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Latest News USA

USICOC to ship ventilators, medical supplies to help India fight Covid-19

Texas: The US India Chamber of Commerce (USICOC) Foundation and its partner organizations are shipping 50 ventilators to India, besides other medical supplies, to help the country fight the deadly second wave of Covid-19.

The foundation made arrangements to ship 20 ventilators on Tuesday. It will send 30 more in the next few days.

These ventilators will be released to the Indian Red Cross Society in New Delhi for distribution to hospitals and field teams in hard-hit areas, the USICOC said.

It added that the ventilators are battle-tested and are in use in several countries throughout the world.

The Chambers of Commerce, which normally facilitates trade between the two countries, joined forces with the Texas Indian-American population to help the humanitarian crisis back home.

Neel Gonuguntla, president of the USICOC DFW, Jagdip Ahluwalia, founding secretary and executive director of Indo-American Chamber of Greater Houston (IACCGH), and Padma Sri Ashok Mago, founding chairman of the USICOC, teamed up to lead the efforts through the USICOC Foundation.

They raised funds from the Indian-American community to provide critical medical equipment like oxygen cylinders, concentrators, generators and ventilators to India.

“We are happy to help India in every way that we can during this time of extreme need,” said Mago, who helped to coordinate many of the necessary funds for the effort.

Aluwalia said they were coordinating with hospitals, NGOs, medical schools and government bodies in India to make sure the equipment was reaching trained professionals, who can put it to immediate use.

Consul General of India in Houston, Aseem Mahajan, has been guiding and facilitating with the logistics part, Ahluwalia said.

Some of the groups which have responded to the initiative include the Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, Alumni group of Texas, the Ismaili Jamatkhana, Sugarland and the Dawoodi Bohra community, Houston.

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Latest News USA

WMC Houston Youth & Student Forum announces their first project ‘Giving back to our community’

World Malayalee council Houston province Youth & Student Forum announced their first project “Giving back to our community.” The young leaders of WMC Houston province is collecting gently used clothes, toys, & shoes to give to the less fortunate members of the community.

“God has indeed blessed us through the most challenging times, our generation has ever faced through these years. We are thankful to God & to our parents for giving us more than what we need.” Houston province youth forum chair said. “So, we wanted to give back to our community some of our blessings.”

During this COVID pandemic crisis, we know of several members of the community who are going through rough times. Because of this, our team decided to come together & help them out by collecting even the least of the items they can donate to give it away. We also started the “Don’t break the chain” challenge to encourage and motivate other team members. After we collect these items, an adult WMC member will pick them up from their houses & transport them to the community. We plan to do it in two phases. The deadline for Phase I completion is February 20th, 2021 and the deadline for 2nd phase completion is March 20th, 2021,” Student forum chair said.

“As kids, we want to impart a positive impact on each one of us to promote generosity & bringing more meaning to our lives. Our humble request is to make this initiative successful. We are anticipating wholehearted support and collaboration from everyone to make this a great success.” The voice of all young members of Houston province WMC said together.

 

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Latest News New York

$100K grant from Elkins Foundation to Eternal Gandhi Museum

Houston: The Elkins Foundation, has provided a capital grant of $100,000 to Eternal Gandhi Museum Houston (EGMH) for the construction of the Museum.  It is the second major foundation after Houston Endowment to offer support to EGMH in the early stages of its capital campaign. “We are truly honored and sincerely express our gratitude to The Elkins Foundation for this magnanimous gesture to bring to life a unique civic asset to the cultural landscape of Houston,” EGHM said in a press release. 

Margaret Wiess Elkins and James A. Elkins, Jr. established The Elkins Foundation, in 1956 as a way to help strengthen and enrich the community in which they lived. Today, their descendants continue that work. Under the stewardship of Elise Elkins Joseph, Leslie Elkins Sasser, Virginia Arnold Elkins and an Associate Board representing the next generation, The Elkins Foundation contributes each year to numerous organizations serving Houston and the Greater Gulf Coast.

Eternal Gandhi Museum Houston (EGMH) is an initiative to preserve and continue the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi. The museum will be located in Houston, one of the most diverse cities in the United States. It will be the first ever museum dedicated to peace in the Americas. Its mission is to reinforce the universal values of Truth, Peace, Nonviolence, Love & Service.

