I can now wear my Kirpan for my examination this Saturday

“My MP said he could not help me because it was not under his purview and a Sikh Govt Minister said that I should be prepared to take my CFA level 2 examination this Saturday without wearing my Kirpan”, Rattan Deep Singh of New Delhi.


Rattan Deep Singh: “Within four days of taking up the matter, UNITED SIKHS delivered what they had assured me of. The CFA Institute have been kind enough to reconsider their decision and allow me to wear the kirpan during my exam on Saturday.”

Dear Friends
Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh!

Today, first thing in the morning, I saw a message from Mejindarpal Kaur of UNITED SIKHS and I almost sprang out of my bed. It was a head over heels moment for me. It read, “CFA Institute has allowed you to wear the kirpan. Check your mail. Vaheguroo.”

Delighted, elated, overwhelmed, excited, thrilled, ecstatic were some of the few emotions that I went through at that time.

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute is a prestigious USA-based global association of more than 120,000 investment professionals, and I had been preparing to sit for their level 2 exams so I could be a charter holder in the near future. But last week I was informed by the CFA Institute that I would have to sit for my exams without wearing my kirpan, a mandatory Sikh kakaar (article of faith) that I have been wearing since I took amrit (became an initiated Sikh) in April. They said that under the ‘Institute’s exam security policy, knives of any type including box cutters, swords, or any other object that could be used as a weapon is not permitted.’

It all started on May 20th this year. I was preparing for my CFA Level 2 exams when I read a news article that a Sikh student in Haryana (India) was barred from entering the examination hall to do the engineering entrance exam. He took a brave step of taking a stand and was denied entry and lost out on 40 precious minutes of his exam time.

That incident incredulously involved an Indian examination authority. My exam however is conducted by a Virginia (USA) based institute, in over 150 countries, and was scheduled for June 4 in the India Expo Mart in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. To avoid any last moment complications, I wrote an email to the CFA Institute asking them to confirm that I would not face any problem wearing a kirpan during the examination. But to my shock, they said I could not wear my kirpan. According to their mail dated 25th May, the CFA Institute said that they respected my religious beliefs but that their exam security policy excluded the carrying of knives of any type including box cutters, swords, or any other object that could be used as a weapon.

Weapon! It just struck me. An article of faith that bore the qualities of mercy (kripa) and self-respect (aan) is today perceived by the world as just another knife or weapon? It didn’t go down well. I was given this kirpan by Guru Gobind Singh Ji (the 10th Sikh Guru) himself through the Punj Pyare (5 Beloved Ones) who initiated me on April 13 of this year. Guru Sahib made me wait for a good 26 years of my life before bestowing me with this kirpan; before giving me the ambrosial nectar (amrit); before making me a part of his army, his panth – the Khalsa (the sovereign). How can I remove my kirpan for the sake of an exam? My forefathers include martyrs Baba Deep Singh, Bhai Taru Singh, Bhai Mani Singh, my brothers – the Sahibzada’s, they all put their blood into the roots of this plant called Sikhi. I am blessed to be reborn in the family whose history comprise of valiant warriors fighting for the sake of righteousness, be it for others (kirpa) or themselves (aan).

I, therefore, decided not to be a part of a course or an institute that doesn’t respect my religion. I decided to quit! This is exactly when Guru Gobind Singh Ji called upon me to say, “Khalsa so, jo kare nitt Jung” (He is a Khalsa, who does battle every day).

Hence, it was decided. Quitting is not an option for a member of this family for whom “Rann tatta dekh soore chit ullaas”, who actually feel joyous in the midst of a raging war. To shriek away, to cower, to quit is never taught to us. We would rather prefer to die fighting than live as a quitter. “Jab aav ki oudh nidhaan bane, Att he rann me tab joojh maro”! Then so be it! I was determined that whatsoever happens in this case, no other person of Sikh brotherhood shall be subject to such discrimination, especially by premier educational institutions.

