I have been an intern with the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) since the beginning of June and am based in Washington, D.C., along with numerous members of staff. Thus far, my internship has certainly been interesting and enjoyable, but mostly it has been enlightening. I work with another intern, Tej Desai, where we are getting a well-rounded understanding of all of HAF’s work. Some days we accompany Jay, Harsh, and occasionally Murali, to meetings pertaining to their areas of expertise. We are also independently working on several unique projects.
When I started my internship, I did not know much about HAF. It wasn’t until I attended their Annual DC Advocacy Days that I began to understand the depth of their advocacy work. I knew the basics, such as helping Hindus around the world to gain religious freedom and rights, educating the public about Hinduism, and providing a voice for Hindus here in the United States. Through the internship, I have sat in on meetings with Senator Cornyn and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s offices, which were truly exciting because there is no other way would I have been able to meet and speak with such high ranking officials in our government. I also attended education briefings on Common Core with Murali, where we talked about initiatives for increasing the standards of education for schools throughout the country. This was interesting to me because growing up as a Hindu, my school barely covered Hinduism other than a single chapter in a textbook, which we may now have a chance to improve. I enjoyed seeing the initiative HAF and other organizations are taking in trying to change the way education departments work.
HAF does great work in trying to change the way people view and understand Hinduism, and much of their efforts start with HAF’s DC Advocacy Days. DC Days was an enlightening experience for me because I witnessed public policy first hand. I understood the importance of DC Days lies in the fact that it is the only day during the year that Hindu Americans gather in our nation’s capital and speak about relative issues to their representatives. It is the one day that we, as Hindu Americans, present our ideas and points of view to government officials. The event let me see exactly how HAF builds relationships with elected officials, the importance of fostering and continuing these relationships, and how those relationships help further HAF’s advocacy work.
I never really thought about how the staff members and volunteers of HAF work. However, since arriving here, I have witnessed the passion that they have for Hindu American advocacy. Because of this internship, I can now better appreciate what the staff does in order to achieve their goals. I have accompanied Jay and Harsh to meetings as they develop relationships to promote the voice of the Hindu American community. I have accompanied Murali to meetings and have seen him push the importance of having Hinduism taught about fairly and accurately in the classroom. I have also worked with Samir and seen the passion he puts into giving Hindu minorities around the world a voice.
Maintaining these relationships is imperative to ensure our voice and ideas are heard. It forces people take our opinions seriously, but the only way to do that is for people to devote all their time to these meetings, therefore fostering these relationships. This work entails true dedication, but mostly it entails time. This is why HAF requires full-time staff and a passionate volunteer base.
I believe being an advocate is crucial to the Hindu American community as a whole. Why? Because if we don’t do it then who will? The Hindu American community is growing in this country and I believe that our opinion can, should, and deserves to be heard. The only way this can happen though is if more and more members of the community speak up and join the cause. HAF is important to the community because it is the only advocacy group that is working on behalf of our community. They are providing a professional Hindu voice in the many areas in which they work. This is why I believe in being a Hindu American advocate.