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Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center
This is the internet version of the Kerala Center News letter. Vol.3 , June 2000
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Report about the conference on “Providing Social Services to the Indian American Community in the New York Metro Area – An Evaluation and Future Action,” on Sunday, May 21st at TheKerala Center.

Dr. Thomas Abraham.

COORDINATING COUNCIL FOR SOCIAL SERVICES FORMED


Organizers of the conference, from L. to R. Rajeshwar Prasad, Manik Jassal, Thomas Kaippakasseril, Dr. Thomas Abraham, Prakash Parekh, Sudha Acharaya and E.M. Stepehn


< The Indian American social service organizations and community workers joined together with GOPIO America for a day long conference on “Providing Social Services to the Indian American Community in the New York Metro Area – An Evaluation and Future Action,” on Sunday, May 21st at the Indian American Kerala Center in Long Island. Cosponsored by Indian American Kerala Cultural and Civic Center, Indian Social Workers Association, National Indian American Association for Senior Citizens and Network of Indian Professionals (NetIP, New York), the conference attendees heard presentations from current Indian community service providers and other community groups with successful programs.

Welcoming the groups, GOPIO President Dr. Thomas Abraham said that the community organizations should give more attention to fulfill the social service needs of the growing community. “We have not organized enough to provide social services and unlike the other community groups, the Indian American community is way behind,” said Dr. Abraham. Prakash Parekh, Editor of News Indian Times, which sponsored the conference, said that he would publicize the social service needs and provide useful information to the community through various columns in the newspaper. Kerala Center president E.M. Stephen said that the Center is now catering to the needs of the larger Indian American community in the Metro New York area.

The opening session titled “Delivering Social Services to Communities” was chaired by Sudha Acharya who stressed the need for all community service groups to work together. The speaker Alexandra Rosa, Chief of Staff for Queens Borough President said, "First comes awareness, then acceptance and then action." She suggested that before one writes a proposal for funding, one needs to do a "needs assessment," which is very important. Regarding funding Rosa said "If you don’t ask they can’t say yes."

The next session was chaired by Thomas Kaippakaseril, President of Indian Social Workers Association. Prema Vora, Executive Director of Sakhi for South Asian Women presented some of the achievements and problems faced by Sakhi to deliver services to battered women. Describing the trials of battered women, she said, "The community has to realize that there are survivors of domestic violence."

The next session titled “Experiences of Other Community Groups” was chared by Dr. Munish Khaneja, a member of Network of Indian Professionals (NetIP) and currently a resident Down State Medical Center. Christopher Kui, Executive Director, Asian Americans For Equality presented their experiences in finding affordable housing for Asian Americans. According to Kui, housing is the major issue to the new immigrant community. Irma Rodriguez, Deputy Director of Forest Hills Community House recommended to "Develop good cross-cultural relationships and find common ground to participate." She said it was very important for ethnic groups to figure out a way of looking after their own. Joel Kaplan of the Metro NY Coordinating Council suggested the community groups to reassess the social service needs as time goes on. Kaplan also stressed on "responsible leadership" and "fresh blood in the organization."

The next session chaired by NetIP President Manik Jassal with speakers Vanitha Venugopal, Director of Housing, Office of the Queens Borough President and Geetha Bhat, Intensive Care Manager, OMH, New York State, identified the major social needs of the community. Conference further had three breakout sessions which discussed the needs of the elderly, youth and family counseling.

The concluding session decided to form an organization “Coordinating Council for Social Services to the Indian American Community.” The council will set up an office at the Indian American Kerala Center and would seek donations and private and public funding to support various programs. A committee has been formed with Sudha Acharaya as its coordinator. Others in the committee are: Seema Agnani, Manik Jassal, Thomas Kaipakasseril, Neil Parekh, Manoj Patel, Dr. Raveen Saluja, Dr. Asha Samant, E.M. Stephen, Romesh Tiwari, Venkataraman Vaikuntanarayanan, and Prema Vora. The Coordinating Council is seeking more volunteers. Contact Sudha Acharaya at 718/523-7668 or E-mail at sacharya@netzero.net