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Hanmi Bank Donates $10K to Sewa International for Hurricane Harvey Relief

Gitesh Desai and Kavita Tewary with India’s Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray

Gitesh Desai and Kavita Tewary with India’s Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray. Photos: Navin Mediwala

By Pramod Kulkarni

HOUSTON: Hanmi Bank is one of the stalwart businesses that has risen up to support its community during times of crises. On Tuesday, October 3 evening, Hanmi Bank held a reception at its Gessner branch to present a check of $10,000 to Sewa International as a show of support for its volunteer activities to help victims of Hurricane Harvey with food, shelter and rebuilding.

The donation check was presented by Mohammed Tariq, Hanmi Bank’s Executive Vice President & Regional President Texas, in the presence of India’s Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray. President Gitesh Desai accepted the check on behalf of Sewa International.

Headquartered in South Korea, Hanmi Bank entered the Houston market in 2014 through an acquisition. Hanmi currently has three locations in Houston: Gessner, Spring Branch and Hillcroft. Several South Asians, who represent Hanmi Bank, include Mustafa Rafique, Sam Rukh and Saleem Afrooz.

From left: Sarojini Gupta, Kavita Tewary, Sam Ruk, Gitesh Desai, Mohammed Tariq, India’s Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray, Matt Furr, William Yeh, and Manju Gupta. Photos: Navin Mediwala

From left: Sarojini Gupta, Kavita Tewary, Sam Ruk, Gitesh Desai, Mohammed Tariq, India’s Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray, Matt Furr, William Yeh, and Manju Gupta.

“Hanmi Bank has a tradition of helping the communities it serves in times of crisis,” explained Tariq. “To help Hurricane Harvey victims, we have reached out to community leaders, such as Gitesh Desai, and have assigned two employees at each of our bank branches to help our customers with SBA disaster relief loans. We want to partners with relief agencies such as Sewa. Hopefully, other banks in the area can do the same.”

Matt Fuhr, Executive Vice President with Hanmi in Los Angeles, echoed Tariq’s sentiments and promised to help disaster victims with all possible assistance.

“I come from a poor country and I admired how international relief agencies came to India’s assistance when I was a young man,” said CG Ray. “I hoped that one day India could also become a first responder in international humanitarian relief. The first opportunity came when I was attending to the Sri Lanka desk in 2004 at the Indian Foreign Service in New Delhi. Within hours of the tsunami striking Sri Lanka, we were able to dispatch three Indian naval planes with relief supplies. By next morning, three Indian warships docked with additional supplies.”

Dr. Ray also complimented Sewa International. “It is a matter of great pride for me that Sewa International has stepped up as an NGO to launch relief operations. There are small beginnings for every organization. CARE, Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch did not reach their status overnight. I can predict that one day Sewa International will have an international footprint.”

“With all our humility, we accept Hanmi Bank’s generosity,” said Gitesh Desai. “Sewa International is one of the few relief organization, whose administrative cost is 7% or less. I assure you that the funds you have donated to Sewa International will be used very wisely and very prudently. There is immense need and there is immediate need. Sewa shall remain in the forefront of Harvey relief efforts.”

“Sewa International volunteers are working-class professionals and we’ve had the support of several community organizations and long-term donors,” Desai explained. “Four days into the relief efforts when we were spending money out of our own pockets, Dev Mahajan with Arya Samaj called me that Friday to ask what we need. I answered, ‘What do we not need? We need resources to buy food, resources to buy petrol and diesel.’ Mahajan said, ‘Don’t worry continue with your work. He called the Arya Samaj board of directors and arranged to wire transfer $15,000 on Tuesday, and another $35,000 on Friday. So, just in four days, Arya Samaj provided $50,000 to Sewa.”

“From that point onwards,” Desai continued. “Many volunteers joined us. We’ve been working from Beaumont in the east to Brookshire in the west and from Woodlands in the north to Galveston in the south. Even the Red Cross has reached out to us to do some of their work. So has EPA also to spread their messages in communities where they could not go.”

“Our volunteers are very passionate without care for their own flood troubles,” Desai explained. “Our inspiration comes from Hindu spirituality as we are Hindu faith-based organization. Hindu philosophy teaches us that the whole world is one family. We think serving humanity is serving divinity.”

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