By Seema Hakhu Kachru
Houston, Apr 4 (PTI) The Indian community here has honored social worker Gitesh Desai, recipient of Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, who was also involved in humanitarian work when Hurricane Harvey struck Texas.
Desai, 64, is one of the 28 recipients of the prestigious Indian award presented by President Ram Nath Kovind in January this year. A structural engineer by profession, he is the president of SEWA International’s Houston, Texas chapter.
He led the rescue efforts during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and was responsible for rescuing 687 victims and mobilizing 1,250 volunteers despite losing the ground floor of his own home to massive flooding.
Desai received the honor “Pride of Houston” last week during an event organized by Counsel General of India Anupam Ray with support from major Indian-American organizations like Indo American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston, India House and Hindus of Houston.
I am overwhelmed by the Indian-American community of Houston for the outpouring of their love and respect for me, Desai told PTI.
He also expressed his gratitude for receiving the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman.
“I did not make this journey alone. Countless individuals have nurtured and nourished me over the years with their inspiration, mentorship, love and support in enriching my life,” he said.
Desai helped Sewa International secure a grant of USD 500,000 from American Red Cross to rebuild homes of victims in Rosharon Village.
The grant extends 18 months and is helping the organization reconstruct 11 completely destroyed homes and 24 partially-destroyed homes.
In his address on the occasion, Counsel General Anupam Ray said, he was happy to honor a person who represents the best traditions of the Indo-American community.
What Desai and his team in Houston does, indicates an ambition to do good, to be a force for good, to help others across the world, he said.
Appreciating Desai’s efforts during the hurricane, he said, Desai lost most of his belongings during Harvey flooding, but the three things he didn’t lose were his positivity, hope and health.
He also expressed gratitude to US Senator John Cornyn and US Congressman Al Green for proclaiming March 29, 2019 as Gitesh Desai Day in the city of Houston.
Desai migrated to the US in 1980. He led a delegation to Capitol Hill in Washington lobbying for accountability and transparency in the US financial aid to Pakistan to ensure it was not used to fund terrorist activities against India.
In another delegation, he lobbied for a US-India Civil Nuclear Deal and successfully blocked a killer amendment against it in the US Congress.
He also advocated for the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to India to further develop the diplomatic relationship.
By Seema Hakhu Kachru