EGMH (formerly known as Mahatma Gandhi Library), a 501(C)(3) entity, established in 2002, has undertaken the challenge of establishing a place-based arts initiative. The guiding principle for this project is to create—through the life and work of Gandhi—a thriving, vibrant educational organization aimed at changing the world through its visitors while creating a sustainable and successful new resource for the Greater Houston area. The museum will highlight various world leaders and their journeys depicting the power of peaceful resistance to settle conflicts nonviolently. The ultimate goal is to encourage visitors to embrace these values in their own lives and create positive force for social good.

To initiate this project, they have engaged a reputable museum consultant, with a Smithsonian background. The museum will include exhibits and interpretations that highlight the mission and vision. Additional consultants engaged for this project include a design and build museum firm, architect and an education consultant.

EGMH has acquired 3 acres of land in southwest Houston to house the museum and is launching a capital campaign. The proposed budget for construction is 6.5 million dollars as follows. The capital campaign has reached $ 2.9 million of the required $ 6.5 million. The EGMH Board of Trustees has committed $1.1 million and secured another $0.8 million in private donor commitments. The Houston Endowment Foundation recently awarded a capital grant of $500,000. A concerted fundraising campaign is underway through foundations, corporations and private donors to raise the remaining $3.6 million.

The exhibitions, experiences, and resources are designed to be relevant, timely, and globally focused. Informed by quantitative data and qualitative feedback, the museum programming will engage students and teachers to support the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the state standards for public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

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Latest News USA

Houston tollway renamed in memory of Indian American cop Dhaliwal

A portion of a tollway in Houston was renamed after Indian-American police officer Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal who was shot dead on duty during a traffic stop.

Dhaliwal, 42, was the first Sikh sheriff’s deputy in Harris county with a population of over 10,000 Sikhs. He made national headlines when he was allowed to grow a beard and wear a turban on the job.

He was gunned down in September last year while conducting a routine mid-day traffic stop in northwest of Houston.

Dhaliwal was scheduled to be promoted to a supervisor role where he would have mentored younger deputies on community policing. His death resonated across the US and the world and tributes to his memory continued with the renaming of a section of Beltway 8 tollway between Texas 249 and US 290 after him last week.

The Harris County Toll Road Authority put up the sign ‘HCSO Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Memorial Tollway’ near Texas 249 in the memory of the Indian-American police officer. A special ceremony was also performed at the Gurdwara Sikh National Centre on the occasion.

Dhaliwal, a father of three, joined the force 10 years back and was the state’s first law enforcement officer to receive permission to wear a religious turban and beard while on duty.

Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who hired Dhaliwal 10 years ago, said, I was honored to commemorate a section of the Beltway 8 as ‘Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Memorial Tollway’ to honor one of HC’s finest who paid the ultimate sacrifice. His family attended the ceremony.

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Latest News USA

A post office in Houston to be named after Sikh cop Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal

By The SATimes News Service

Washington, DC: The US House of Representatives has unanimously passed a legislation to name a post office in Houston after Indian-American police officer Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, who was gunned down in the line of duty a year ago.

The bipartisan legislation, Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Post Office Act, was co-sponsored by the entire Texas delegation on Monday.

“Deputy (Sheriff) Dhaliwal represented the very best of our community: he worked for equality, connection, and community through his life of service to others,” said Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher.

Dhaliwal, 42, the first observant Sikh in Texas police, was killed in the line of duty on September 27, 2019. In October of 2019, Fletcher led the entire Houston delegation in introducing H Res. 616, a resolution to honor the life and mourn the loss of Dhaliwal.

“Deputy Dhaliwal was widely regarded as a role model for Americans of all faiths, wishing to serve their communities. He was the first observant Sikh to serve in the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and he was also one of the first officers in Texas to receive a policy accommodation to practice his religion while serving as a police officer,” Fletcher said on the House floor Monday afternoon.

“The Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Post Office will serve as a permanent reminder of his service, his sacrifice, and his example for us all. I am grateful that my legislation to honor his memory has passed the House of Representatives today and is one step closer to being signed into law,” she said.

If signed into law, the post office will be the second to be named after an Indian-American. The first was named after the first Indian-American Congressman, Dalip Singh Saund, in Southern California in 2006.

The Deputy Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal Post Office Act now has to be passed by the Senate before it can be sent to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign into law.

Dhaliwal’s wife Harwinder Kaur welcomed the move. “Naming a post office after him will honor his work and dedication, and I am happy that this bill has passed the House today,” she said.

“My son was beloved by all in his community, and performed his job and participated in seva (selfless service) with respect, dignity, and care,” said his father Pyara Singh Dhaliwal.

“He lived as a symbol of the strength that comes from diversity and unity, and this building will serve as another permanent reminder of how much he meant to our family and the people of Houston. We are so thankful for this effort to honor his legacy and his commitment to our city,” he said.

