Milpitas, CA– Sewa International bestowed Sewa Excellence Award to Anjali Rimi, a Sewa volunteer, for her outstanding work helping the transgender community in the Bay Area in California.
Sewa also received a donation pledge of $56,000 at the banquet held at the Sewa Community Center and the adjoining auditorium in Milpitas. Over 210 people — including mayors from twelve cities, public officials, Sewa donors, volunteers and representatives from Sewa’s partner organizations and their families — attended the event.
Accepting the award, Anjali Rimi said, “It is an honor, and I am humbled to receive this prestigious award. Many of you don’t understand how much this honor means to me and my community. As a successful Hindu transwoman, this is the culmination of many struggles. I am a survivor of homelessness, sexual assault, racism, and trauma. I cannot say that is the case for many in my transgender community.”
Anjali remembered her trans-daughter Esther, a third-year medical student, who succumbed to COVID-19 when she was 27. “Esther wanted to change the narrative as I have been trying to do. She was taken to eight hospitals before she died and all she got was the police lathi (cane used by the police to control the crowd). But many more people like her were saved. You know why? Because Sewa showed up,” Anjali said to thundering applause from the attendees.
“We all are collectively fighting for our liberation. We come from different lands and we all live here. And Sewa changed the game for us. Sewa spent over $225,000, helped 85,000 children in 24 Indian states, and saved many lives. One thing that stands out is when I reached out to Sewa’s SHE project team, Sewa volunteers sprang into action and supplied a whole month’s groceries to an orphanage that is run by transwomen for children who are disowned because of their disability or their HIV positive status.”
“The youngest of these 50 children is 15 months old and you are saving that child’s life right now by being here and being part of Sewa. I could not be more grateful for receiving support and being part of such a big parivar (family) that I have always yearned for. I would like to dedicate this award to mothers. Each one of you can make a difference and you don’t have to be an activist, you don’t have to be a donor for a lifetime, and you can get involved and you can support in your own way, because at the end of the day, we are all one big family,” Anjali said.
Sandeep Khadkekar, Sewa’s Vice President for Marketing, presented the award to Anjali Rimi. Sewa’s Bay Area Chapter coordinator, Guru Prasad, introduced Anjali and said she has been associated with Sewa for many years and had helped Sewa execute projects in 22 states in India. Anjali works as a business development executive in the wine industry.
Sewa’s Actions & Indian Heritage
Karl Mehta, an entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of EdCast, Inc., a next generation knowledge platform, delivered the keynote speech at the banquet. He talked about Indian Hindu heritage and culture and how Sewa’s actions reflect the values espoused by the Upanishads and teachings of Swami Vivekananda. He said Sewa’s service showed the true
meaning of the Vedic saying ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – that the whole world is one family. Dr. Anurag Mairal, President of the Sewa Bay Area Chapter, introduced Karl Mehta. Dr Mairal announced that Dr Nandeesh Veerappa, current Sewa Bay Area Board Advisor will begin serving as Vice President of the Bay Area Chapter.
In a video message played at the event, Arun Kankani, Sewa International President, gave an overview of the key Sewa initiatives. Sewa’s Youth Empowerment project videos, testimonials and on-stage introduction by LEAD internship program participants, children participating in Sewa’s Aspire tutoring program and presentations from many Sewa project leads gave attendees a holistic view of Sewa programs and initiatives.
Empower, a new initiative by the Sewa Bay Area Chapter, provides personal and professional development training and support to those looking for a second chance to get into college or start a career. Balaji Baktha, CEO and chairman of Ventana Micro and initiator of Sewa high schoolers scholarship program, distributed scholarships to three participants of the program at the event.
Intel, Sewa’s Corporate Partner
Sewa honored Intel Corporation as its corporate partner of the year, and acknowledged three organizations — Agape Silicon Valley, Vietnamese Buddhist Temple, and American India Foundation — for partnering with Sewa in various service projects. Intel contributed $1.2 million to Sewa in 2021 through a corporate grant as well as employee matching contributions. Agape Valley worked with Sewa to help homeless people. The Buddhist Temple partnered with Sewa to serve food to seniors on weekends. Sewa presented a special COVID Warrior award to the American India Foundation for its efforts to help people during the pandemic.
Dr. Catherine Mohr, President of the Intuitive Foundation, the company that makes the da Vinci surgical robot, gave an inspirational talk on “Striding forward for a bright post-pandemic future”. She spoke about her role in research and development programs aimed at understanding and improving education of medical practitioners around the world and the work she is doing with Sewa for India through the e-Global doctors program.
Sewa Bay Area chapter’s previous president, Jayant Somani, and Sewa’s Lead for Corporate Relations, Sumita Somani, started off the donation pledge drive. Dr Romesh Japra, a well-known cardiologist and community leader from the Bay Area, started the event by lighting a lamp. Many youth volunteers from Sewa managed registration, serving food to the audience, and helped in cleaning up after the event.