How the Canadian Sikh community is coming together to feed thousands of people every day
The Friendly News is a collaboration between TELUS and Daily Hive. Together, we create a space to tell important and heartwarming community stories, where Canadians can immerse themselves in uplifting news and articles featuring community leaders who give back to a time when we all need them most.
Written for Daily Hive by Ahmar Khan, a Toronto-based reporter who covers politics, race, sports and inequality.
Whether it’s grocery shopping for the elderly or delivering coffee to first responders, Canadians know one thing: how to help those in need. The Canadian Sikh community has moved to another level, as across the country they have kept Gurudwara kitchens open to continue to feed thousands of people a day.
“Regardless of COVID-19, Gurudwara and Langar are open to everyone, regardless of caste, beliefs and beliefs,” Amanpreet Bal, World Sikh Organization member and Ontario volunteer Khalsa Darbar told Mississauga, Ontario.
The voice of Canadian leaders who rally with Canadians to stand united and continue to help each other has not gone unnoticed by diaspora Sikhs who have made Canada their home. For Sikhs, the act of seva, which is the act of giving back to the community without receiving, emerged during the pandemic as they continue to ensure that everyone can eat.
“We are just trying to be true to our history and our practices that are to be shared with the needy, we are trying to help the people who need support now,” he said.
The Ontario Khalsa Darbar is located in Mississauga, Ontario is the largest Sikh Gurdwaras in North America. Usually, the Gurdwaras receive donations of food and money, which they use to maintain the daily langar, which is a vegetarian or vegan meal for anyone who wants one. Although in-person services ceased altogether, volunteer kitchen staff continued to prepare meals for residents of the community.
“Ontario Khalsa Darbar feeds about 500 people a day, we had to reduce the type of food, but sometimes the number can reach 700,” he said.
Anyone can simply walk to the main entrance of the Gurudwara where meals are placed in containers, and take them home for themselves or their loved ones. Meals usually include a lentil soup known as daal and white rice and are available for anyone who needs it. The only requirement for those seeking help is not to be poisoned or carry tobacco while in Gurudwara lands.
Bal said there are several Gurudwaras across Canada who have kept their kitchens open, while some restaurants and banquet halls owned by local Sikhs have chosen to help those in need.
The World Organization of Sikhs was one of the first religious organizations to declare the closure of their religious places of worship, and according to Bal, there was a need to continue serving langar.
“The volunteers prepare the food, and anyone in need can pick up a food package at Gurudwara. As they decrease in number, we replenish them, ”Bal said.
As for continuing to serve the people while there is an ongoing pandemic, Bal said Gurudwara’s executive committee wanted to continue to follow Guru Nanak’s messages. The first being to work hard and honestly, to meditate, to remember God, and to share with those in need.
“People who come for help, without even saying anything, you can read the fear on their faces, the situation isn’t changing every week, it’s changing every hour,” Bal said.
From international students in India who are unemployed and thousands of miles away from home to multi-person households who have all lost their jobs, the ongoing pandemic has hit the region of Peel particularly hard. Bal noted that as a result, the changing service has shifted from eating meals to helping with day-to-day affairs, including trying to find employment.
“People’s jobs have been affected, a lot of international students are worried about what their future holds, we are also trying to provide advice,” he said.
Providing aid was going to be a constant for the Sikh community, but constantly hearing elected politicians call on Canadians to step up was a sign of the desperate need for help. For Bal and others, they have recognized that they are part of a larger system of Canadians who ensure that the most vulnerable in society continue to rise up.
“It’s not just the Sikh community, it’s Canadian values to help, whether you hear these messages from the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister – we are together,” Bal said.