The recognition of Dhaliwal’s legacy by naming a federal building in his honor is a historic and deeply meaningful acknowledgement for the family and the Sikh community, said Sim J Singh, Sikh Coalition Senior Manager of Policy and Advocacy.

In 2015, Lt. Dhaliwal became the first Sikh American in Texas to receive a policy accommodation to serve while wearing his articles of faith, including his turban and beard. (PTI)

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Latest News New York

Hindu Heritage Youth Camp Houston goes virtual this year

By Manu Shah 

Houston: A Hindu Heritage Youth Camp (HHYC) in Houston adapted and evolved to the COVID 19 era by hosting a very successful virtual camp. 

An enriching and positive experience it was also one of those rare opportunities which helped shape their Hindu identity and connected them with their Indian roots and peers. 

The week-long residential camp has been held annually for 35 years now. 

The camp was organized at Camp Lantern Creek in Montgomery, Texas. 

After weeks of brainstorming, the Committee, along with its Camp Directors Abhimanyu Aggarwal and Shamal Shah and Counsellors redirected their energies to making the camp virtual. The activities and curriculum were restructured and tilted to create a camp-like experience. Bharat Pallod, a member of the Steering Committee and a new dad himself, lent hours of his technical skills to get the virtual camp off the ground while members like Namita Pallod and Sonya Chanchlani stepped in whenever needed and ensured that each of the 120 campers got their box of study materials and supplies delivered personally. Abhimanyu describes it as a “really rapid shift that was possible through the hard work of the Committee and the 50 counselors who really stepped up to the challenge and even took time off from work to lead the day’s activities.”

Additionally, the five-day camp experience was converted into a five week one with one hour of camp activity each day. Mondays, for instance, were dedicated to yoga/bhajans with a kahoot (a game-based learning platform) at the end of each session.  Tuesdays centered on different Hindu ideologies and scriptures such as the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita. Wednesdays had fun activities such as mock court cases on the ethics of bullfighting and gene modification, guided paint sessions and trivia games. On Thursdays, counselors challenged senior campers by introducing slightly more complex topics in Hinduism and how their faith connected to their modern-day lifestyles. Junior campers got a guided cooking activity with their parents at home.  Fridays saw Tik Tok dance parties, game nights, and movie/documentary nights. There was even a virtual Talent show which saw campers cheering every performer like they would do in person.

The tech savvy generation navigated and improvised the virtual camp as they went along and by Week 2, it was going “flawlessly.” On August 6, HHYC wrapped up with a virtual closing ceremony that was keynoted by well-known mythological writer Devdutt Pattanaik.

Interweaving examples drawn from European tales, Indian epics and Greek characters, Devdutt explained his view of what makes Hinduism unique. The articulate author and speaker offered plenty of takeaways including a timely message of tolerance and acceptance.

Devdutt’s brilliant address was followed by an exciting piece of information. The community leaders had closed the deal on a picturesque 51-acre piece of land in Columbus, Texas for a Hindu campsite that would cater to the needs of a fast-growing Hindu population in Texas. The campsite, which has beautiful trails and a pond, is an hour away from Sugar Land and will have the distinction of being the first Hindu campsite in the country.

This news was shared on the Zoom call by some of the driving forces behind the campsite: Ashok Danda, Saroj and Subhash Gupta and Sushma Pallod who introduced her one-year old grandson as a “future camper.” They called for support from the participants and their parents to help raise the structure and run the camp. Incidentally, the camp comes with a furnished house and can be rented for a weekend getaway.

According to President, Hindus of Greater Houston Thara Narasimhan who joined one of their sessions, “HHYC organized an excellent Virtual Camp. I was thoroughly impressed by how all the participants freely communicated by sharing their thoughts and jointly got involved in all the sessions.  They covered Bhajans, Yoga, Pranayam and interactive quizzes. All the kids joined all the activities that were presented so well by the Camp’s 50 councilors.”

The ceremony concluded with the camp song led by Bhavya Kethireddipalli.  For more information on HHYC and how to get involved or contribute, visit: www.hinducamp.net

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Latest News USA

Family creates nonprofit honoring Pakistani exchange student killed in school shooting

Houston: The family of a high school exchange student from Pakistan who was killed in a Texas school shooting have started a foundation to honor her memory through providing university scholarships to low-income Pakistani women.

Sabika Sheikh, 17, was killed in a May 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston that left 10 people dead and at least 13 others wounded.

