Posted by: Singh Is King | Thursday, September 13, 2007

Feeding the homeless with a Sikh Temple

By KEN HERAR
I am reminding Abbotsford/Mission residents between the ages of 14 to 24 to take part in the upcoming Abbotsford News Diversity Challenge.
If you know how to create an inclusive, diverse community in 300 words or less drop us a line. Submissions can be dropped off at the Abbotsford News at 34375 Gladys or e-mailed directly to me at the address below. The deadline for submissions is Sept. 16, and we will be publishing as many as possible, depending on the volume of submissions. Please include your first and last name, age and contact information.Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be part of the “Feed the Homeless” campaign in Surrey. It is an initiative organized by a group of dedicated community volunteers who have been meeting once a month for the past year at various locations in the Lower Mainland. They don’t belong to any organization and their goal is simply to feed as many people as possible.

They started on Christmas Eve in 2006 and their goal is to reach 20,000 food wraps by the end of the year. To date they have completed 18,500 wraps, and are well on their way of surpassing their target. All the food is donated by generous people and businesses in various communities.

Dealing with homelessness and feeding the unfortunate is a social responsibility, and it’s part in building an inclusive diverse community. Living in a capitalist society where the buck talks, it’s easy to lose perspective on the real challenges in life. I was taught at school and at home that caring for the unfortunate and poor was an honorable deed. Treating people with dignity should be a lifelong lesson, not just a lecture in the classroom or at home.

I was anxious and excited to be part of this humanitarian mission. Preparing food wraps is a rewarding and satisfying experience, knowing it’s going to benefit someone who you don’t know, and who needs assistance. Approximately 25-30 volunteers met at the Dukh Niwaran Sikh Temple in Surrey where they put sandwiches, cookies and a drink into a shopping bag called a “wrap.” Tbe work lasted for several hours and 3,000 wraps were made ready to be delivered the same day to locations in Surrey and on Main and Hasting in Downtown Vancouver.

According to organizers all wraps were delivered successfully, and many recipients had smiles on their faces leaving a lasting image with volunteers.

Recipients lined up for blocks before volunteers arrived at the site. I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to go down to the street level and hand out the wraps – an experience I look forward to some day.

The volunteers are predominately from the Sikh community, and consider this activity to be an important part of their faith. Sikhism is a religion of divine love. It is more than 500 years old. It is the youngest religion in the world with over 25 million followers living in 157 countries of the world.

The Sikh Gurus stood for human liberty, equality and fraternity. Two pillars of Sikhism are: Kirt Karna (doing honest labour) and Wand Chhakna (sharing the earnings). Out of their earnings, followers are commanded to share 10 per cent (Daswandh) of their income in service of the poor, needy, destitute and sick.

The Langar (free community kitchen) at the temple is another important institution established by Guru Nanak. There, free and fresh food is served to all – irrespective of caste, color, creed, gender or status.

The philosophy behind this institution is that no man should die of hunger and poverty. It is sacred duty of every Sikh to share his or her fortunes with the less fortunate.

Organizer Nikki Bachu said, “Back in December 2006, we had a vision to gather a team of dedicated volunteers to feed the less fortunate ones, specifically, the homeless. Backed by a small team of volunteers, we managed to feed up to 700 people.”

Since then, over 18,500 packages of food, drinks and clothing have been distributed on behalf of the Sikh community under the banner of Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen (langar).

“Unless you’ve been hungry for more than a few hours, you don’t know what homeless people struggle with every day,” said Bachu. “They never know how or when they’ll eat their next meal. Hunger effects their ability to concentrate and function, making it more difficult for them to find ways to help themselves.

“Getting people to donate food and drinks is not a challenge, finding volunteers to find some time to distribute can be difficult. Most people would rather have dinner at a fancy restaurant than spare a few hours to help distribute to the needy,” said Bachu.

Eleven-year-old Divya Nanray helped prepare wraps, and said, “There are many homeless people in the Lower Mainland. Most kids take this as a joke, but I think it’s pretty serious. But the feed the homeless campaign is trying to do something about that. Doing this makes me feel really good, and I think it’s a very good way to spend time. It means a lot to me to help out the community. Don’t forget that anyone is welcome to help the homeless.”

The next food drive is scheduled for November, called, “No one goes hungry for a week.”

For more information please contact Nikki at (604) 649-1490.

If you know how to build an inclusive community we would like to hear from you.

– By KEN HERAR
kenherar@gmail.com


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