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Organizations join forces for Bhutanese seniors

September 2010
Organizations join forces for Bhutanese seniors

The Senior Citizens Program (SCP), Shakti Mandir, and SEWA International USA (SEWA) independently organize numerous events during the year and offer a variety of opportunities to get involved and make a positive difference in our respective communities. What if such partners join hands? This can-do attitude was in evidence when the three organizations hosted a Senior Citizen event at the Shakti Mandir in Lake City, south of Atlanta, on a hot July 18, 2010 to honor the Bhutanese seniors and other seniors, with the purpose of benefitting the Bhutanese refugee community.

After the Nepali speaking people or Lhotshampas of southern Bhutan were targeted in 1985 by the Bhutanese government trying to enforce its western Drukpa culture on all citizens, political repression led to an exodus. Refugee camps appeared in Nepal, then Australia, Canada, Europe, and the U.S. The figure of 30,000 refugees in the U.S. is expected to double by 2012, according to a SEWA- USA report.

Rallying for the relief efforts for the Bhutanese, Hindu organizations such as SEWA USA, The Hindu Temple of Atlanta, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad have worked since 2006 in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Swadesh Khatoch of SEWA USA explains that “Bhutanese migrants still have miles to go before they can overcome the overwhelming cultural and economic constraints. ?[C]hallenges ? cannot be completely addressed by the well-meaning government alone, but by a concerted effort and constant assistance by the diverse communities, especially Hindu communities of Georgia, towards the education, housing, transportation and employment needs of the Bhutanese migrants.”

After an aarthi by the priest of the Shakti Mandir, seniors participated in chanting of spiritual songs (kirtans and bhajans) led by community activist and attorney Neera Bahl, accompanied by social activist Sunny Thakker on drums (dholak). Lunch for the 250 seniors, including 150 Bhutanese from 10 apartment complexes, was facilitated by volunteers Ashwin Patel, Bhiku Patel, and others of the Shakti Mandir team. Vans for transportation were courtesy of Bobby Patel of Shakti Mandir and SEWA-USA officials.

The highlight of the event was the bazaar organized by the SCP to benefit the Bhutanese with clothes, household goods and other basic necessities in their time of need. Clothing donations had come from the Sindhi Sabha of Atlanta, Asha Advani and Meenakshi Bhatia, and many anonymous donors. A computer was donated by Girish Modi, a senior himself. Raj Razdan, Executive Director of the SCP, also acknowledged the work of Shakti Mandir; Art of Living volunteers; cosponsors Dr. Jaimini and Madhavi Dave; SCP volunteers Shashi Sidhaye, Nalini Bhindi, Jyoti Dama, Bharti Patel, Ranjan Patel, and many others; and SEWA-USA officials Swadesh Katoch, Srikanth Konda, Surya Jilludimudi, and Rakesh Pathak.

“This joint effort showcased how individuals can and should join hands ? in a happy and cohesive collaboration for a noble cause,” Razdan concluded.

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