Sunita Viswanath has worked for over two decades in women’s rights and human rights organizations. She is a co-founder and active board member of the international women’s human rights organization, Women for Afghan Women. Sunita was raised in an Andhra Hindu family, and always felt that it was her Hindu values and beliefs that motivated her insistence on justice and human rights. However, she did not find that there was a Hindu voice or presence in the movements for justice of which she was a part. Sunita co-founded Sadhana in 2011 in order to bring together these two parts of her journey: her activism for human rights and her identity as a Hindu. Sunita lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband Stephan Shaw and their three sons, Gautama, Akash and Satya.
Christopher Fici is a Hindu-American whose work, writing, and activism digs into the intersections of social, economic, and ecological identity for the 21st century Hindu in relation to all humanity and to the Earth herself. Raised as a Catholic, Christopher began a long conversion journey into the Gaudiya Vaisnava faith and path during his undergraduate days at the University of Michigan, and after attaining his bachelor's degree in cinema studies he spent five-and-a-half years studying and training in Gaudiya Vaisnava asramas in West Virginia and New York City. Following his monastic experience, Christopher entered the halls of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, the oldest independent Christian seminary in America. He received an M.A. in eco-theology and his master's thesis was on "The Anticipatory Community and the Yoga of Ecology," an Interfaith exploration of communal creation/recreation of Earth-honoring faith. At Union, he is one of the project leaders of The Edible Churchyard and will be working towards his Master's degree in Sacred Theology in 2014-2015. He is also part of the GreenFaith Fellowship Class of 2014 where he met some of the wonderful founding board members of Sadhana.
Nikhil Mandalaparthy (he/him/his) is a student at the University of Chicago studying public policy. He is involved with various cultural and religious organizations on his campus, including the South Asian Students Association and Hindu Student Sangam. Off-campus, Nikhil has also been involved with South Asian Americans Leading Together as a 2016 Young Leaders Institute Fellow. He regularly blogs about South Asian music, poetry, religion, and history. He is currently working to strengthen and expand Sadhana's Chicago chapter.
Gautham Reddy is a doctoral student at the University of Chicago writing a dissertation on Telugu literature and the cultural history of nineteenth-century south India. He was raised in the vibrant Hindu community of Minneapolis and is an active member of his local temple. He traces his family roots to Tirupati, a major pilgrimage site in India, where he spent many summers. His experiences with Hinduism in the diaspora as well as India have given him a deep appreciation for the many diverse and locally-rooted popular traditions of Hindu devotion that exist around the world. He is passionate about building more inclusive Hindu and South Asian American spaces and fighting the rise of Hindu nationalism. In his free time, he enjoys cooking, reading poetry, and dancing with new friends.
Davanie Singhroy is a student at Adelphi University, currently majoring in biology and molecular neuroscience with the intention of going on to medical school. In addition to the sciences, she studies history, philosophy, and ethics as a part of the school’s Honors program. Davanie is a devotee of the Shaanti Bhavan Mandir, the Hindu temple located in Queens, New York, that recently declared itself a Sanctuary Temple, the first Hindu temple in the nation to do so. She was drawn to the mandir’s message of peace, love, inclusivity, and the importance of seva, or service to others. With the mandir’s youth group, the Naujavaan Mandalee, she participates in many acts of community service. These include feeding the homeless, volunteering at soup kitchens, visiting children’s hospitals and nursing homes, and raising funds and gathering supplies for impoverished regions and victims of natural disaster. It is Davanie’s firm belief in the group’s motto, “The hands that serve are holier than the lips that pray” that led her to become an active member of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, an organization working to mobilize Hindus to stand up for and become active in struggles for justice on our world.
Kiran (she/her/hers) is a second-year Master’s student at the Harris school of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, researching criminal justice, civic engagement, and campaigns. This year, she was a part of South Asian Americans Leading Together’s Young Leaders Institute cohort, working to build more civically engaged South Asian and Hindu communities in America. In her free time, she competes on an independent bhangra team in Chicago, writes for a social justice newspaper on the South Side of Chicago, thinks about abolishing the prison industrial complex, and plays violin in the University of Chicago Symphony.
UDIT THAKUR, POOR PEOPLE'S CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR
Udit Thakur is an organizer, scholar, essayist, and proud member of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus. Most importantly, he is the proud son of two immigrants, a student of history/religion/politics, and a fierce believer in the promise of democracy.
TAHIL SHARMA, LOS ANGELES AREA COORDINATOR
Tahil Sharma is a UN DPI-NGO Youth Representative to the United Nations for the Parliament of the World's Religions and a Communications Consultant with Religions for Peace International. His inspiration as a progressive Hindu comes from his interfaith background as a Hindu and Sikh and has grown with his passion for human rights, social justice, and interfaith cooperation. He is a graduate from the University of La Verne, majoring in Spanish and minoring in International Studies and has been named a member of the Future50, a collaborative by the Inter-religious Council of Southern California and USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture that recognizes interfaith members within Southern California who will impact the landscape of religious diversity and service for the next half century.
Hemma Kilawan (Project Management Intern - Project Prithvi)
Hemma Kilawan is a recent graduate of Townsend Harris High School. She is currently a student at Stony Brook University, majoring in Biology. She has been an active volunteer for Sadhana's Project Prithvi since 2012. Hemma was part of the Summer Immersion Program at Girls Who Code, where she learned how to code in multiple languages. Her passion for environmental justice continues to grow. As a youth, she is avidly seeking ways to become more involved in her community.
Vagisha Agrawal (Campus Organizing Intern)
Vagisha Agrawal is a junior year Canadian student from the University of Calgary, currently on a study abroad program at Queens College, CUNY. She is pursuing a double major in Media Studies and Psychology. She was born in a family of Hindus who saw little difference between “Indian-origin” religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. Raised in traditional Christian schools located within Muslim monarchies such as Kuwait and U.A.E, she found home in a secular North American country—Canada. Such exposure has led to her curiosity/exploration of different religions and her aspiration to embody central humanitarian principles on the daily. To her, being a part of something bigger than the self by creating an impact is the way to lead a purposeful life. She is excited to explore the role of her Hindu roots in leading that kind of life while being able to contribute to an active, progressive, faith-based organization.