January 1st, 2005               19 Poh (Samvat 536 Nanakshahi)



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1st Jan 2005

UNITED SIKHS, a global non-profit, non-governmental human development organisation, will usher in the New Year by deploying volunteers and supplies in the areas worst hit by tsunami - Acheh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cochin, Chennai and Andaman Nicobar islands. UNITED SIKHS volunteers are young Sikhs from around the world who have responded spontaneously to work in areas of abject devastation and despair. Sikhs around the world have been asked to donate their time and money to make the relief effort meaningful.

For its first assignment, UNITED SIKHS volunteers will be joined by other volunteers from the Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. The 30 member-relief team, comprising medical and general volunteers, will pick up supplies in Kuala Lumpur before they depart for Medan in Indonesia. From Medan the team will be guided by the local armed forces into the relief camps of Acheh.

"We are grateful to Sikhs in Indonesia and the Malaysian and Indonesian authorities who have paved the way for our access to the worst hit areas in Acheh," said Jagdev Singh, UNITED SIKHS director and leader of the Acheh Relief team.

"We need body bags and water," Rishiwant Singh, UNITED SIKHS director informed the Relief secretariat. A grim reminder of the devastation left behind by tsunami.

The team will provide 'langgar' (hot meals) and medical aid to the survivors. "The langgar is a Sikh institution and cooking for thousands who attend prayers at Gurdwaras has been a centuries-old way of life for Sikhs," said Malkith Singh, vice president, Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia.

In Sri Lanka, where 1.2 million people have been displaced, international relief agencies have pledged to provide food packs for 500,000 persons to last a fortnight.

"UNITED SIKHS should do as much as it can as there are some 700,000 who still need to be fed," Jeevan Thiagarajah, executive director of CHA ( Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies), told UNITED SIKHS.

"We have been informed by CHA that there is a shortage of food in Colombo and that we should bring our supplies from abroad," said Mejindarpal Kaur UNITED SIKHS' Relief Planning Co-ordinator.

"This means that we have an added freight cost as we will have to fly in the food," she added.

"We call upon airlines to give us free or subsidized freight allowances, in response to this calamity," Mejindarpal Kaur said.

Our worst fear is for the Andaman Islanders. We have not gained access to these islands. Our volunteers are standing by for approval to take supplies to these islanders.

"Sikh volunteers are providing relief to all tsunami hit areas, but we have to watch helplessly at the fate suffered by Sikhs in these islands," Mejindarpal Kaur said.

"We are hopeful that the Indian government will grant our relief team the approval to take our supplies in as soon as possible" she added.

UNITED SIKHS will be working with local gurdwaras (Sikh place of worship) to provide langgar (hot meals) clothing and blankets. The Sikh congregation of Chennai and Cochin are helping UNITED SIKHS prepare and serve the langgar.

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