Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 2013 CORDUSA News

Please sign up to receive news and updates from CORDUSA  

Last blog, I mentioned the two CORDUSA service visits, one to Sidhbari and the other to Kaza. Here is what the participants had to say…

Hiren Gihwala, a high school student, who went on this year’s service visit to CORD Sidhbari writes "This past summer 25 students, including myself had the opportunity of a lifetime. We all came from different parts of the United States and made our way to Sidhbari, Himachal Pradesh, India. Some students came from California, some from Chicago, some from New Jersey, and one from North Carolina.  As we made our journey to India, we all knew that this trip would be a chance for us to have an impact on this world. But, little did we know that this trip would do and be much more than that. Over the three weeks, we formed lasting relationships and experienced the impact that CORD is having on a daily basis. We had the wonderful opportunity to learn from Dr. Kshama Metre and see the message and hope that her and her constituents have been spreading among the villagers for the last 28 years.  Read more… 

Vinod Sharma, one of the chaperones on this year’s service visit to Chinmaya Vijaya orphanage for girls, under CORD Kaza wrote… "From the moment we entered the Chinmaya Vijaya campus and were greeted affectionately by the girls at Chinmaya Vijaya, to our tearful goodbyes 13 days later; this trip was a heartwarming and inspirational journey in which we got to experience firsthand the power of faith, love and service.  We were immersed in love, kindness, acceptance, cheer and selfless giving…. Our high school students lived alongside the Chinmaya Vijaya girls. Awaking at 4 am, they joined them in their morning chores that ranged from washing and hanging clothes to dry and sweeping the courtyard; to helping the younger children get ready for school. Upon returning home from school, after playing with the girls, they tutored them in various subjects and read them bedtime stories.  Read about their experience….
During the summer, children spend endless hours on the net, cell phones and televison; often facing the possibility of endless boredom. Last summer however, some lucky boys and girls got a chance to make a difference in their lives and in the lives of others at the CORD Siruvani center. Swamini Vimalananda organized a Hari Seva Camp, with 80 youth participants, aged 7 and above. During this 5-day camp, the first of its kind, the youth learned how to build toilets, vermicompost units, make coir rope, silk-cotton pillows, brooms, thatched palm leaves, hand-made paper and gardening. They learned all these processes from start to finish and also got to interact and work with beneficiaries in the villages and farms.  Read more…

Excerpts from the quarterly reports from our CORD India and Sri Lanka centers…

Over the last year, we have been raising funds for trying to provide a permanent home for CORD Siruvani. That moment is finally here! CORD Siruvani had the land for the proposed center sanctified with a Bhoomi Pooja by Swami Tejomayananda.  Read more in their quarterly report…

Keeping hands clean through improved hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Hand wash solution production training was held on 6th June 2013 at the CORD Sri Lanka, Jaffna Office. This was a full day training program to empower women affected by the war to be self-sustainable, while pursuing manufacturing cleansing hand wash solution as an income generating activity. This training which was conducted by Mr. Pakeerathan, with 20 participants attending. The Hand Wash solution provides an opportunity for these women to generate income and improve hygiene in the area served; while also helping to decrease the spread of communicable diseases. Read more …

CORD Deuladiha continues to strengthen the rights and responsibilities of women, through regular awareness on local self-governance in the Mahila Mandals and Self Help groups. Women have gradually increased their attendance in the Palli Sabha and Gram Sabha meetings. These women have demonstrated their interect and concerns by asking important questions, which has led to increased knowledge about their rights and the rights of others. For example; these women have become advocates for pensions for the elderly and widowed at the Palli Sabha meetings. Read more…

CORD Lathikata says NO to drugs. On April 22nd 2013, Chinmaya Rameshwari Mahila Mandal, along with the active guidance and supervision of CORD Lathikata, organized a rally against drug abuse.  With the active leadership of Chinmaya Rameshwari Mahila Mandal, 250 women and school children from various villages of Ramjodi Gram Panchayat assembled together to bring awareness to the detrimental effects of alcohol and drug abuse. This rally was inaugurated by Swami Kevalanandaji and spread throughout the villages, inspiring people with powerful anti-alcohol and drug slogans. Read more…

CORD Tamaraipakkam strengthens local self-governance in villages. They are continuously creating awareness on the importance of Gram Sabhas by organizing ward wide Upgrama Sabhas.  During these Upgrama Sabhas, the villagers discuss topics like: sanitation, drinking water, power supply, elder’s pensions plastic wastage, etc... These Upgrama Sabhas give them an opportunity to record all their problems, demand solutions and encourages them to participate in the Gram Sabhas.  Read more…

