- What motivated you to form the Dharma Center? Why is it called the Dharma center?
Indian community in the United States is highly educated and prosperous. Majority of us live in the gated communities and affluent neighborhoods, far away from the realities of hardships that many Americans face. Though hard to believe, there are several areas/towns in the US where two square meals for many still remains a dream. Because of the lack of resources, balanced nutritious food and rising costs of health care, the epidemic of lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes are cause of great concern. Every time we experience these gaps and witness such miseries, it hurts us and motivates to think, what are we doing for our communities.
The Dharma Center is giving from the purely altruistic enlightened self-interest. It is a holistic initiative to feed the hungry, promote healthy living through Yoga, provide academic support to children and most importantly, provide a single platform for the Hindu community to serve the society.
We named the center as Dharma center, as Dharma means doing the right thing at the right time without expecting anything in return. America is the karma bhoomi for the Hindu immigrants. It has offered us opportunities to succeed. It is time to pay back our share to alleviate the poverty and hunger from our neighborhoods. It is time to become the catalyst of change.
- Why did you choose to create a Food Pantry as the first order of business for the Dharma Center?
As the Buddha said, a hungry person will not be receptive to any form of education. As such, we would like to see that the necessary nutrition and food is provided to the needy in the Lowell community, before we embark upon inspiring them about healthy lifestyle and education.
- Why did you choose Lowell for this initiative?
We did extensive research on various cities that have a significant population below the poverty line within MA. With such a large Indian population in Lowell, we thought we could leverage the Indian community’s help in achieving Dharma Center’s goal of serving the people. With the large student community in UMass-Lowell and Middlesex Community College, we hope to attract lot of skilled volunteers to achieve our goal. This directly helps us to achieve one of our missions of promoting volunteerism among the youth. It is a win-win for all.
- Do you plan to replicate this effort in other cities?
For now, our focus is to mature our services in Lowell. Eventually, we will be replicating this effort in other cities of USA
- What other services do you plan to offer at this center?
In addition to food, we are committed to providing after-school academic support for the disadvantaged students and free yoga classes. If you think about the top three important aspects to be addressed for eradicating poverty, it will be food, education and healthy lifestyle. That is why we included after-school education support and yoga classes as part of Dharma Center’s services in Lowell.
- How can the Hindu community help?
We call upon the community to join hands to make a difference in the neighborhoods where we live. The Dharma Center requires all kinds of resources and support. Specifically to the youth, we appeal to participate in food drives, volunteer time to tutor and mentor the kids. We are working to foster collaborations with many academic institutions so that the volunteering time could be credited appropriately. To the young professional, we urge to contribute their time to reach out and develop curriculum for academic support. It is an unique opportunity to volunteer for a cause. The Dharma Center is a catalyst of change!