It was time that the world realized that this so called weapon was bestowed by the Gurus not just as a mark of power but with an obligation also, “Choo kar az huma heelate darguzasht, Halaal-ast burdan b-shamsheer dast” – in order to stop evil from running through, use all possible strategies and resources available; and when you are left with no other option, then to fight oppression it would be apt for you to pick up the sword!

On 26th May I sent the CFA Institute an email explaining my legal rights to wear the kirpan, under the Indian Constitution, and the stand taken by various governments worldwide in accommodating the kirpan, including the European Parliament, the Canadian Parliament, Australia, the UK, amongst others. Meanwhile, I sought help from various organizations who protect and uphold human rights around the world. After getting a cold reply from a couple of them and no reply from the majority, one Mejindarpal Kaur of UNITED SIKHS came forward to help.

Till that time, I didn’t know who the UNITED SIKHS people were or what they do as an organization. All I knew was that my Guru is on my side at all times, “Guru mere sang sada hai naale”.

Mejindarpal Kaur, International Legal Director of UNITED SIKHS, took up this matter herself. She herself called me up, heard my side of the story, discussed the case in depth and assured me her best efforts. I didn’t know what was in store for me as the exam was just a week away by then.

Initially, I wasn’t even sure if my case will be taken up seriously or not. What would an organization based in the UK, in the name of charity, do for a person they haven’t ever seen; didn’t know he even existed before that day; who they can never trace if he refused later on? I was skeptical. That’s what an analyst is supposed to be though. So I was trying other options as well. I went to my Member of Parliament who said my case did not fall under his purview even though it involved the violation of my fundamental constitutional right in India (article 25 of Indian Constitution accommodates right of Sikhs to wear a kirpan everywhere, all the time). He referred the case to the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee ( DSGMC) as the matter related to the Sikh religion, who referred me further to a Sikh Govt Minister in Uttar Pradesh, where the examination center was located. Incredibly this Minister said that any kirpan or Kakaar doesn’t make one a Sikh. His comments were heart wrecking. Broken that I was to have heard such a thing from a Sikh.

On the other hand, Mejindarpal Kaur blew away all my doubts! She tapped all possible resources and avenues that I didn’t even know existed! All by herself, she reached to the highest level at the CFA Institute, Members of Parliament in India, High Court lawyers, authorities of the venue where the exam was held and many more. Almost single handedly, she shook all the authorities. I didn’t even have to step out of my house (as she said I should study for the examination). She took it upon herself, as if it was her own case; as if her personal right was at stake. And she did all this while her mother was ill in Malaysia! Dhan Guru, Dhan Guru ke Sikh! Maybe that’s why Guru Saab says, “Jo deese Gursikhda tis niv niv laagu paaye jiyo!”

Within four days of taking up the matter, UNITED SIKHS delivered what they had assured me of. The CFA Institute have been kind enough to reconsider their decision and allow me to wear the kirpan during my exam on Saturday. They have also decided to take up UNITED SIKHS offer to help them look at their policy the world over for the accommodation of the kirpan.

I thank Pritham Bhagauti, the Almighty, my Guru Sahib, UNITED SIKHS, Mr. Paul Smith – President and CEO of the CFA Institute for reconsidering their policy for the sake of religious freedom and human rights, Senior Advocate Amarjeet Singh Chandhiok who was ready to offer his pro bono services if needed and Dr. Dharamvira Gandhi MP of Patiala, who was kind enough to write a letter to my MP, the CFA Institute and the exam center authorities. I thank my family – for standing by my decision of not entering the examination hall by removing my kirpan. I thank Rhythm Kaur (my younger sister) who was instrumental in this fight, without whom I might not have been able to carry on due to a shortage of time and the necessity to prepare for the examination, she handled all my communications, etc.

I never thought that there will be someone in another corner of this world who would take up this battle even more seriously and sincerely than myself. I just can’t thank UNITED SIKHS enough! I am a Chartered Accountant by profession and I do hereby pledge my all possible services that UNITED SIKHS feel me worthy of performing.

