HACSI was very involved in the welfare of Bhutanese refugees who had been resettled in the Washington-Baltimore region through International Relief Council. The families which were predominantly Hindus left Bhutan as refugees and lived in UNHCR –sponsored refugee camps. USA granted asylum to 60,000 + refugees, of which about 1,750 were settled in the Washington-Baltimore region starting during 2009-2012 period
HACSI supported the refugee families in the following areas:
- Donated groceries, clothing and cooking utensils to new arrivals;
- Donated school supplies and back packs
- Organized job fairs and intercede with local employers to locate employment opportunities to refugee families;
- Provided monetary assistance for a limited number of young people to obtain driver education and driver licenses to facilitate employment;
- Provided free six-week computer education program for students and seniors of all ages; Donated computers to school-going children;
- Conducted periodical health fairs for free medical check-ups, flu-shots for children and seniors;
- Organized monthly sat sanghs to provide a venue for the Bhutanese families to keep in touch with their religious and cultural heritage.
Happily, by now, most of the Bhutanese are able to take care of themselves. Many have migrated to other parts of USA to be closer to their relatives. HACSI remains a friend of the Bhutanese community, helping it to maintain its religious and cultural links. Recently, the leaders of the community have requested HACSI assistance in helping members of the community to apply for US citizenship. HACSI is exploring ways in which this assistance can be organized.
- Inter-faith Educational Outreach
One of HACSI’s aims is to encourage a balanced presentation of Indic religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism), so as to remove some of the stereo-typical views about these faiths contained in some of the school text books used in US.
HACSI’s efforts in this regard consist of:
- Funding the distribution of the PBS documentary ‘Asian and Abrahamic religions: A divine Encounter in America’ produced by Auteur productions, an award-winning documentary- maker with assistance from several HACSI volunteers. This documentary is now being broadcast over several PBS stations nationwide. HACSI has presented the DVD with a Teaching Guide to 350 high schools in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Auteur is currently preparing a program to conduct a series of workshops in major US metropolitan areas with the help of National Council of Social Studies experts to train Social Studies teachers in the use of the documentary and the study guide in their classrooms. Council of Hindu Temples of North America has provided $25,000 as seed money for Phase 1 of the training program costing $75,000. A few individuals interested in interfaith education have provided $26,500 to HACSI to support this effort. These funds will be disbursed in installments as the project progresses.
- Teaching about Religions (TAR) is a publication of Interfaith Conference (IFC) of Metropolitan Washington. TAR discusses the beliefs and practices of eleven major religions of the world. To ensure authenticity, each chapter on a religion is prepared by scholars/practitioners of that religion and reviewed by IFC for objectivity. D.C. Rao, a director of IFC has spearheaded the TAR efforts. HACSI has earmarked $5,000 towards IFC’s efforts to disseminate its STAR publications, of which $3,000 was distributed in 2014. Additionally, HACSI provided $5,000 to IFC in May 2013 to strengthen IFC’s overall budgetary resources.
- Digitization of Hindu Manuscripts and Publications
- The goal of the digitization project led by Sri Ajit Gargeswari (AG) of Bengaluru is to preserve and conserve manuscripts and publications related to Hindu religion, tradition, culture and language from becoming unavailable to current and future generations. For this, AG has been focusing on private and public collections with individuals and institutions for digitization using advanced devices and techniques.
- Phase 1 Accomplishments: In the first phase (Sept ’17 – March 2018) funded by the members of HACSI, funding was provided to update the equipment critical for quality digitization, archiving, indexing and sharing. Under this funding, around 1,250,000 INR was provided in the form of donations in USD and INR. AG has utilized this amount along with 80,000 INR from his own resources for infrastructure upgrade (camera, scanner, computer hardware and other accessories) to implement a mobile workflow in which the equipment can be carried to the location of the book collections if needed.
- Under the Phase 1 of the HACSI support, specific institutions in Bengaluru area are being served including R.K. Mutt and Samskruta Bharathi libraries while planning for the Karnataka Samskruta University and Vidya Peetha libraries are being developed. More than 300 books have been digitized thus far.
HACSI is presently working with Sri Ajit Gargeswari on Phase 2 of this project.