by Jasmin Patel, Houston-based Sadhana member
I am an environmental justice activist based in Houston, Texas, and a new member of Sadhana. I joined Sadhana because I felt it was important to connect my environmental work to my Hindu identity. These past few days, as the storms have deluged my corner of the earth, I have felt both helpless before the sheer enormity of the storm and floods, but also surer than ever that my Hinduism requires me to do my part to save our planet.
Its hard to imagine, in this day and age, and in a wealthy nation like America, that we are still under the mercy of Prithvi Ma (Mother Nature) and how quickly a few hours of rain can devastate an entire city. Hurricane Harvey is an urgent call to all of us, and not the first call of this kind, to do our part to protect our lands and seas, and to stem the tide of climate change. I live in a part of Houston which is completely flooded, but was lucky enough to be able to move to another neighborhood temporarily. I am including photos of the neighborhood I call home, Montrose, sent to me by my neighbors.
These past few days have seemed unreal to me -- I never thought such things would come to pass in Houston again: I've seen peoples' homes and cars under water, Houstonians being rescued in boats, elderly people waiting to be rescued in several feet of water. This is a terrifying time for so many people, and of course the poorest and neediest and the elderly are hit the worst. The future of our beloved city is uncertain. While climate change is still being denied by some, people on all points of the political spectrum are uniting to help. Mayor Turner has been personally keeping everyone updated via the news and social media, and has set up the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, while the Houston Police Department has completed over 90 rescue missions, saving over 1000 people.
I have also seen the kindness of complete strangers stopping to help people in any way they need, people carrying wheelchair bound elderly, trucks lining up to help in any way they can, families in dry areas taking in flood refugees, and even volunteers from Louisiana bringing in a brigade of boats. There are innumerable heartening stories of human compassion that will come out of this catastrophic event. Many will have no homes to go back to and are counting on the generosity and compassion of others to get them through this devastating time. Indeed, I firmly believe that the hope for our planet lies in the human capacity for compassion and selflessness.
I urge my fellow Hindus to come together at this time of need, and do your part for those in crisis in Houston. Our faith teaches us perform seva (service) and daan (generosity). This wonderful, diverse city needs your help -- now!
- If you can safely deliver food and supplies to shelters, please do so.
- If you have room to house a family or person rendered homeless by this storm, please do.
- And please contact your temple to urge them to bring the community together at this time of crisis. Hindus are both among those in need, and among volunteers helping with relief.
- These are a few fundraising efforts where donations can be sent (note, I have not vetted these sites):
- I was delighted to learn of this Hindu volunteer effort, and have registered to become a volunteer.
Project Prithvi is Sadhana's environmental justice project, and has mostly been active in beach cleanups in the New York area. If there are Hindus or others in the Houston area who would like to join me either in relief efforts during Houston's hour of need, or to do longer-term environmental work, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A prayer for peace from the Yajur Veda:
Om Dyau Shanti Rantariksha Gyam Shanti Prithvi Shantiraapah Shantiroshadhayaha Shantihi Vanas Patayah Shantirvishwe Devah Shantir Brahma Shantihi Sarvagyam Shantihi Shantireva Shantihi Saamaa Shantiredhi Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi
Unto The Heaven Be Peace, Unto The Sky And The Earth Be Peace. Peace Be Unto The Water, Unto The Herbs And Trees Be Peace. Unto All The Gods Be Peace, Unto Brahma And Unto All Be Peace. And May We Realize That Peace. Om Peace Peace Peace.