My co-Board of Director, Vijaya Cherukuri presented about CORD USA to a packed audience in Detroit MI during Chinmaya Mahasamadhi camp in July.   Coming up in our horizon, Minneapolis, Washington DC and New York will be doing their annual Walk for CORD. CORDUSA Portland will be joining hands to lend a hand to Jordan Charters, who has been donating his services for the past 3 years along with his team of massage therapists, to Portland’s Walk for CORD. Jordan is a 27 year old Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran and former Marine. He has suddenly gone ill, is suffering from a traumatic brain injury and now has trouble even walking.

I will write about these next time.

Big thanks to Paulomi Campbell and Shabana Dipchand for their help with the newsletter!

Friday, June 14, 2013

June 2013 CORDUSA News

Please sign up to receive news and updates from CORDUSA.

In the middle of May, in the heat which felt like a thousand degrees, but in fact was 110 degrees; I ventured to the heart of Odisha to two of our CORD centers in Deuladiha and Lathikata.  Mona Malkani, CORD India's Secretary and I had a fun, interesting, eventful and educational trip.  I will write all about it, but first let’s cover the major events this quarter.

First and foremost, I am so proud to announce that CORD USA, Inc. has been honored as a 2013 Top-Rated Non-Profit!  The GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations announced on June 12th, 2013 that CORD USA, Inc has been awarded the prestigious 2013 “Top-Rated” award. “Savvy donors want to see the impact of their donations more than ever,” said Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits, “People with direct experience with CORD USA Inc. have voted that the organization is making a real difference.”  A big THANK YOU to all who wrote the raving reviews!

Chinmaya Grameen Sevak Prashikshan (CGSP), a 1-year, free, full-time residential course at Sidhbari, Himachal Pradesh, from CORD was inaugurated by Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda in early May and is in full swing. The graduates from this course will be posted back to their own villages to help start CORD activities there.  See the pictures…

CORD Deualdilia continues to passionately work to increase their presence and programs in rural villages. These programs include Mahila Mandals, Self-Help Groups (SHG’s), Farmers Club, and Youth Clubs; which are all designed to increase the standard of life in the rural villages.  As of March 2013, CORD Deuladilia has expanded its area of operation to 42 villages, which includes 3,831 households.   Read more…

CORD Kaza stays focused on the importance of education. In order to provide a sound education for the children at Chinmaya Vijaya, CORD Kaza decided to admit all children to the Indian School in Gollapudi. Overall, the children have done very well academically. Each child has passed their examination, and about 85% have secured a distinction of 75 marks. Read more…

CORD Lathikata initiated an integrated health awareness program (Swabalambi Swasthya). The major highlight of this program included educating people on locally available plants and shrubs with remedies that can be prepared at home. These herbal medications can be used to treat gastric issues, joint pain and migraines as well.  Swabalambi Swasthya educated a total of 1,641 people from 35 villages.  The program also provided a free medical consultation to 450 patients and 118 patients were given free herbal medications.  Read more…

CORD Sidhbari is working to integrate persons with different abilities into mainstream society.  Up to date, there are more than 460 people under this program.  CORD includes the children in mainstream education, the adults in Self-Help groups, and enables them to hone their life skills.  CORD has also provided assistive devices such as walkers, specially modified cerebral palsy chairs for children with multiple disabilities and have constructed ramps for improved accessibility.  Read more…

CORD Siruvani’s youth empowers villages. 32 students of the Junior Red Cross of Chinmaya Matriculation School, Vadavalli went to Thennamanallur. They cleaned certain areas in the village, went door to door to speak about anti-plastic awareness and the importance of recycling waste.  They also planted trees in the Panchayat grounds.  Read more…

CORD Tamaraipakkam raised awareness on oral hygiene. An awareness campaign was organized where 392 villagers benefited from a dental check up and treatment by dental surgeons.  The villagers were also taught about the importance of oral hygiene and proper brushing of teeth.  Patients needing more elaborate procedures like fixation of dentures and extraction were referred to the hospital for free treatment.  Read more…

CORD Sri Lanka hosted a fundraiser featuring renowned flutist and performer Himanshu Nanda from India, Chithrasena-Vajira Dance Foundation and Ms. Thivya Sivanesan.  Read about how the self-
help-groups are working in villages like Jaffna, Killinochchi, Batticaloa and Ramboda through various projects like cattle raising, handicrafts, tailoring and other income generating activities. Please read their detailed annual report.

