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COMMUNITY | News in Brief: February 2010

Makara Sankranti Celebrated at the Balaji Temple | IRS 2010 VITA Grant | Healthcare Summit | Regional Conference | Seeking Interns, Volunteers | Haiti Fundraiser

Makara Sankranti Celebrated at the Balaji Temple

N. Swamiji, Phani and Ramakrishna

Pongal/Makara Sankranti were celebrated Jan. 14th, at the Balaji Temple in Sunnyvale, Calif., with a homa and Shri Shiva Kavacha abishekam ceremony in the morning and rudrabishekam in the evening. The morning ceremony featured a new Shiva kavacham, made in India and donated to the Balaji Temple by Phani and Ramakrishna Yadlapalli for the occasion of Makara Sankranti. The evening rudrabishekam was well attended. This ceremony was enhanced by Lakshmi Kary’s donation of 14 gallons of fresh cow’s milk from Sacramento. Swamiji explained the significance of Pongal/Makara Sankranti.

The Pongal festival in South India is a day of triumph. Symbolically, the first harvest is offered to the Almighty — and that is Pongal. Pongal is the festival during which the landlord distributes food, clothes and money among the laborers who work for him.

The day prior to the Makara Sankranti is called the Bhogi festival. On this day, old, worn-out and dirty things are discarded and burnt. Homes are cleaned and white-washed and lovely designs are drawn with rice-flour on the door front. The roads are swept clean. Swamiji reminded devotees that it will not do to attend to these external things alone. Cleaning the mind of its old dirty habits of thought and feeling is more urgently needed. Burn them up, with a wise and firm resolve to tread the path of truth, love and purity from this holy day onwards, he said. This is the significance of Pongal in the life of the spiritual aspirant.

The temple will celebrate the sixth anniversary of the Sri Balaji and Mahalakshmi moorthies arrival from India Feb.11-14. For more details, visit www.balajitemple.net or call (408) 203-1036.

- Allen Mulch


IRS 2010 VITA Grant

India Community Center said in an announcement that it is one of 147 organizations out of 360 applicants awarded a matching IRS 2010 VITA grant to increase and enhance free income tax preparation services during the 2010 filing season. 

India Community Center was the lead 501c(3) organization that applied in partnership with the Milpitas Public Library.

VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) is a program of the Internal Revenue Service and the California Franchise Tax Board.  IRS Certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparers prepare and electronically file federal and state personal income tax returns for low-income, limited English speaking, elderly, and disabled taxpayers at no cost to the taxpayers.

The grant is to support the establishment of a new site at the India Community Center for the 2010 tax season, and improving operations of the Milpitas Public Library.

Seshan Rammohan, executive director of ICC, said, “I am pleased that ICC has the opportunity to serve members of the community by launching this as the first project of the planned Financial Education Center which will join other community services like the free medical clinic, free legal clinic, and senior citizen services.  The services are especially welcome during the current hard economic times.  Our partnership with the volunteers of the VITA site  at the Milpitas Public Library has given us a good start for the upcoming season”

Linda Arbaugh, community librarian, Milpitas Public Library, said, “The Milpitas Library is happy to support the India Community Center in its endeavor to start a site for VITA.  VITA provides a wonderful service for the citizens of our community during tax time.  Having a site at ICC will help make their services available to even more people."

Volunteers interested in serving at these sites may obtain more information and sign up at http://www.vita-volunteers.org


Healthcare Summit

Indian Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Dinesh Trivedi lights the traditional lamp to mark the inauguration of AAPI Global Healthcare Summit in New Delhi. Also seen are Dr. Ketan Desai, president of the Medical Council of India; Dr. G. Samaram, president of the Indian Medical Association; Dr. Vinod Shah, president of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and Dr. Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin.

Indian-origin physicians from the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and other nations gathered in New Delhi for the AAPI Global Healthcare Summit to discuss and improve the healthcare delivery system in collaboration with their Indian counterparts.

American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, a U.S-based professional organization that conducted an Indo-U.S. Healthcare Summit in 2007 and in 2009, took the lead in putting together a world-class two day summit inaugurated by Indian Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Dinesh Trivedi.

This year, AAPI roped in British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and top-notch Indian medical professional associations to make it truly a global summit.

