Kerala Association of Greater Washington (KAGW) is the pre-eminent organization for Malayalees (Malayalam speaking people or the people from the South Indian state of Kerala) in Washington metro area serving them for more than 35 years. It has served as the bedrock for all types of arts, cultural and literary activities for Keralites in this area. Many outstanding individuals and leaders in the community have been associated with this august association in a variety of roles and capacities. Its defining identity is its existence as a stepping stone for many aspiring artists and leaders in the community.
KAGW is a registered non-profit organization exempt from taxes and certified per the federal regulations for non-profits as a 501(c) (3) organization. KAGW provides a forum for its members to meet and exchange views and to foster a spirit of friendship, goodwill, and understanding. The primary and distinguishing purpose of a cultural heritage organization like KAGW is to bind the community together by promoting and preserving its identity, traditions, and values. By providing public programs through which cultural heritage can be shared, KAGW is a leader in building bridges between various cultural groups and the larger community. KAGW is committed to serving the community in this way, through its far-reaching programs and endeavors.
Location Washington DC, USA
Key people Elected President and Commitee Members
Area served Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia
Type A Non-profit, Educational, Linguistic and Cultural Organization
Official Languages Malayalam, English
Most of the Malayalees who arrived in Washington area in the late fifties and early sixties were employees of the Indian Embassy in Washington DC or the World Bank or students who studied at the Catholic University and other area schools. The Malayalees participated in the Independence day and Republic day celebrations organized by the Embassy. Participation in these functions and celebrations of Onam and Christmas in family get-togethers developed the fraternity among the Malayalees. In early seventies, immigration law changes resulted in an increase of Malayalees in the area. Malayalam movies were regularly shown in 1972 and Ganamelas of Yesudas and P.Leela were held in 1973 and 1974 respectively. These activities gave the momentum to start a formal organization. A small group of Malayalees met at a local church auditorium on March 23, 1975 and formed a committee to draft a constitution for the Association. Onam and Christmas were celebrated as a community for the first time in 1975 when more than 300 people participated in each function. KAGW constitution was finalized and approved on May 9, 1976. Deacon P.C. Varghese was elected as the first President of the Association in 1976.
The Association members were very active in the eighties and the nineties with numerous community activities. Many members, especially medical doctors and other medical professionals, participated in a free medical clinic for people in Washington D.C. Also, the Association participated in Montgomery County's ADOPT A ROAD program by cleaning the Cipriano road near the S.V. Temple on a regular basis. Many members contributed money to start a scholarship fund. The Association awarded plaques and savings bonds to high school graduates. Also, the Association started an Emergency Fund to help the members who face financial difficulty due to sudden death or illness.
In spite of its humble beginnings, KAGW has now grown into a massive organization with more than 1000 active members and multitudes of passive activist. The association has always been very nimble in adapting its activities to the changing times and needs of the community. The new generation of leaders are constantly coming up with innovative ideas to drive the organization forward.