Now, as for our home front;

On April 6th, CORDUSA Portland held a “Homeless Shelter Cook & Serve” for the second time. Every participant agreed that this fulfilling event will surely be repeated on an ongoing basis. Read more…

On April 7th, CORDUSA Los Angeles held a “Walk for CORD” to increase awareness about CORD and its activities. They raised $6K through this event for CORD.  On May 25th CORDUSA Portland held their annual “Walk for CORD”.  They are still tallying the donations and I will be updating you next quarter with the total amount.

On April 13th, CORDUSA NY held “Salsa Meets Bhangra”, a party to raise funds for CORD’s Income generation and Adult literacy & Child education programs. The evening included food, Bhangra and Salsa performances, dancing and a raffle with great prizes. The tickets also included one-month of free Latin dance classes and an 8-week free Intro to meditation class! All had a great time and they all agreed the event will be continued in the future!  Our CORDUSA NY chapter leads Gayathri Narayan and Chandni Trivedi's efforts to bring CORD USA to the mainstream was featured in the "Indian Panorama".  Congratulations ladies!

Back to the adventures in Odhisha!  The kick-off was with Delhi-Ranchi flight.  Quite an eventful different flight than what I was used to. Behind me, one child thinks she is the Mangeshkar of go-air, and screams some garbled songs at the top of her lungs. Just ahead of me a lady is playing some car crash game on her Samsung; with full sound blaring on.  Yet ahead, there is a little child who keeps asking her father to tickle her and keeps laughing. The passengers took it all in stride.

Mona and I overnighted at Ranchi and drove down south for 5-6 hours to Lathikata. I think Lathikata was the HOTTEST place I had been to, EVER!  Swami Kevalanandaji, CORD lead in Lathikata, was very happy to receive us, and showed off the new Mahindra Xylo they received from CORDUSA Portland’s sponsorship last year. I also enjoyed driving it.  We visited a number of SHGs and discussed their concerns.  I was fascinated by the tribal "welcome dance", and I tried the dance steps with them and played their drum.  More than keeping the beat; I think I provided entertainment for them.  :)

In Lathikata, we visited several Self-Help-Groups in Betjharan, Mando, Nuagaon, Timjore and Karlakhaman areas.  In Betjharan, we noticed the beautiful mats they were sitting on and learned that the ladies made it right in their own homes!  Mats were made of Kahjuri leaves and when we asked if we could have a smaller one as a sample to take with us, they turned around and made two (one for me and other for Mona) overnight and delivered at the CORD center next day - that is entrepreneurship!

The day after we reached Lathikata, it was time to move on to Deuladiha, which is again about 5-6 hours southeast of Lathikata. On our way, we realized our chauffeur and Lathikata Community Development Officer didn't really know the way to Deuladiha, so I whipped out my "map my India" GPS from my bag, and it showed us the way to the CORD center in Deuladiha without any problems! I should say I was impressed, as the roads were really primitive and she (well… GPS was set with a female voice, hence "she") was still able to guide us. 

Dr. Rath, who is the CORD lead for Deuladiha showered her affection on us by giving us fresh cut mangos.  I had never seen so many varieties of mangos in my life!  Alok, their Community Development Officer arranged the programs well for us, minimizing our exposure to the really hot sun.  On the first day we went to SNPuogoda to visit two SHG's and learned so much about Bee keeping.  It was an inexplicable feeling to see all the bees just "hanging out" inside the bee case, when the keeper removed the lids to show them to us!  Later we moved on to Bhimkand where we met the youth club and a couple of women's groups.  The youth club impressed me so much by the way they were leading their village cleanups. 

In Deuladiha, the power outages were much more random and severe. Soon I found myself running
out of iPhone, camera, computer and even my kindle batteries!  No, the cell phone and wireless didn't work anywhere in Odhisha for me, but I was listening to music which had to stop.  The nights were so hot that I chose to sleep on their terrace, which was a new experience for me.  Good news is it was so hot that all the mosquitoes must have been gotten fried; none bothered me out on the terrace!

Next day, we met with the Yuvati groups and CORD officers in the CORD center and we were off to our next 5-6 hours ride to the south, to Bhubaneswar to catch my flight to Kochi. We went in Deuladiha's CORD vehicle, again a Mahindra, but a basic Thar.  Well, because I had fun driving Lathikata’s new vehicle, I had to try my hand in driving this as well.  Though I must admit, it wasn’t as much fun without the a/c and power steering Xylo had.