Waheguru ji ka Khalsa! Waheguru ji ki Fateh! (The Khalsa is The Great Gurus, Victory is the Great Guru’s)

Rattan Deep Singh, New Delhi

*UNITED SIKHS (www.unitedsikhs.org) is a UN-affiliated civil and human rights advocacy organization that is a registered NGO in 10 countries including India, UK and the USA, which works tirelessly to engage, empower, and safeguard the rights of minority communities worldwide and protecting religious freedoms is a cornerstone of their mandate.

Please watch our videos at UNITEDSIKHSTV and follow us our social media Facebook | Twitter | Blog.and see how your contribution is making a difference. If you have any queries regarding Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy call 1-646-688-3525 or email contact@unitedsikhs.org oracademy-usa@unitedsikhs.org

Fighting Power with Poetry: Sikh Rights Activist Sukhjit Kaur Wins Hearts Across Australia

Melbourne, Australia: Recently, Sukhjit Kaur who was UNITED SIKHS director, Australia made it big on media on “Australia’s Got Talent”. She won the hearts of audience and people across Australia after her smashing performance on national television. She used the power of spoken word poetry to emphasize her identity as a Sikh born and brought up in Australia.

I have a passion for performing arts and my degree is in Political Science and International Relations, so about 2 years ago I merged the two and started doing spoken word poetry. When I saw an opportunity to audition for Australia’s Got Talent (AGT), I thought it would be an awesome way to reach a wider audience. It’s not often you see Sikhs on commercial TV so I thought it would be worth giving it a shot!

My message: Face our fears. Standing up for what we believe in. Standing up for human rights. The right to live in a country and belong to a country. Practising Sikhi in our everyday lives with love and compassion.
Remembering that Guru Nanak Sahib ji was a rebel of his time. He shifted the paradigm. Even when society was against him, he was not afraid to share what he believed in.
In a post 9/11 era, I’ve grown up in a society that can be harmonious and accepting as well as intolerant and discriminatory.
We have the power to educate and sometimes people forget there are different avenues you can do that in. Before they shut down the arts, and the road less travelled – maybe it’s time to open up our minds to a new progressive way of thinking!
A lot of people in our community are proud to be Sikhs and are proud to share that message with society, but they are tested at a point where they get racist comments spat at them. What do they do with that anger? They turn it into hatred for ‘the other’ and shoot fire right back! I don’t think that is the Sikh way to deal with things. We need to spread awareness strategically with love, compassion, and creativity.
My message isn’t about igniting anger in those who have ever received discrimination in the past. My message is about igniting passion to make a positive change. Standing up as a Sikh with Sikh values and a Sikh upbringing and using those tools to help those who are voiceless.
Whether you are Indigenous, an asylum seeker, have a disability, are marginalised for the colour of your skin, religion, gender, sexuality or status in society – you have rights.
The right to live in your country.
The right to be respected by members of society.
The right to be free.

Where else have you raised your voice for this issue?

Youth Parliament: From the 8th – 13th of July, 2012 I was lucky enough to be selected as the Member for Jandakot, my local electorate, in the annual YMCA Youth Parliament of Western Australia. Here, young people come together to share their views on community issues and develop a piece of youth legislation. On the last day in Parliament House, we were given the opportunity to speak on any issue of our choosing. I chose to give a testimony on courage, drawing on my personal experiences with accepting the hair on my body and my story of overcoming bullying. I felt that these issues were important to explore as it gave the audience a chance to enter my world, feel my emotional and impassioned story, and take that message of courage with them.

Watch the speech here.

What was the response of the audience?

I believe the most courageous act is to be yourself; to be true inside and out. Only when you stand up for who you are, can you stand up for what you believe in. When you speak the truth, the universe is behind you. I got an overwhelming response from the audience. Love and compassion all the way!

How are hate crimes a threat to social justice?

Sikhi teaches us that we are all equal, and should treat others with complete equality. Sadly, this is an uncommon practice today. Inequality begins in our communities, in the simplest of ways. It begins as a tiny seed. It takes root, and quickly flourishes. Why do we argue later about cutting down the tree of inequality, when we could have avoided planting the seed to begin with? Why do we have to wait until a human is killed due to a hate crime to start the conversation of injustice when we could work on strategies to preventing these hate crimes from occurring in the first place.

