Thursday, 01 September 2005
New Orleans, USA
UNITED SIKHS has deployed a relief team and is in the process of procuring supplies for the areas worst hit by hurricane Katrina in the states of Mississippi, Louisiana and Albama where thousands are feared dead, hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless and where millions are without power and adequate resources.
The Gurdwara Sahib New Orleans is submerged and some 50 Sikh families from New Orleans and the outlying areas have been evacuated and are living in temporary homes.
The UNITED SIKHS GHANAIA Katrina base camp has been set up in Baton Rouge, capital of Louisiana, 85 miles from New Orleans. Sumir Kaur, president of the Gurdwara Sahib New Orleans has joined forces with UNITED SIKHS and is leading UNITED SIKHS' relief efforts from the base camp. UNITED SIKHS volunteer Talvinder Singh, from New Jersey, who is assisting Sumir Kaur, will be joined by other volunteers this weekend, to mobilise support and assistance for the Sikh sangat and other communities living in the affected areas.
"We are grateful that the Sikh community is safe but they will need help as they may have lost everything when they had to evacuate with just their clothes on their backs. Many may not have taken flood cover under their insurance policy as is the case with the Gurdwara Sahib," said Sumir Kaur.
"Talvinder Singh and I will go to the volunteer office tomorrow to identify needs for the whole community including psycho socio counselling to fulfil our duty towards all according to Sarbat da bhela," said Sumir Kaur.
"I am so glad UNITED SIKHS contacted me. I am very touched and am proud of the community to rise to the occasion in this way." Sumir Kaur, a retired microbiologist, said.
"I call upon the Sikh sangat to send their donations to UNITED SIKHS which will be channelled to the affected families through the Gurdwara Sahib on a need basis. Many evacuees don't have anything with them. They just have a few clothes. They need money to buy their supplies from stores. Many have no access to their bank accounts. And the stores are stripped of supplies. Everyone has lost jobs. Businesses are uncertain of their future."
"We shall be assessing the material needs of the evacuees from tomorrow and UNITED SIKHS will accordingly make an appeal for material from nearby areas,' she said.
"Each and every Sikh who wants to help should find a way to reach us at UNITED SIKHS and join our team of volunteers. This is the time to build our community and with open arms we welcome other Sikh organizations and relief agencies to join us in these efforts of "making a difference," said Navneet Singh of Atlanta, UNITED SIKHS director who was the team leader for the GHANAIA Tsunami team to South India and the Nicobar and Andaman Islands.
Sumir Kaur recounted how Keertan Singh and Harpreet Singh from Slidell, north of New Orleans which was a badly hit area, were boat lifted from the roof tops. "We were very worried for them as we hadn't heard for them immediately after the storm. Keertan Singh told me that he had his gutka (prayer book) and they did their prayers and waited for daylight before they pushed out the roof and started waving for help." she said. They are now staying with secretary of the Gurdwara Sahib, Nachhatar Singh Pannu, in Walker, Louisiana.
"Our governor and others have said half an hour ago it maybe several weeks people will be allowed to go back into the city and months for people to settle in and years and maybe never before things return to normal," said Sumir Kaur.
Biloxi city in Misissippi is also badly affected and we expect Sikhs to have been living there too. I will have a better idea of the situation in that area and Alabama soon and we will extend our relief work accordingly," Sumir Kaur said.
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.