Her parents, Abdul Aziz Sheikh and Farah Naz, have created the Sabika for Peace Foundation to expand educational opportunities for those most in need.

“I’m always worried that we might forget (Sabika),” Farah Naz, the mother, told the Houston Chronicle during a Zoom interview with the family from their Karachi home. “But starting this foundation I know this is impossible. I know if I continue working with the foundation, she will always be with me.”

The foundation has partnered with several prominent nonprofit organizations, including the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and the American Council for International Education.

ACIE, the American Institute for Foreign Study and the International Education and Resource Network are also contributing a $300,000 seed grant to initiate the foundation. The nonprofit organization will help provide scholarships to fund university studies for low-income Pakistani women, particularly those with civic engagement aspirations.

“I think my sister spent the best days of her life in America,” Sania Sheikh said.

The foundation will be run by a board of directors, which will comprise representatives from the Sheikh family and four independent members selected by the family in consultation with the partners. (Source: dawn.com)

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Virtual event draws Yoga enthusiasts from across the South on IDY

By Manu Shah

Living rooms turned into yoga studios as family members stretched out their mats to flex and breathe together in keeping with the theme “Yoga at home and Yoga with the family,” during the 6th International Day of Yoga on June 21 in Houston.

Organized by the Indian Consulate in Houston in partnership with community organizations, the virtual event brought home the message that Yoga is the best way to achieve physical fitness and mental well-being.

Yoga enthusiasts created a sense of community by participating virtually in the session that was live streamed from India House Houston’s Facebook page as well as the Indian Consulate’s Facebook page.

Patanjali Yogpeeth USA President Shekhar Agrawal opened the program by delving into the purpose of yoga and translated some yoga sutras from Sanskrit to English with a brief explanation of its essence.

This was followed by a message from the pioneer of the International Day of Yoga and an ardent Yoga practitioner himself – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Yoga, he observed in his message “provides multi-dimensional solutions to multiple challenges COVID-19 has brought. Yoga gives you the opportunity to know your immune system better.”

Alluding to the social distancing measures, he noted that “Yoga ends various kinds of distance…distance between our mind and body which is the root cause of many problems. Distance between the life we have and the life we want to have. Distance between our expectations and reality.”

India’s Consul General in Houston, Aseem Mahajan, joined a small group of community members at India House for the session. He welcomed the participants from various cities in the southern states of the US and stated that the growing number of participating organizations “reflects the enthusiasm and popularity of Yoga, despite the challenges of putting this together digitally to enforce social distancing norms.”  Invoking yoga’s holistic approach to well-being and health in these challenging times he described yoga as a binding force for humanity that goes beyond race, language, culture and gender.

The 6th IDY was commemorated with a celebratory video of the “Spirit of Yoga” produced by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. The well-crafted video based on the yoga sutras of Patanjali captured various yoga poses by yoga enthusiasts around the world and was created without any-face-to face interaction.

A series of warm up exercises were led by Amit Khanna from the Indian Consulate and Srinivasan from S-Vyasa Yoga. This was followed by the event’s highlight – a virtual hour long yoga session from Haridwar, India by world renowned yoga guru Swami Ramdev.

In a first of its kind initiative, Hindus of Greater Houston marked the 6th International Day of Yoga by providing scholarships to four students from the African American community. The scholarships will support their training to become certified Yoga teachers.

Yoga enthusiasts from Austin, Denver, Dallas, Tulsa, Kansas, New Orleans, San Antonio and several other cities across the US came together on the digital platform. San Antonio held a successful 12-hour Yogathon on June 20 and raised more than $15,000 for yoga teachers impacted by the pandemic. The funds will be used to award grants of $500 to 30 local yoga teachers who make their living teaching yoga.

Appreciative comments poured in from prominent Houstonians.

Secretary of the Indian Muslims Association of Greater Houston Saeed Pathan said, “It’s always a pleasure to be a part of IYD. This year, COVID-19 didn’t deter us and we all enjoyed watching and practicing yoga virtually.”

In another message, Robert Boustany from Pralaya Yoga stated that “The IDY is an opportunity for all people to unite in peace, brotherhood and health for the welfare of our entire planet and that of future generations while preserving the vital ancient wisdom and the rich heritage of the yogic traditions.”

Director Integrative Medicine Program at the MD Anderson Cancer Center Dr. Lorenzo Cohen noted, “This is such an important day to recognize and more important is that we start to spread this day out to every day of the year. The evidence is clear that those who lead a yogic lifestyle in the fullest sense of the word will not only lead longer lives but they will lead happier, more fulfilling lives….”

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