SEVA - Press Profile
2011 Union Square Award Recipient89-40 115th Street
Richmond Hill, NY 11418
Media Contacts: Gurpal Singh, Co-Founder
SEVA Immigrant Community Advocacy Project (SEVA) has reached thousands of people since 2008 and has grown to nearly 400 members. SEVA responds to the socio-economic and resource needs in the neighborhoods of Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, and Woodhaven, Queens whose residents include immigrants from India, Guyana, Trinidad, and Suriname. SEVA’s principal strategy is to educate and train residents as community organizers to achieve social, economic, and political change.
The community’s youth, aged 16 to 23, were among the first to join, have grown to more than 100 volunteers, and are the most active organizers working with older members, mentoring and training new ones. Youth participate at all levels: organizing services for seniors, women’s projects, voter registration, legal immigration clinics, and health fairs.
Immigrant seniors in the community have low education levels, zero to poor English language proficiency and critical need for appropriate health and public services. SEVA provides “access to benefits” workshops and informational materials in home-country languages and has a five-year plan to create the first of its kind senior center in Richmond Hill.
In the early days, SEVA’s membership was 90% male. Today, girls and women make up almost 50% of the members. An inter-generational group of girls and women meets regularly to discuss nutrition, health, teen pregnancy and leadership development and to organize health screenings and informational workshops for women.
Civic engagement is an organizational priority. SEVA has conducted numerous voter registration drives, town hall-style meetings with local elected officials, and awareness events in religious centers on the importance of voting. SEVA worked assertively to increase community participation in the 2010 Census.