Hindu Heritage Endowment: HAF Makes Vivid Case for Support 

The following article was published by the Hindu Heritage Endowment in their July/August/September 2009 Progress Report:

Sheetal Shah, backed by PowerPoint images of anti-Hindu Web sites and negative headlines in the U.S. press, summarized the work of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) for more than 250 of its supporters gathered at the banquet room of the Grand Indian Buffet in Sunnyvale, California, on November 7, 2008. 

Ms. Shah, HAF’s Director of Development, spoke urgently for more than twenty minutes of the ignorance and misunderstandings the five-year-old Foundation battles on behalf of the American Hindu community. 

“One U.S. Congressman asked us whether we were Sunnis or Shiites,” she said to her mostly Hindu-American audience who reacted with weak laughter and groans. 

An energetic and fluent public speaker, she warned her audience that passive acceptance of Hindu stereotypes, virulent anti-Hindu Web sites, or ignorance by U.S. politicians of the Hindu commitment to understanding, tolerance and pluralism won’t do in the United States. 

“Other ethnic groups are far ahead of us,” she said. “They provide us with models we can follow, both in educational effectiveness and fundraising.” She explained that HAF, along with raising current dollars, is also urging its supporters to include the organization in their estate plans. 

She added that those who want to provide permanent support to HAF’s work can do so through two funds recently established at the Hindu Heritage Endowment (HHE): 
Hindu American Foundation Endowment (fund #75) provides general support to HAF’s work of advocating for the Hindu American community. 
Endowment for Global Hindu Rights (fund #76) supports HAF’s efforts to highlight and correct human rights violations faced by Hindus world-wide. 

Born in India, Ms. Shah arrived in the U.S. at age three and was raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in computer science. A former HAF volunteer, she joined HAF’s Manhattan office after completing a Masters Degree in Development Management at the London School of Economics (LSE). “New York is a fabulous place,” she told Hinduism Today. “I love its energy, its mix of people, and its acceptance of diversity. No one looks at you oddly in this city.” 
She feels that this new link with the Hindu Heritage Endowment will bring HAF to full fundraising maturity, making available to its supporters permanent endowed funds, bequests, charitable remainder trusts, and other sophisticated estate gifts. 

Since its founding in 2002, HAF has grown rapidly from a handful of volunteers gathered for its first meeting at the Philadelphia home of its co-founder and board president, Dr. Mihir Meghani, an emergency room physician now living in Fremont, California. In 2008 HAF raised just over $400,000 from about 1,000 supporters. Ms. Shah, however, feels HAF and the Hindu-American community are in their infancy as effective advocates and educators. “We need to shape the local and global debate with our children’s interests in mind,” she said. “We cannot afford to be passive when faced with misinformation about Hinduism.” 

To contribute to the Hindu American Foundation Funds or to establish a Fund of your own to support Hindu causes, contact Shanmuganathaswami at 808-822-3012, extension 6 or hhe@hindu.org, or visit the fund’s website. To donate to this fund, visit www.hheonline.org.