Awards and Recognition For Hindu American Community Service Inc.
In 2013 HACSI received two prestigious awards for its community service activities. On May 22, 2013 Interfaith Conference (IFC) presented HACSI with its Bridge Builder Award for its contribution to the interfaith activities and the community service provided by HACSI, irrespective of the color or community, race or religion. India abroad wrote an article “Prestigious honor for all-volunteer desi organization in capital area”. HACSI received the Social Service award from National Federation of Indian Americans on June 7, 2013. The award was given to HACSI for mobilizing the “spirit of giving” of Hindu Americans to assist those in the local community, who find themselves in adverse circumstances. While HACSI does not perform any community service activity expecting any recognition or reward, these publicities help HACSI’s mission of encouraging more Hindu Americans to perform Community services to the local community.
Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington presented HACSI the “ Bridge Builder Award”
Every year, the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington recognizes individuals and organizations in the capital area making significant contributions to building awareness and appreciation for the different faith communities in our area. The service of hundreds of HACSI volunteers to feed the homeless, and the other educational activities of HACSI were judged by IFC to be such bridge building activities. On May 22, 2013, at an event held at the American University, IFC presented HACSI with its Bridge Builder Award for its contribution to the interfaith activities and the community service provided by HACSI, irrespective of the color or community, race or religion.
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.
- HACSI has presented this DVD with a Teaching Guide to 350 high schools in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. In fact, the production of the documentary was funded by the directors and volunteers of HACSI.
- HACSI has donated funds to improve IFC’s website, and to support production and marketing of STAR – Strengthened Teaching about Religions, an IFC publication..
HACSI is now serving more than 100,000 meals every year to needy in the Washington Metropolitan area.
In the award acceptance speech, K.G. Venkatraman (Ramani) said the following: Service to the needy is the real Bridge among various communities.
“Hinduism is not a religion. It is a way of life. It is originally known as Sanathana Dharma. It means Eternal Way of life. My knowledge of scriptures and rituals are very limited. But I was taught in my school at the young age, that the goal is one but the paths are many. There is only one God. We all call it differently. God has no form but can take any form. He is Omnipresent, Omni potent and Omniscient. One of the core principles of Hinduism or Sanathana Dharma is to help the needy. It is a universal belief in all religions. We all believe the Service to Humanity is Service to God. Service or Seva has no religion or color or ethnicity barrier.
When we help the people in Oklahoma affected by the tornado or help the people in New Jersey and New York affected by the storm Sandy or feed the people suffering from hunger in Africa it is a service to God. It is through these services we can unite the various generations, communities, countries, Religions, and faith groups. We see God in every living being. As our Guru Dayanadha Saraswathi says “It is not that there is one God, it is that there is only God everywhere. If we take that approach and serve each other lot of the problems in the world can be solved and there will be eternal peace and Prosperity and bliss. Hence service to the needy is the Real Bridge among the various communities, countries and various religions and faith groups. I would like to conclude by saying that it is not only essential to build this bridge of service but also essential to maintain it forever.”
National Federation of Indian Americans (NAIF) presented HACSI the : Social Service Award”
HACSI received the Social Service award from National Federation of Indian American on June 7, 2013. The award was given to HACSI for mobilizing the “spirit of giving” of Hindu Americans to assist those in the local community, who find themselves in adverse circumstances.
In their award citation, NAIF said:
“Within a short span of its existence, HACSI has become a significant player in feeding the homeless in the Washington Metropolitan area, supporting the Bhutanese refugees resettled under the international rehabilitation program, and sending care packages to Hindu soldiers serving in the US military. HACSI has set aside funds to help members of Hindu Community who face financial emergencies such as death and protracted illness and donated funds to conduct events Diwali, Holi, Sri Krishna Janmashtami in Walter Reed and Pentagon. HACSI Encourages balance 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 USA.”
India Abroad article about HACSI and its award
India Abroad article about HACSI is reproduced.
DC Central Kitchen Annual Book
Recognizing the valuable contribution of Hindu Americans, DC Central kitchen featured HACSI in its annual book.
Local organization highlighting a trend in Hindu American community service
At a time when more Hindu Americans are engaging in community service and interfaith dialogue, Hindu American service organizations have begun establishing themselves in cities and regions across the country.
Hindu American Community Services Inc. (HACSI) is a relatively new organization, having started seven years ago as an independent offshoot of the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, Maryland. However, in that time, HACSI has become a force in fighting hunger and homelessness, while providing education and employment opportunities for low-income groups, including the Bhutanese Hindu refugee population. HACSI co-founder Ram Nagula notes that the group’s effectiveness and growth in such a short time is due to its volunteers, since it is a solely volunteer-run organization.
While HACSI started as a way of helping the homeless and providing resettlement services for the roughly 1750 or so Bhutanese Hindu refugees living in the Baltimore-DC region, Nagula notes that its scope has expanded. He credits the organization’s growth to its ability to mobilize volunteers.
“Very quickly we learned that constant communication is the hallmark of any voluntary organization, ” he said. “We had to motivate and organize multiple groups to provide food for homeless at D.C. Kitchen. The result now is that some 30 community groups – temples, social organizations, dance schools – are affiliated with HACSI in preparing 4,500 meals a day on 24 days in a year there. Similarly when we provide a health fair and flu shot program for Bhutanese refugees, multiple groups of volunteers consisting of physicians, lab people and pharmacy personnel have to be coordinated.”
Such coordination has been critical in engaging American born Hindus in the DC area, especially those who are not regular attendees at temples. Instead, the practice of selfless service, or seva, has helped HACSI draw from a large volunteer pool. Nagula said this has become critical for Hindu Americans to become integrated into their larger communities, and for Hindu organizations to become more viable as first points of call and assistance.
“This is a positive phenomenon among Hindu Americans who are enthused about providing seva,” he said. “It is much more so among the young and second generation Hindu Americans. The affiliation of several community associations with HACSI, many of them engaged in community service for the first time under HACSI’s auspices, augurs well for their enhanced engagement in seva activities.”
HACSI has been recognized by the local interfaith community for its work in helping others. The Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan DC awarded them with their prestigious Bridgebuilder Award in 2013.
As HACSI seeks to grow in order to meet increased demands, Nagula noted it will be important for community members to invest in this seva. HACSI’s success is likely to spur other local Hindu American organizations to replicate the seva model in other cities around the country.