Vastavam web: As residents of Texas began the process of restoring their homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey, Indian-Americans and their community organisations are also doing their bit by providing relief materials and working tirelessly to clean up the mess caused by the storm.Nearly two weeks after Harvey made landfall in Texas, mounds of garbage, sheet-rock clusters, computer monitors and furniture still cover the sidewalks.However, the amount of destruction and devastation caused by Harvey needs a herculean effort to speed up the reconstruction work in the flooded neighbourhoods.
“Over the past two weeks, volunteers have already put in 23,100 hours of work towards various relief and rehabilitation projects and we have raised over USD 300,000 and the target is 1 million,” Gitesh Desai, president of Sewa in Houston, said.As families start to move back into the houses, more than 800 volunteers of different Indian non-profit groups coordinated by Sewa International are helping people clean up the mess that catastrophic floods have left behind.
Worst affected are the poor and less privileged communities.One such community that Sewa International worked with was the Cambodian Buddhist community in Houston.”Indo-American organisations have been leading fundraising efforts and are planning to contribute to Mayor’s Hurricane Relief and Governor’s Rebuild Texas funds in addition to contribution in kind exceeding USD 2 million already,” Jiten Agarwal, an IIT alumnus and founder of data analytics firm Expedien in Houston, said.Indian restaurants have also opened up their kitchens to provide hot meals at various shelters.Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH) is also reaching out to Small Business Administration (SBA) and plans to work closely with its District Director Tim Jeffcoat to organise seminars for business loans across the various areas in the region affected.
Achalesh Amar, leading the volunteer efforts in Rosharon, says: “We have committed to be here and help as long as it takes to get the community back on its feet”.SEWA International has set up medical camps for sick people. It is also providing construction supplies to support the massive cleanup operation in Houston.IACCGH President Allen Richards through an animal rescue charity has helped rescue over 150 animals and distributed 30,000 pounds of pet food.Volunteers also rescued 200 Indian students at University of Houston who were trapped on the top floor of their apartment building near campus when floods hit the building two weeks back, provided them food, essentials and moved them to safer shelters.
In addition to providing cleaning supplies, toiletries, drinking water, shelf food and pet food, the Sikh community put in long hours to prepare meals to be distributed to the displaced families.Gurudwara Saheb of South West Houston s (GSSWH) Prithvipal Singh Likhari offered up to USD 25,000 in matching funds for all donations made to the hurricane relief fund.