Tuesday, 06 September 2005
22nd Bhaadon (Samvat 537 Nanakshahi)
Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
UNITED SIKHS volunteers today begin to serve hot meals to 1300 evacuees at the Dream Center at Donaldsonville, a temporary shelter which houses an influx of evacuees from its neighbouring New Orleans, and sets its hope to do the same in as many of the 13 evacuee centers, resources permitting.
Meanwhile, to facilitate its relief work, UNITED SIKHS, a global humanitarian and human development organization, has joined the national coalition of volunteering agencies working with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) together with organizations such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, United Methodist Church, Baptist Church, Catholic Charities, Episcopal Church, Church World Services and Adventist Community Services. Updates will be obtained by UNITED SIKHS through this coalition on a regular basis.
"We will feed these 1300 evacuees for weeks to come and longer if necessary, if resources permit. We are looking to extend this to as many of the 13 shelters across the nearby towns. At the moment, with the given resources, we will be extending our hot meals distribution to only one more shelter," said Gurvinder Singh, UNITED SIKHS director and team leader at the base camp in Baton Rouge.
There is a dire shortage of volunteers at the relief centers. "Relief organizations are asking us if we could let them have our volunteers. There is a scramble for volunteers because of the sheer numbers to be catered for," said Jagsir Singh, a criminology student, who had taken turns with Ramandeep Singh, a computer consultant, to drive the first truck of supplies from Houston to Baton Rouge last week.
"We appeal to the public and the Sikh sangat to uphold a 500 year old Sikh tradition of running a community kitchen and to donate their resources in cash, kind and time. We need a relay of volunteers to keep the kitchen running. Catch a plane, drive down, whatever it takes just get here," he said.
Gurmail Singh, in charge of the UNITED SIKHS kitchen, said he needs help to prepare and serve the food. "Volunteers at community kitchens in Sikh Gurdwaras (place of worship) cook and serve hot food for thousands at a time all the time. Therefore it is not impossible for us to achieve this at the evacuee centers. But I need more volunteers from up and down the country to help us here." he said.
Providing hot meals is not the only concern of UNITED SIKHS. "We are still in need of 6,000 blankets, pillows, bed sheets and towels. Many of the evacuees have only the clothes on their backs and are yet to be given adequate sleeping material," said Hardayal Singh, UNITED SIKHS director who is spearheading the relief efforts.
For list of emergency supplies needed please go to www.unitedsikhs.org/katrina/supplies.htm
"We still unfortunately have people sleeping on the concrete floor, as we simply don't have the resources to counteract this problem," said Mike Peeks, manager of the relief center set up at the River Center in New Orleans.
Yesterday when surveying the needs of evacuees, UNITED SIKHS volunteers distributed towels, pillows, loaves of bread and bed sheets to the evacuees at the Dream Center in Donaldsonville, LA.
"The 40 displaced Sikh families affected by Katrina in Louisiana have been provided for and they are temporarily housed with friends and family. We will work with UNITED SIKHS to look into the displaced families' future needs when they start rebuilding their homes and businesses," said Sumir Kaur, president of Gurudwara Sahib (place of worship) in New Orleans, who is co-ordinating UNITED SIKHS' relief efforts with local organizations.
'All efforts are being made with the help of UNITED SIKHS to remove Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Sikh scriptures) from the Gurdwara Sahib which is submerged in flood waters," she added.
Tel: 1 404 5508356
To transform underprivileged and minority communities and individuals into informed and vibrant members of society through civic, educational and personal development programs, by fostering active participation in social and economic activity.
UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues - whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities.
UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of organisations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavour than to serve, empower and uplift fellow beings. The core of our philosophy is an unwavering commitment to civic service and social progress on behalf of the common good.
Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfil its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all.
We at UNITED SIKHS believe that the development of enlightened and progressive societies can be made possible by socially conscious groups of people who make a commitment to develop and direct human potential. Our work, efforts and achievements stand as a testament to our faith in this vision.