The Hindu Students Association (HSA) was represented at the Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC) Conference hosted at the White House on July 29-31 by Board of Director Rashi Jawade, Esq., Executive Branch President Shashi Dongur, and University of Houston Branch Representative Shivani Agrawal. “Seva is not something you have. Seva is something you do” was the topic of discussion at the opening panel of the HASC Conference. Seva can be done in many ways and the HASC conference showed its attendees how interfaith seva initiatives could be used as a medium to help Hindus and America grow as a community. The conference, coordinated by HASC founder Anju Bhargava, had one underlying message: inspire youth leaders to create an interfaith dialogue that could be used to make a difference in today’s society.
The HASC conference, with its amazingly varied and inspirational lineup of panelists and speakers, successfully helped this movement move forward. Paul Montero, Associate Director at the White House Office of Public Engagement, spoke about the effectiveness of faith-based organizations and how fast they can bring change to an economically, emotionally or spiritually upset community because faith- based organizations rely on volunteering and have faster execution period. According to Joshua Stanton, Co-Director of Religious Freedom USA, faith can bring confidence and strength in people, which in return brings the community together. These are just two of the many incidents where the audience was inspired to take part in many volunteering activities across the country.
The HASC conference highlighted a unique and often forgotten insight into a topic rarely discussed at most Hindu events: the hardships faced by families of Hindus in the United States armed forces. Uma Chaudhary, wife of Lieutenant Colonel Ravi Chaudhary, spoke about how military families feel like outsiders in their own communities because of the constant relocation they go through. She asked the attendees to work with their temples and make a conscientious effort to reach out to military families in their areas. Touched by their plight, two conference attendees offered to take on a seva initiative to send care packages with a “Hindu touch” to those who are deployed so that they can feel a sense of home while in another country.
As the number of Hindu youth continues to grow in the fabric of America, it is imperative for them to have a platform for their voice. HSA commends HASC for being able to create one such platform for organizations and individuals to come together and learn about various seva initiatives. HSA came out of the conference with a renewed insight into the seva work done by leaders across the country and was able to take advantage of the opportunity to initiate dialogue with key players such as Paul Monteiro, Associate Director for the White House Office of Public Engagement. The three HSA leaders that attended the conference hope to work with HASC to empower the Hindu youth through seva and to cultivate and foster cross-cultural dialogue and interaction on domestic issues pertaining to Hindus. An essential way for us to grow as individuals and truly be effective youth Hindu leaders is to partake in groundbreaking initiatives like the HASC conference. HSA encourages all its members to take advantage of opportunities, such as the HASC Conference, to venture outside their branches and communities and truly be part of a national movement. As Lieutenant Colonel Ravi Chaudhary said, “If I follow the path of dharma, the rest will take care of itself.”