You can watch Sukhjit Kaur’s spoken word performance on Australia’s got talent here

How, at UNITED SIKHS, did you work against hate crime incidents?

Director of Projects
UNITED SIKHS Inc., Australian Chapter
September 2011 – March 2015
Key role: To increase social awareness and inclusion of the Australian Sikh population in the Australian community

· Leading training sessions on the Sikh faith and contemporary scenarios at the Western Australian Police Academy for police recruits;
· Assisting lawyers with discrimination cases and advising clients on religious protocols;
· Conducting Sikh awareness presentations at schools tailored specifically for staff, parents and students;
· Representing the Sikh community and delivering speeches at inaugural events, including, but not limited to, interfaith panels and national conferences;
· Organising community events that foster social inclusion, including an annual blood drive and Sikh commemorative events;
· Managing free turban tying events at schools and community fairs to break down barriers of difference.

Issued by:
Dr. Gurparkash Singh
E: contact@unitedsikhs.org

UNITED SIKHSMeetsFrenchAmbassador

UNITED SIKHS Meets Ambassador to Rebut France’s Denial of Turban Ban

New Delhi: UNITED SIKHS led a meeting with the French ambassador on Thursday to rebut France’s recent statement that the turban was not banned in France.

UNITED SIKHS director, Gurpreet Singh, submitted to the French ambassador, H.E. Francois Richier, that it was misleading to say that there is no Sikh turban ban in France as the 2004 ban in public schools and on ID photos continues to date.

“We reminded the ambassador that the turban ban continues even though UNITED SIKHS lawyers had won three cases against the ban before the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC),” said Gurpreet Singh.

The French embassy had issued a statement on 2nd February titled ‘No ban on Sikh turban in France’ following the call from Sikhs to the visiting French President, Francois Hollande, to lift the ban on the turban in France. Read the French embassy’s statement in full athttp://www.ambafrance-in.org/No-ban-on-turbans.

At the meeting with the ambassador, which was also attended by former ambassador KC Singh, S. Daljeet Singh of UNITED SIKHS and S. Partap Singh of the Sikh Forum, the ambassador was urged to take up the matter with the French Government immediately so that Sikhs in France do not continue to face harassment for wearing the turban.

The Sikh delegation members who met the French ambassador.
Left to right: KC Singh, UNITED SIKHS director, Gurpreet Singh, Daljeet Singh and Partap Singh.

“Mr. Richier assured us that he would take up with his government the need to consider using biometric ID documents without photos and to consider allowing the patka at schools,” said Gurpreet Singh.

“The meeting was very constructive and the matter was discussed at length. We shall continue to be in touch with him to follow up on the progress of his efforts”, added Gurpreet Singh.

UNITED SIKHS had submitted a letter to the President of France on his visit to Chandigarh on January 25, asking him to reverse the turban ban. You may read our previous press release on this issue at http://unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-25-01-16-01.html.

Keep up to date on other UNITED SIKHS events by following our social media accounts:Facebook | Twitter | Blog

Issued By-
Mejindarpal Kaur
International Legal Director, UNITED SIKHS
E: Law@unitedsikhs.org

UNITED SIKHS works with Halfords to confirm that a Sikh may wear a Kirpan on their premises

UNITED SIKHS works with Halfords to confirm that a Sikh may wear a Kirpan on their premises


Halfords, the UK’s leading retailer of leisure and automotive products, and the UK’s leading operator in garage servicing and auto repair, has introduced new guidance to support Sikhs and confirm that Sikhs may wear their articles of faith, including the Kirpan, on all Halfords premises.

Birmingham, UK – UNITED SIKHS are pleased to announce that we have been working with Halfords Group PLC to introduce new guidance confirming that Sikhs may wear their articles of faith, including the Kirpan, for Amritdhari Sikhs (initiated Sikhs who have taken Amrit), on all Halfords premises.

