the incredible work done by Sewa International across the US, whether it is providing meals and food to the needy or counseling on mental health issues. Shri Ramakrishna Penumarthy, President, Telugu Association of Greater Boston, wonderfully consolidated the many questions from the audience for Shri Kankani and asked him about Sewa’s International’s efforts and challenges during the pandemic.
Dr. Yogesh Rathi, a Professor at Harvard Medical School, and a volunteer with the Dharma Center of America, moderated the last segment of the forum and discussed the Sewa Diwali project, an initiative to serve the community by means of a food drive in the spirit of Diwali celebrations. He suggested that community leaders come together for this US wide food drive to support the society in the coming winter months. An overwhelming response of interest for participation was the high note which concluded the virtual meet. Smt Suman Garhwal, a volunteer with Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) was the moderator for the 1.5 hr long meet while Shri Nilesh Agrawal, provided the technical coordination and managed a smooth flow of the event. A video compilation of all the participating organizations was put together by Nilesh Agarwal and certainly was the best way to get to know the efforts of all organizations in a short event. Suman Garhwal delivered the vote of thanks to all attendees with next steps to continue the engagement and work with all the organizations (listed below) for future initiatives.