Written By: Himani & Inchara
Introduction to Jai Ganesh Shaka:
According to the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic that began with minimal concerns now has over 13 million cases worldwide. When the virus reached the US, it didn’t take long for it to spread like wildfire and affect millions of people. Several states have ordered people to self-quarantine and practice social distancing to slow the spread, but despite these measures, the numbers have continued to climb. Healthcare and frontline workers are working tirelessly to fight against the epidemic in hospitals. Moreover, thousands of people in the US are unemployed, and many more are running low on food and other necessities. HSS (Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh) has stepped up to aid those in distress during these troubling times, spreading a ray of hope to their community.
In Georgia, dedicated volunteers from Jai Ganesh Shaka (a branch of HSS) have introduced multiple projects to help people who have been struck hard by the pandemic. These efforts include collecting food for a food drive in collaboration with several organizations and helping a low-income family with their basic needs. Many enthusiastic volunteers from Jai Ganesh Shaka can speak volumes about their experiences while participating in the projects.
Jai Ganesh Shaka Helping A Family
Three years ago, shaka members came in contact with a single parent from Gujarat. She was struggling to find a job and a place to live with her three young children in America. In response to the family’s needs, Jai Ganesh Shaka helped the mother find and move into an apartment. After settling in, she was able to find a job at a daycare and send her children to school. She was extremely thankful to Jai Ganesh Shaka for their aid, and she continued to keep in touch with the shaka and attend a few of its events over the years.
When the pandemic hit, the mother lost her job at the daycare and was unable to pay for groceries and other necessities for her family. Once again, Jai Ganesh Shakha came to the rescue. When the shaka reached out to her, they discovered that her family had a small amount of rice left, and she could not buy groceries as she did not have a car, and Uber services had stopped. Many volunteers from the shaka acted quickly and collected as many donations as possible for her groceries and other needs. Many people, both from Jai Ganesh Shaka and outside of shaka, were more than willing to help. Volunteers created a list of food and household items needed for the family for a month and then went out and bought them.
Jai Ganesh Shaka not only delivered basic necessities but also helped the family celebrate important festivals and occasions. The mother is originally from Gujarat, and she was worried that she wouldn’t be able to celebrate an important Hindu festival due to monetary constraints. However, the shaka surprised her by delivering dry fruits, ghee, and other items needed to celebrate the festival. She was overjoyed and very grateful to Jai Ganesh Shaka for their generosity and compassion. Similarly, for her daughter’s birthday, the shaka once again surprised her family by bringing her daughter an ice cream cake and juice to celebrate during these troubling times.
“We had no difficulties in helping her because everyone was so eager to donate,” said Suprabatha Satyanarayan, a volunteer from Jai Ganesh Shaka and a friend to the family. “It was so touching to see the happiness and hope that we brought to her family by delivering to her needs.”
Collaboration With Must Ministries
Must Ministries is a non-profit organization that aims to help people in need by transforming lives and communities. This organization puts together various campaigns in which they provide shelter, food, and other supplies to the needy. Jai Ganesh Shakha worked with Must Ministries to help citizens in their area during this pandemic. Riddhi Maheshwari, an active member of Jai Ganesh Shakha who took part in these activities, says, “In shakha, we are taught to always give back to the community and help people as much as we can. Due to the COVID-19 situation, more families require dire help. This is when the community needs us.”
Jai Ganesh Shakha, collaborating with Sewa International, helped people impacted from COVID-19 by putting together donation packages and then sending them to Must Ministries. Shakha volunteers reached out to the community through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. If people were unable to give food or toys, they helped by donating money which was used to buy food and other products. “The response of the community was slow at first, but after a few weeks, there was a tremendous response. Many people were willing to help out… After COVID-19 hit, there were a lot of deliveries that needed to be done. Just as there were more people in need of help, there was a boost in donations. The number of people donating rapidly increased.” Riddhi Maheswari adds.
Cobb County Schools
Many low-income school students depend on free food in school to fulfill their nutritional needs. It has been found that meals and snacks from schools or child care centers fulfill up to two-thirds of children’s daily nutritional needs.(nejm.org) Due to COVID-19, schools have been closed, and classes are being operated at home. Students who depend on free food in school are mal-nutritioned.(nejm.org) The members of Jai Ganesh Shakha noticed this and acted upon it. They reached out to Sewa International and together began collecting donations for the students in their area. They put together meals for children that included canned food, dry milk, non-perishables, breakfast items, pasta, and rice.
Each meal was prepared to ensure that it provided enough nutrition and was then packed into barrels. More volunteers were contacted and donations grew. “The operation was extremely successful, and we were able to help a lot of students in need. It feels really good to give back to people who are not as fortunate,” Riddhi Maheshwari said. The donated meals were then handed to Must Ministries, who helped deliver the meals to the school students. The operation was carried out successfully and helped many school children.
Many people benefitted from Jai Ganesh Shaka’s projects, and they were immensely grateful for the volunteers’ dedication and commitment to aiding the community in a time of distress. The shakha is filled with selfless volunteers ready to help anyone in need in any way possible, and their enthusiasm inspires others to take action and aid their local community as well. Although COVID-19 has put limits on what people can do at the moment, food drives and donations are ways you can contribute without leaving the house. Anyone can help; even the smallest donation can provide a meal to someone in need. During this pandemic, everyone must come together to support one another and keep the community strong until the storm passes.
“Miscommunication leads to confusion: Still no COVID-19 deaths in West Virginia”, 27th March 2020, https://www.wowktv.com/news/west-virginia/wvdhhr-announces-west-virginias-first-death-from-covid-19/
Caroline G. Dunn, Ph.D., R.D., Erica Kenney, Sc.D., M.P.H., Sheila E, Fleischhacker, J.D., Ph.D., and Sara N. Bleich, Ph.D. “Feeding Low-Income Children during the Covid-19 Pandemic”, 30 April 2020