New student organization spreads relief awareness

In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, a newly formed USF student organization went out of its way to help.

The organization, the Hindu Students Council, is the first Hindu organization at USF.

“After the hurricanes, the Hindu Students Council decided that we needed a certain show of support for the community,” said Rahul Agarwal, vice president of the HSC. “We looked into what everybody else was doing, and we realized that they had enough manpower, but they needed better resources. They needed financial support and personal items.”

The HSC hosted a charity dance on Sept. 30 with the assistance of the Federation of Indian Associations, the Hindu Temple of Florida and the Hindu University of America.

“Our objective was to get all the costs sponsored before the event and to send the collections that we raised from entry tickets and donations boxes towards the relief work. So we approached these organizations to give us monetary support to absolve the costs,” Agarwal said.

Around 500 people, both students and community members, attended the event according to HSC President Shraddha Belsare.

“Our main goal out of this was to raise money for Katrina relief and acknowledge those who have passed away or been hurt by the (recent) hurricanes. Secondly, we wanted to represent Hindus getting involved in American society. Lastly, it was to raise awareness of the Hindu Students Council for USF students,” Belsare said.

The group organized the event to fall in concurrence with first day of the Hindu holiday of Navatri.

“Navatri is a Hindu celebration of the power of God, and the way we celebrate this is with a long evening of late-night traditional Indian dancing,” Agarwal said.

There were three main types of dance at this event, said HSC Public Relations Coordinator Shuchi Dwivedi: Garba, Raas and Bhangra.

“In India there are two types of traditional dancing. There’s Garba, which is with your hands, and there’s Raas, which is with sticks. And those are the traditional dances they do when Navatri comes around,” Dwivedi said. “There’s one other dance, and it’s called Bhangra. It’s very upbeat and fast. It’s kind of like modern dancing; it’s like Indian break dancing.”

According to Joel Brown, treasurer for the HSC, the group raised approximately $3,000 from the event, and they are in negotiations to try to have the donation matched.

The HSC is a national council, and there are three chapters in the state of Florida, according to Webmaster and HSC Historian Kalpesh Chotai.

“We became a chapter with HSC national in February 2005, and we’re actually one of the youngest chapters in HSC national,” Chotai said.

The Council is looking forward to more community outreach programs in the future. According to Agarwal there are plans to assist in the aftermath of the recent earthquake, but they’ve not been finalized as of yet.

“Eckerd College has approached us, and they are interested in finding out about the Diwali celebration. That’s another big festival for (Hindus), and that’s coming up the first week in November,” said Agarwal. “This is a very big celebration, to the level of Christmas, for (Hindus), and (Eckerd College) wants us to come there and do decorations and put up a whole show to educate their students about Hindu traditions and what this celebration means.”