Community Voice

09 February 2005 Magh 28, Samvat 536

Joys and Sorrows—Campbell Bay Sikh Community Needs to Share With You

Campbell Bay - Great Nicobar, Indian Ocean. Sardarni Darshan Kaur Grewal, found hope to live again when she was re-united with her husband and family whom she had presumed dead in Campbell Bay. When the disaster struck, she literally ran a few kilometers to escape from the waves and found safety on a hill where she hovered in the rain for the next two days. Then, for ten days she kept looking without any luck for her family amidst the ruins and dead bodies. After struggling in the relief camps and losing heart she decided to go to her relatives in Delhi. A few days later she heard that her husband was alive on the island. Physically ill, mentally exhausted and unable to establish contacts, she approached UNITED SIKHS to help reunite her with her husband. UNITED SIKHS team members acted quickly and escorted her back to Campbell Bay. In less than five days she flew, sailed and found home once again. For the time being she and her family are in the make shift Gurdwara rooms, but soon they will be in a house that UNITED SIKHS will assist the families in building.

The UNITED SIKHS team of eight volunteers in Campbell Bay, led by Bhai Esher Singh, has accomplished a lot in very little time, but a bulk of the task remains like a large mountain that must be cleared before the monsoons start in April. People have no homes to live in. Only about a quarter of the Sikh families, out of the total of 70 who were displaced, have found shelter with relatives and friends whose houses remained. The majority must still subsist in the government run relief camps or in the make shift rooms of the Gurdwara Sahib, the majority of which was destroyed by the waves.

The Sikh Community shares their grief with UNITED SIKHS team.
Photograph 1. The Sikh Community shares their grief with UNITED SIKHS team.
Darshan Kaur Grewal awaiting reunioun with her family.
Photograph 2. Darshan Kaur Grewal awaiting reunion with her family.

For more pictures see the Campbell Bay Gallery page.

UNITED SIKHS helped fixed the roof, bathrooms, and plumbing and cleaned the Gurdwara in addition to getting langar service started. "Our first priority is to get the Sikh families out of the congested and disease infected relief camps and put them in the Gurdwara Sahib", said Bhai Esher Singh. However, the current structure cannot hold the monsoon rains and there are not enough toilets, bathrooms, water tank capacity and rooms to hold all the families. The retaining wall needs to be rebuilt higher to block the ocean water from tidal waves. "The estimated expenses in getting the Gurdwara in the condition to provide short term relief alone are Rs. Fifteen lakhs while the total cost of rehabilitating the community is estimated to be over Rs 5 crores," He added. "Other NGOs left after the cosmetic touches. We are the only ones helping the Sikh Community here". He further stated.

Besides providing the short term relief of food, utensils, water filters, cooking gas, clothing, bedding, hygiene supplies and shelter, UNITED SIKHS is helping assess the property damage and file reports, providing counseling, lobbing their case with the government and the Diaspora Sikhs and evaluating their rehabilitation needs. The team has provided immense spiritual support as well. When the team first got there, besides starting the langar, the Gurdwara saw its first diwan with kirtan. Bhai Esher Singh gave an encouraging talk and the three American Sikhs performed loving sewa as they distributed toys and sports equipment to children who also needed someone with whom to share their horror stories. The volunteers made them feel secure and gave hope that all was not lost and they were not forgotten. "I am hanging out with a child who had to climb one tree only to have to climb another higher tree when the water receded since the waves kept getting higher. As he saved himself, he watched his mother washed away trying to save her younger son and daughter. Now he has no mother or siblings." said Hargobind Singh.

"UNITED SIKHS is truly uniting people of all walks of life: the forgotten, disaster-stricken Sikhs of the islands, the American and British volunteers, Punjabi Sikhs, Caucasian Sikhs, survivors like the lost wife with her husband and children, men and women from India, Malaysia and Australia have all joined hands to tell the world we will not forsake our community in need," said Gurmeet Kaur. "What amazes me is the leadership in these organization- Sikh women are contributing as much if not more here," she added.

There is a lot more on the tsunami plate. "There is no time to build homes for people; we need prefabricated homes that can withstand the returning earthquake shocks. We need a sturdy Gurdwara and Community center that can provide a safe hiding place on a hill and a distance away from the ocean. It will serve as both a source of physical and spiritual refuge for the community. We need to bring the community together; they are scared and divided in half. Some of them want to resettle in the Punjab as they are wary of the earthquake tremors they are still experiencing. Others are anxious to rebuild their lives in their homeland. We need to reestablish their source of incomes. The children have lost schools and colleges. We need to restore their lives completely. We can do this if the community comes together and for that we are asking that you please do your part. Help spread the message, help as volunteers, help with donations, help however you can," Gurmeet Kaur requested.

"Truly, the UNITED SIKHS team has done so much in a very short time. However, they are small in number, and what they brought with them for the survivors will only last a few weeks. They are in great need of more resources to help primarily those victims who do not have access to other kinds of support, either governmental or private. Contributors can be assured that all their donations will end up in the hands of the victims since UNITED SIKHS runs strictly by volunteerism and sewa" says Dr. Mary Jane Nations a social worker following the work of UNITED SIKHS.

UNITED SIKHS will update you as we receive reports. For Relief Team updates see:

Please donate, even if you cannot give a lot. Your contribution will help victims directly.


You may donate online by clicking above, or by cheque payable to UNITED SIKHS, and mail to a UNITED SIKHS regional office.

To volunteer, please contact the UNITED SIKHS office nearest to you.

For more information on the GHANAIA tsunami project, e-mail us on:

Our Mission

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.