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American Red Cross Awards $500,000 Grant to Sewa International: Little Cambodia to Benefit

Sewa International’s Houston Chapter Coordinator Achalesh Amar (in yellow T-Shirt) supervising the distribution of construction materials to Harvey affected residents in Rosharon, TX.

Sewa International’s Houston Chapter Coordinator Achalesh Amar (in yellow T-Shirt) supervising the distribution of construction materials to Harvey affected residents in Rosharon, TX.

HOUSTON:  The American Red Cross awarded Sewa International a $500,000 grant to rebuild homes of the economically underprivileged devastated by Hurricane Harvey in Rosharon Village, Brazoria County, TX. This grant in the next 18 months will help Sewa reconstruct 11 completely destroyed homes and 24 partially-damaged homes thus benefitting 154 men and women, including 35 seniors and 47 children.

Since day one of Hurricane Harvey’s sweep across Southern Texas damaging property and destroying lives, Sewa International has been at the forefront of rescue operations initially, and then in relief and rehabilitation efforts. One of the most affected communities was Rosharon in Brazoria County which suffered major damage.

Known as Little Cambodia, Rosharon with a population of approximately 1,400, is 30 miles south of Houston in an underserved rural area. Home to predominantly Cambodians refugees, and some Laotian and Mexican refugees, the majority eke out a livelihood in this insular setting through subsistence farming. Families here had fled Cambodia in the late 1970s escaping the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge. Nearly fifty percent of the families are involved in growing water spinach, a staple of Asian cuisine. When Hurricane Harvey roared through South Texas it devastated Little Cambodia, bringing down houses rendering people homeless, and leveling greenhouses thus destroying livelihoods.

The Sewa International team members in Houston, many of whom themselves had to bear losses to their homes, have been hard at work, in raising funds from its supporters across the US, and then applying for grants from organizations who sought the help of trustworthy and qualified groups to carry out relief and rehabilitation.

Sewa raised over $2 million for disaster recovery in less than a year since Hurricane Harvey hit, including the latest American Red Cross grant of $500,000.

Sewa International Houston Chapter Coordinator Achalesh Amar (right) discussing house-rebuilding plans with Sewa Construction Supervisor Pham and a Harvey affected resident in Rosharon, TX.

Sewa International Houston Chapter Coordinator Achalesh Amar (right) discussing house-rebuilding plans with Sewa Construction Supervisor Pham and a Harvey affected resident in Rosharon, TX.

Sewa was the recipient of a $397,000 grant awarded by the Greater Houston Community Foundation (GHCF) in December 2017, providing case management help for 600 individuals. Completing the work in record time, Sewa International ended up helping 1,600 individuals from minority and underprivileged communities, earning kudos from GHCF. Thus, this grant from the American Red Cross is an affirmation of the good work done by Sewa as well as acknowledgement of the can-do spirit of this Hindu faith-based charitable organization standing out amongst its mainstream peers. The total cost for rebuilding and repairing homes at Rosharon for this project is estimated to be about $675,000, out of which Sewa International’s donors are contributing $175,000 or 25%.

“Despite the generous support of funding agencies, the task at hand is enormous,” said Achalesh Amar, Coordinator of Sewa Houston who has continued spearheading the disaster recovery efforts in Rosharon for nearly a year. Ecstatic on hearing the award of this grant, he continued, “The experience of rebuilding Rosharon has been demanding, sometimes frustrating, but more often rewarding and always an optimistic one. The American Red Cross grant allows us to lay the foundation, literally – one home at a time — to rebuild and revitalize Little Cambodia.”

Gitesh Desai, President of the Houston Chapter of Sewa International who has for months lived in a hotel room as his house was flooded, said “We are honored for the recognition by American Red Cross, a major humanitarian organization. We are grateful to them for reposing their trust and confidence in us through this amazing gift.

The grant further strengthens Sewa International’s resolve to fulfill our mission of giving back to the society through selfless service – a cornerstone of our Hindu faith.”

For further information, contact: Achalesh Amar, houston@sewausa.org, phone: 713-357-8216.

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