I took the flight to Kochi with a full heart, thankful that I was able to meet such wonderful people and understand how much work is going on quietly in Odisha. 

Big thanks to Paulomi Campbell, Shabana Dipchand and Samihita Bhat for their help with the newsletter!  

Looking for the upcoming quarter, there is Walk for CORD by CORDUSA Ann Arbor, the two service projects coming up in July, one to Sidhbari and the other one to Kaza.  Both teams of children are bursting at the seams with excitement while we are busy with the preparations.  We will have a lot to talk to you about that next quarter...

As always, if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, I am just an email away...

Thank you!

Tax ID - 27-0540459
Toll free number: (866) 580-5508
Fax: (866) 580-5508

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 2013 CORDUSA News

Please sign up to receive news and updates from CORDUSA.
We have always looked for ways to get people of all ages involved with CORDUSA.  Towards this, CORDUSA has been organizing once-a-year service visits to one of the CORD Centers in India or Sri Lanka.  All of our service project visits have been very successful, creating a dramatic impact on the participants. This is also a great opportunity to earn volunteer hours for college applicants.  Due to popular demand, this year we have offered two separate service visits to CORD Centers in Sidhbari and Kaza. The application process opened on January 17th and was filled to capacity within a very short time! There are 52 participants that are preparing for a trip of their lifetime!  We wish them a pleasant trip, and will hear about their experiences after they get back in August.  There were some disappointed students and parents who were not able to secure a spot this year, but we’ll be sure to have another opportunity for them next year.  Please be sure to sign up to receive our announcements so that you will not miss out on this opportunity again.

A new year always brings new challenges. It offers a new start – and a chance to review our performance for the past year.

Last year in review:

In 2012, various centers fundraised for CORD USA and brought in $250K!!  This is up from 2011’s number $201K.  We want to recognize the efforts of these centers in bringing awareness and funds to the less fortunate ones.  A big thank you to (numbers rounded off to 100’s):

Chicago - $80K
New Jersey - $36K
New York - $27K
Boston - $20K
Portland - $15.5K
Minneapolis - $14.4K
Toronto - $14.2K
Los Angeles - $13.5K
Columbus – $10.2K
Ann Arbor - $8K
Atlanta - $5K
New Jersey $9.8K for Hurricane Sandy

This has only been possible because of your continuous support and commitment to CORDUSA. Let’s keep it up!  You can review last year’s list and numbers here.  If you are interested in conducting a fundraiser, please contact me and I will get you started on that right away!

CORDUSA activities:

Portland chapter organized cooking and serving at a homeless shelter on the New Year's Day. One of the volunteers said - "It was an amazing experience. The exhaust fan was not working, so we were really in a sauna for 3 hours of cooking and 1 hour of serving. I don't think it ever felt this good to work so hard in such heat!"  Inspired by the outpouring of thanks they got by the homeless shelter inmates, they are doing it again on April 6th!

NY CORDUSA served vegetarian food to the poor on January 19.  They now are very busy organizing “Salsa meets Bhangra”, a gala for fundraising and outreaching for CORD.  If you are in the NY area on April 13th, please be sure to check it out and encourage our NY chapter leads!  For this month's local community service activity, CORD USA-NY is looking to UNICEF's one-hour webinar on water conservation.  If this is something close to your heart, please get in touch with us to get more information.

CORDUSA has been quite active within the University circles… CORDUSA Miami chapter opened on February 25th, at University of Miami with a bang.  CORDUSA University of California, San Diego is also busy getting ready for their research and survey trip to the CORD centers in India.  We will keep you posted on these exciting activities through the blog.

Championing the cause:

CORD USA won $5000 Thomson Reuters Community Champion Award for being an outstanding example of community service as well as a $1000 Fidelity Charitable Grant!! Thank you to our dedicated supporters for your support and encouragement!

All of you have been ardent advocates of CORD USA, and it is appreciated by all of us.  

I want to tell you the ways - big and small - long and short term - that fit your budget to help you plan in championing our cause.  Our website is well equipped to provide you with all this information.  As you know, you can make an online donation with a click of a button.  Easy, fast, secure - and - you can direct the amount to the CORD center of our choice!  Or, if you are the traditional type and want to mail-in your donation, please see our mailing address and make sure to provide your email address to receive the donation receipts immediately.  Be sure to check with your workplace about matching grants, it is very easy for us to do and it doubles your donation!

How can we continue to help?

