Press Release

21 January 2005 9th Magh, Nanakshahi

UNITED SIKHS Wins SGPC and Pingalwara Support for Rehabilitation of Tsunami Hit Nicobar

KAMALA, Phuket: A UNITED SIKHS team, including four volunteers from Chicago, USA, had flown to Bangkok recently to commence the Tsunami relief operation here. A team of 18 volunteers, including 13 Local Thailand Sikhs, visited Gurudwara Siri Guru Gobind Singh Sabha, Phuket before starting the GHANAIA relief operation to ask for blessings in their community service efforts.

The UNITED SIKHS volunteers were introduced to the Thai Army before the relief work started who would also engage in the relief effort. This team of army officials, Thai Sikhs (Bangkok, Phuket) and UNITED SIKHS banded together and loaded up supplies for the relief effort and headed directly towards one of the worst hit areas of the west coast of Phuket called Kamala.

Amritsar, Punjab (India) - The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has assured its complete backing for UNITED SIKHS' call to help rehabilitate the lives of Tsunami victims in Great Nicobar, which includes hundreds of Sikhs. Yesterday, UNITED SIKHS GHANAIA Tsunami Project Leader in India, Esher Singh, met with Bibi Jagir Kaur, President of SGPC, and other senior officials of the SGPC, the Apex body of the Sikhs. He apprised them of the situation in Nicobar. He shared photographs and video recordings of the devastation and interviews with families about their conditions and needs.

Earlier yesterday, Esher Singh also met with Dr. Inderjeet Kaur of Pingalwara along with several administrative members of the Pinhgalwara management committee."Pingalwara is very happy to join the UNITED SIKHS project of serving langar for all and for helping the Sikh community on the islands" said Dr. Inderjeet Kaur in a joint Press Conference held at the Pingalwara office in Amritsar.

"Bibi Jagir Kaur assured us that what ever help that is needed to reconstruct the lives of the people in Campbell Bay will be provided and personally overseen by her" said Esher Singh. He said that a very congenial and solid coalition effort has begun and there is a definite hope of reconstruction of facilities and rehabilitation of the islanders before the rainy season sets in.

Esher Singh is heading for Ludhiana today to meet with administration and technologists of Guru Nanak Engineering College. Guru Nanak Engineering College is the oldest and most reputable institution in Punjab. UNITED SIKHS aims to seek the institution's resources to rebuild facilities that can sustain earthquakes and other natural disasters predicted to occur frequently in that part of the country.

"UNITED SIKHS director, Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, who is a geographer and an ecologist understands the need of seismic fault resistant structures in those islands and is instrumental in getting SGPC and Guru Nanak Engineering college involved" said Gurmeet Kaur, from Atlanta, who is coordinating the UNITED SIKHS relief efforts in South India.

Meanwhile, two more UNITED SIKHS volunteers from the U.S and the U.K have landed in Chennai, India, and are ready to join the relief team. They bring construction and langar skills with them to help the locals. Judge Singh, a property developer from California, will co-ordinate the planning and execution of reconstruction work. Joravar Singh from Hounslow, London will be the lynchpin for running the langar programme to feed the whole island.

Great Nicobar, barely 60 nautical miles from the epicentre of the Tsunami in Aceh, is one of worst hit islands in the Indian Ocean. Until UNITED SIKHS landed on the island last friday, no non-governmental organization had visited it because the only aid allowed onto the island was by the armed forces of India.

There are more than 300 islands known as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, in addition to Great Nicobar with its famous Campbell Bay, which are little known except that the government sent a group of Sikhs from the Punjab to settle there in 1969. They were given land to cultivate. Since that time, the Sikh settlers have cultivated them and built thriving communities in this remote and often forgotten area. They developed a notable infrastructure on the islands to serve the many fabrication industries, agricultural sites, and stores. So, in addition to making the area truly Indian by adding an Indian population to the indigenous tribes already there, the Sikhs brought jobs and a high standard of living for everyone.

A whole way of life was washed away by the Tsunami. Some of the islands lost literally all their inhabitants, while others had a few survivors. It is difficult to calculate the loss of life and because of the remoteness of this area and the enormity of the situation, the government is finding it difficult to get relief materials to survivors in a timely manner.

UNITED SIKHS is working with its partners to not only provide timely supply of short term relief but to reconstruct housing before the rainy season sets in i.e the month of April.

Contact: gurmeet.kaur@unitedsikhs.org

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

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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.