Houston, Texas. Putting their faith into action and making use of technology, Hindus from various organizations throughout the Houston area meet Thursday evening, not in person, but through audio conferencing.
First on the agenda was to pray together. And in the Hindu tradition, the prayer, led by Acharya Sonarao-ji of Arya Samaj, was not only for those who might be in the path of Hurricane Rita but for the entire universe. Following that, participants shared plans and the availability of shelter for those who might need it. Hindus of Greater Houston then, through emails and phone contacts, spread the information that might help those still looking for shelter
Keshav Smruti, southwest Houston office of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), announced space would be available for a number of families. Rama Rao and Meera Rao of Svyasa chosed to stay one night there. Manoj Agarwal of Shri RadhaKrishna Temple on Bellaire indicated that the temple would be open to those who needed shelter. The management committee of Arya Samaj of Greater Houston made available additional space. ASGH pledged full support in any crisis, natural or otherwise, to serve the community. VPSS, another temple in southwest Houston, opened its facility for evacuees or for needy people to stay and all facilities including food were provided. This facility was open for any one who needed it regardless of religion or nationality. A number of families did accept the hospitality of the temple.
Senior citizen Padmakant Mehta of Houston was pleased to receive a phone call asking him if he needed shelter. Due to the weakening of the storm in the Houston area, he and his wife Nita stayed at home, but were glad for the reassurance that help was available.
For those who had traveled out of Houston and found themselves without housing due to all hotels and motels already being fully occupied, Arun Sharma of HSS arranged with over 25 families in San Antonio and Dallas to provide shelter.
BAPS Care International already had centers in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Bryan College Station and El Campo providing shelters to those affected by the recent hurricanes. In Houston, a number of families chose to stay at the temple, feeling safer than in their homes.
The Hindu Temple in Irving, Texas, opened its doors for Hurricane Rita evacuees Thursday night and its members and volunteers quickly gathered food, supplies, and other items to meet the needs of persons referred to the shelter by the Red Cross and other agencies. Over 200 people were accommodated by the temple. The voluntary services of local Hindu doctors was much appreciated by several individuals.
Barsana Dham, an ashram and temple in Austin, provided shelter to about 150 evacuees from Houston and surrounding areas during Hurricane Rita. Narendra Zamwar who stayed there with his family reported that “All the arrangements for the stay and food were very good. The temple atmosphere was very peaceful. Many children’s activities were arranged including story telling, special movies, art contests, chalk drawings on floor, and water games. Evacuees could really get peace of mind after having driven for12 to 20 hours to cover the distance which normally takes three to four hours.”
In San Antonio, 40 homes were made available for those who needed a place to stay. HSS and Sewa International volunteers coordinated this service.
Sunday evening, September 25, 2005, some of the same community leaders that gathered on Thursday again joined a conference call to pray and review the actions taken by various community groups. Working together they were able to better serve the community.
Although Hurricane Rita did not cause as much damage as expected in the Greater Houston area, it was heartening to see the various Hindu organizations in Houston, Dallas area, Austin, and San Antonio helping to provide shelter and food to those who needed it.
Serving one’s fellow man is serving God according to Hindu thought and practice.