The summit shared the best practices and experience from leading experts around the world to develop actionable plans for launching demonstration projects with focus on prevention treatment and management of priority disease states in India with define measurable metrics to ensure that action plans are economically viable.

The Indian associations working in tandem this year were the Indian Medical Association; AmeriCares India; Federation of Obstetric & Gynecological Societies of India, Indian Academy of Pediatrics; Association of Surgeons of India; Indian Society of Medical and Pediatric Oncology and Urogynacology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery Society of India. Healthcare companies like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer were the global sponsors for the summit. The physicians discussed project –based healthcare system and time-bound delivery mechanism.

AAPI president Dr. Vinod K Shah welcomed the gathering and said advances in vaccination, antibiotics, minimum invasive surgery, robotic technology, diagnostic modality and understanding of genetics had brought breakthrough results. “This is a stunning achievement we all can be proud of and yet the problem with access to healthcare is real, a striking contrast. The gap in health between poor and rich remains wide.”


Regional Conference

South Asian Americans Leading Together hosted a statewide conference Jan. 30 in Montclair, N.J., bringing together community members, activists and allies to learn about key issues affecting South Asians in the region, develop leadership skills and identify strategies to strengthen the community, according to a SAALT press release. The conference featured plenaries, skills-building workshops, informational panels, professional development session and networking opportunities as well as an awards reception.

"Empowering South Asians in New Jersey" was presented by SAALT in partnership with American Friends Service Committee, Council on American Islamic Relations, Council for Advancement of Muslim Professionals, Manavi, Hindu American Seva Charities, Network of Indian Professionals, New Jersey Immigrant Policy Network, Sikh Coalition, South Asia Center-University of Pennsylvania, South Asian Mental Health Awareness in Jersey, South Asian Total Health Initiative, UNITED SIKHS and with generous contributions from Sodexo.


Seeking Interns, Volunteers

The Asian Law Caucus is currently seeking Undergraduate Interns and Volunteers for the spring 2010 term, according to an ALC press release.

“The Asian Law Caucus offers a unique opportunity for students interested in public interest work to volunteer and gain exposure to a community law practice,” the release said. Interns and volunteers are generally assigned tasks in administration and fundraising and are supervised by both legal and non-legal staff. Bilingual interns are also often assigned work in the underlying core program areas.

Successful applicants must have outstanding administrative/clerical skills, which are the core foundation for any type of work. Language skills are not required, but are definitely a plus. Bilingual interns will be assigned accordingly to program staff depending on language ability.

The undergraduate internship also requires a minimum one semester commitment of at least 12 hours per week. Applicants must be available during regular office hours from 9am-5pm. Very often, undergraduates can receive college credit or meet course requirements for volunteering.

Examples of internship tasks are: Fundraising (ALC 38th Anniversary Dinner preparation, silent auction administrative tasks, donor file data entry, using donor quest, fundraising source research, topical research, background information for proposals, special events, mailings, follow-up calls, data entry for registration database, etc.); program area (translate for clients, community outreach and education, maintain program archives/databases, update informational brochures, assist in community education, presentations, translate community education materials into Asian languages, write reports, draft documents such as letters and press releases, research, video editing, graphic design and photoshop); administration (answering phones and reception , opening/closing cases , obtaining key information to ensure files are complete , access data entry , filing , information and referral , word processing , letters, memos, pleadings , Web management, desktop publishing, graphic design, other general clerical duties

The deadline for application is Feb. 12. Interested individuals should contact Charlene Cervantes at charlenec@asianlawcaucus.org or call (415) 896-1701.


Haiti Fundraiser

BollyRitmo, a Bay Area-based fusion dance company, will organize a fundraiser event Feb. 6 to aid Haiti disaster relief efforts. All proceeds from the event will be donated to Mercy Corps.

This dance class event will be held at one of San Francisco peninsula's most popular nightlife locations, Zen Lounge, in Mountain View, Calif. Participants will get the chance to learn a variety of dance styles from BollyRitmo's diverse instructors. The first hour will be dedicated to Salsa, accommodating learners at all levels. In the next hour, participants will experience a dynamic fusion of world dance, including Bollywood.

The event is open to all individuals above the age of 21. For more information and to purchase event tickets, readers can visit http://www.bollyritmo.com/haiti.html



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