Legacy gifts provide future support for CORDUSA's efforts. Contributions by will, trust, other forms of written designation, life-income arrangements and endowment gifts; all represent forms of legacy giving. Any individual, at any point in their life, can create a legacy gift. It can be as easy as naming a charity on the beneficiary form on a savings, checking or pension account, or through a more complex instrument like a charitable trust.  I will be happy to discuss any and all options with you.

Do you have that car/boat/trailer you were looking to get out of your garage?  We would love to have you donate that vehicle for CORDUSA and we can provide you with a tax receipt.  Find out more

Many of us shop online these days.  Do you know you can donate to CORDUSA when you shop?  Go through Jatna, choose CORDUSA as your choice of charity, and do your regular shopping at Amazon, Staples or several other online shopping places. A percentage of what you spend goes to CORDUSA!  The best part of it all is that there are no further charges for that shopping.  How much easier can it get?!

You have been a strong proponent and you have always wanted to talk to others about CORDUSA's work.  Why don't you host a fundraising event and get recognized for it?  We will help you and equip you with the materials to get you started.

Last, but not least… If you are the type who wants to work at the ground level, get involved, and be right there with the people you help, then CORD India has a course for you…Chinmaya Grameen Sevak Prashikshan (CGSP).  This is a 1-year full-time residential course, which is totally free to the participants at Sidhbari, Himachal Pradesh.   CORD with all postings located in remote villages. Candidates from rural areas will be posted back to their home area if possible.  What better way is there to get to the grassroots?  Be quick however, as the application date ends on March 31st.
The Chinmaya Social Responsibility (CSR) program is a community-based development approach providing free training in music to children from the neighboring villages of Chinmaya Vibhooti. It aims at adding a valuable dimension to their early development through stimulation of their inherent creative and artistic spirit. Many of the children’s training have been sponsored by individuals wishing to promote and preserve traditional Indian Art forms. We, of course welcome more participation and help from you.

Let us look at CORD India and Sri Lanka…

CORD Deuladiha is working to end the injustice women face due to infanticide and sex trafficking. Through a Comprehensive Integrated Rural Development Project (CIRDP), CORD Deuladiha is working with 3031 households in Odisha to bring awareness to this injustice. Since education is a buffer in preventing such cruelty, CORD Deuladiha is focusing on younger girls by improving the quality of elementary education. The belief is that education is a key step in ending the discrimination against young girls that belong to socially disadvantaged groups.   Read more

CORD Kaza’s children are natural athletes! Ten children from Chinmaya Vijaya were selected out of a total of 1300. Of the 25 medals awarded, 21 were given to the girls of Chinmaya Vijaya. The girls won gold medals in long jump, high jump, 100 meter and 400 meter running competitions. To celebrate their success, the girls were adorned with garlands and a procession playing drums that welcomed them as they traveled back to the orphanage.  Read more

CORD Lathikata continues its organic farming initiative. A project was conducted to compare line transplantation of paddy instead of traditional plantation. The premise being that line transplantation will require fewer paddy seedlings, manpower, expenses, and will increase production compared to traditional transplantation. This study was carried out using 100 acres and 80 farmers. The hypothesis proved to be valid as there was a 38% increase in production with line transplantation as opposed to traditional transplantation. As a result of this promising finding, the farmers will continue to use line transplantation of paddy.  Read more..

CORD Siruvani participates in the ‘Power to Empower’. Members of the self-help group participated in the Women’s Entrepreneurship Bazaar where they sold pickles, pain balms, tablecloths, solar lamps etc. This platform not only gave the women a chance to earn revenue but also exchange ideas with other women in the same field.  Read more

CORD Tamaraipakkam tailors its way to success.  With 3 tailoring centers, CORD continues to play an effective role by equipping women with skills to earn additional incomes. The women are also issued certificates at the end of the course which has helped them receive free tailoring machines from the Tamil Nadu government.  Read more

CORD Sri Lanka promotes organic farming.  The usage of chemical insecticides and fertilizers for crops and vegetables in the Jaffna district not only affects the health of the people but also pollutes the soil and water. Furthermore, chemical inputs cost more money. In order to address this issue, CORD has trained its self-help group leaders on preparing different kinds of organic fertilizers and insecticides.    Read more

Big thanks to Paulomi Campbell and Shabana Dipchand for their help with the newsletter!  In May, I will be visiting the CORD Centers in Lathikata and Deuladiha.  I look forward to my trip and I will write about my adventures in my next blog!

As always, if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, I am just an email away...

Thank you!

Tax ID - 27-0540459
Toll free number: (866) 580-5508
Fax: (866) 580-5508