Halfords is the UK’s leading retailer of leisure and automotive products, and the UK’s leading operator in garage servicing and auto repair, with offices, Distribution Centres, Autocentres and over 460 Retail Stores across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Halfords was named one of the Sunday Times “25 Best Big Companies to Work For 2015”.

This collaboration came about when Manjinder Singh, an Amritdhari Sikh from Coventry, contacted UNITED SIKHS because of a lack of clarity in Halfords’ policy in respect of wearing the Kirpan.

Manjinder Singh of Coventry, UK

Once alerted to this issue, Halfords:

  1. Apologised if Sikh sentiments were hurt due to any confusion in relation to the drafting of their original Health and Safety policy and prepared new guidance clarifying that there is no conflict between Health and Safety rules prohibiting the use of knives (other than safety knives) within their Distribution Centres and the right of Amritdhari Sikhs (initiated Sikhs who have taken Amrit) who want to wear the Kirpan, a Sikh article of faith which an initiated Sikh is mandated to wear at all times.
  2. Halfords will also be addressing this issue during Health and Safety training in their distribution centres.
  3. Halfords is actively promoting this to all its colleagues in furtherance of its commitment to equality and tolerance, values which are passionately shared by UNITED SIKHS.
  4. Halfords will also be briefing employees involved in conducting job interviews to ensure that any questions raised by Sikh applicants can be answered appropriately. As Halfords has explained, Sikhs are welcome to wear all five articles of faith on Halfords premises.

“We are delighted to have worked with Halfords on this important issue and hope Halfords’ actions send an encouraging signal to other employers. We are also grateful to Starck Uberoi, specialist Human Rights Solicitors, who assisted in drafting the clarification of the policy, and Manjinder Singh, who put us in touch with Halfords Group PLC,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, International Legal Director of UNITED SIKHS.”I welcome that Halfords has apologised if Sikh sentiments were hurt due to the lack of clarity. I would like to encourage Sikhs to practise their faith freely at their workplace and to contact UNITED SIKHS if they need any help regarding their rights,” said Manjinder Singh.

If you have any questions or concerns about your rights at work please contact UNITED SIKHS through our Know Your Religious Freedom Rights reporting site at http://unitedsikhs.org/KnowYourReligiousFreedomRights/

Keep up to date on other UNITED SIKHS events by following our social media accounts:Facebook | Twitter | Blog

Issued By-
Mejindarpal Kaur
International Legal Director, UNITED SIKHS
P: +447709830442
E: Law-uk@unitedsikhs.org

Five More Hours to Make your 2015 Tax Deductable Donation


Dear Supporter,

What better way to express gratitude for the blessings you received in 2015 then to pay them forward? There’s still time to make your year-end contribution! Every dollar has the power to change a life. Your support is crucial to help us continue and expand on our humanitarian aid, advocacy, and community empowerment efforts in the new year. Before the clock strikes midnight, join us in our efforts to give others something to be grateful for too.


Read more about our efforts this year here.

Keep up to date on other UNITED SIKHS events by following our social media accounts: Facebook | Twitter

Wishing you and your loved ones a Very Happy New Year!





E: contact@unitedsikhs.org

Ensure Justice Prevails

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

As a first step to achieve Martin Luther King Jr.’s “justice everywhere,” this year, UNITED SIKHS launched a global Know Your Religious Rights online facility, through which we have received inquiries and requests for help, which our global legal team has responded to. This facility was set up to assist people who live and travel globally. the online reporting facility may be accessed at the tab below.

Just over a year ago, 19 year-old Hofstra University student Iknoor Singh sat among his fellow UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy students in Washington, DC. His hands shook, and his eyes filled with emotion as he told the room about his life-long dream to serve his country in the U.S. army. Our team will never forget the way his words carried a genuine and selfless passion to protect the safety of others. It was Iknoor’s passion and determination that inspired us while fighting his case against the U.S. Army after he was barred from participating in Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) training because of his articles of faith–an arduous but worthwhile journey: Today, Iknoor is enrolled in ROTC training, after standing up for his right to maintain his Sikh turban, unshorn hair, and beard while doing so.

