In this special edition, iGlobal joins hands with the world-famous Neasden Temple in London to celebrate British Hindu contributions across different walks of life in the UK to commemorate the visit of Mahant Swami Maharaj to the UK. Here, in the first in a series of Guest Op-Eds, Sewa UK’s Nilesh Solanki reflects upon the profound impact made by the British Hindu community on public life in the UK.
The essence of sewa, holds a significant place in our Dharma, our culture, and our values. Sewa, derived from Sanskrit, meaning to serve or attend, is an integral part of our lives.
Through the act of sewa, individuals can nurture a spirit of humility, compassion, and selflessness as they engage in acts of service without expecting anything in return. It is a powerful tool that allows us to make a positive impact on the lives of others and our communities.
I would like to share with you some remarkable examples of sewa organisations and initiatives that deserve recognition and celebration. These organisations have inspired us to do more and have made a substantial difference in the world.
One such organisation is Go Dharmic, an international humanitarian organisation with over 10,000 volunteers. Distributed *17 million meals* globally and attended to disasters like Turkey Earthquake, Ukraine, and Pakistan floods. They have developed over *100 government schools* in India and are currently helping displaced Hindu refugees from Pakistan.
The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh UK encourages its 110 shakhas (activity centers) to support local communities and has raised funds for over 50 charities such as St Lukes, Barnardo’s, various Hospices. Their dedication to serving the community is commendable.
BAPS Charities has raised millions of pounds for disaster relief, healthcare, education, and other noble causes through their charitable initiatives. Their commitment to making a difference is truly inspiring.
Sewa Day, to date 1.5 million meals and 27000 Easter Eggs distributed especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, replenishing food banks, and supporting care homes, with 1500+ volunteers across the country have shown selflessness and dedication in serving others.
Various temples, such as Jalaram Mandir provide hot meals to the homeless weekly in the City and ISKCON, run gurukuls and gaushalas, and encourage regular volunteering programs. So many temples have become beacons of sewa in our communities.
The Kalyan Ashram Trust has played a crucial role in helping tribal people in India through education, healthcare, and overall well-being. Their efforts have uplifted numerous lives and created opportunities for a better future.
Sewa UK, part of the Sewa International movement across 25 countries, has raised millions of pounds for humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and rehabilitation. Their work in response to earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and medical camps has made a significant impact globally. Even through fun adventure activities like Rickshaw Run 2,500 km across India, raised 250k in 2019 and will target £500k this year.
These are just a few examples among many organisations and individuals dedicated to sewa. Their collective efforts have evolved over time to address social and community challenges, leading to stronger communities and promoting social cohesion.
Engaging in acts of sewa not only benefits the recipients but also has a profound impact on the mental health and well-being of individuals. Research has shown that acts of kindness and altruism improves mood, reduces stress, and enhances overall well-being.
An inspiring example at Hindu Sahitya Kendra (HSK), the first Hindu bookshop in Leicester, managed by senior citizens, where an inspirational Liladhar kaka sadly passed away this year at age of 94 who gave his daily sewa at the HSK shop for over 26 years! There are many unsung heroes like kaka.
Furthermore, sewa has played a pivotal role in supporting communities to overcome challenges in society. Organisations like the Hindu Support Network provide assistance to families facing domestic violence and victims of forced conversion and grooming. The Hindu Mandir Network and the National Council of Hindu Temples support Mandirs across the country with training, governance and fostering community hubs.
Collaboration is a fundamental aspect of sewa, amplifying its power and impact. Examples like the Gujarat Earthquake in 2001, where various organisations across the UK collaborated with Sewa International raised over £3mn to rebuild communities, demonstrates the strength of working together.
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In 2019, during the Covid India Appeal, various UK charities collaborated to send oxygen concentrators and PPE, via shared cargo, showcasing the power of working together and Sewa International USA's remarkable achievement of raising over $40m! dollars was unprecedented.
In 2022, during the Ukraine Refugee crisis, Sewa Europe, BAPS, Go Dharmic, AoL, ISKCON, HSS, and Sewa UK came together to support the evacuation of 12,000 Indian students. Sewa Europe handled 6,000 helpline requests with the help of 350 volunteers. Additionally, 150+ ground volunteers from 25 countries worked tirelessly across 18 cities. Sewa Europe/UK and Go Dharmic continued their support at refugee centers and on the Poland/Ukraine border, demonstrating unwavering commitment. Sewa Day also recently sent 42 tonnes of supplies for the people of Ukraine.
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The impact of sewa on the social fabric is profound. It fosters a sense of community, promotes a culture of giving, and helps bridge the gap between different socio-economic and cultural groups. By embracing sewa wrapped with our dharmic philosophy of seeing divinity in all, we can create a stable, harmonious, cohesive, collaborative, and loving community fabric.
Part of a prarthana (prayer) which I recite at our weekly shakha since childhood, "vishwa dharma prakasheka, vishwa shanti pravartake" – Let us enlighten and guide the world with universal dharmic values and work towards universal peace and harmony for all.
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As a Hindu community in the UK, we should take immense pride in our sewa efforts. It is through sewa that we can achieve the noble, global, and universal ideal we strive for. Sewa is our supreme duty – Sewa Parmo Dharma, and by serving all and loving all, we can truly make a difference. Together, we serve better – Namaste!
Nilesh Solanki is the Founder and former Chair of PwC Hindu Network, which was started 20 years ago, the first Hindu Network in the City of London. He is currently the Assistant General Secretary of Sewa UK, which is part of an international movement in 25+ countries.
*Info: Neasden Temple