This year, we celebrated many such strides towards a society that is accepting of people of all races and religions. Join us as we take a look back at some of our International Civil and Human Rights victories this year.

Sarabjit Kaur won a $75,000 settlement in her religious discrimination case

In January, Sarabjit Kaur won a $75,000 settlement in her religious discrimination case against her previous employer, Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc. Kaur faced repeated harassment and humiliation at the hands of her superiors because of her religious head covering, and was asked to remove it. She had just started wearing a Sikh head covering to work when she started facing all kinds of harassment and humiliation at the hands of her superiors, and was asked to remove it. UNITED SIKHS’ attorneys co-counseled with attorneys at Bryan Schwartz Law, a California firm, for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s conciliation process and to securing this settlement.

Left: Iknoor Singh at the Academy in 2014. Right: Iknoor participating in training earlier this year.

UNITED SIKHS teamed up with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to fight for Iknoor Singh’s right to enroll in Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) training while maintaining his Sikh beard and turban.This July, we were victorious in the two year battle.

Manjinder Singh, 34, of Coventry. UK

In August, Manjinder Singh, 34, an Amritdhari Sikh from Coventry in the UK wrote to UNITED SIKHS through our Know Your Religious Freedom Rights online, because of a lack of clarity in Halfords’ policy in respect of wearing the Kirpan. Halfords is UK’s leading retailer of leisure and automotive products, and the UK’s leading operator in garage servicing and auto repair, with offices, Distribution Centres, Autocentres and over 460 Retail Stores across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Since the launch of the Know Your Religious Freedom Rights facility, we’ve received inquiries or requests for advocacy assistance every week. If you’re interested in knowing your rights, you can fill out the inquiry form here.

Picture courtesy of Sarbat-khalsa.org

 In November, the Sikh nation came together in Panjab for Sarbat Khalsa 2015 to work against the corruption and human rights abuses that plague our community. UNITED SIKHS representatives attended the event to represent the interests of the international Sikh community.

Later that month, we marked the fourth annual Sikh Awareness Month in California with Turban Day at San Jose State University (SJSU) in partnership with the SJSU Sikh Student Association, and an anti-bullying workshop at Milpitas Singh Sabha Gurudwara Fighting ignorance and promoting awareness of the Sikh faith and identity is crucial to combatting the hate crimes and discrimination often faced by the Sikh community.

Virender Singh arrested for wearing a kirpan

This Summer, US teen Virender Singh was walking to his local gurudwara, or Sikh place of worship, in New York when he was stopped by police and arrested for wearing a kirpan–a religious sword and article of the Sikh faith. We fought alongside Virender in court, and the charges against him were dropped in September.

UNITED SIKHS staff attorney Jaspreet Kaur addressing NY officials

 While case-by-case victories such as Virender Singh’s are necessary to fight for, we must also work towards preventing unwarranted arrests and profiling before they occur. In response to Virender’s case, our legal team held a training session for more than 100 of New York’s federal and state officials to educate them about the Sikh faith and identity. This was the first session of its kind held in New York, which is home to one of the largest Sikh communities in the United States.

Harpreet Singh, founder of Friends of the American Sikh Caucus, addressing Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy students.

Academy students meeting with the offices of Congressmen on Capitol Hill to discuss issues faced by the Sikh American community.

In July, the annual Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy was held in Washington, D.C., where nine students were trained by advocacy, humanitarian aid, and government officials to become our community’s next generation of leaders.

Petition signing events in the Washington DC area.

In May, bill S.806, the Drug Free Commercial Driver Act was sent to the Senate as a whole for consideration. If enacted, this bill will allow employers to force a Sikh operator to provide a hair sample without offering an alternate form of testing such as urinalysis, thereby preventing Sikhs from seeking employment as operators due to their inability to cut their hair for any purpose. On the heels of the introduction of this new bill, UNITED SIKHS reached out to every Congressperson and Senator on the bills’ sponsoring committees to educate them about the bills, and proposed the inclusion of a religious exemption amendment. Fifteen Congressmen’s and Senators’ offices met with UNITED SIKHS advocates during the 2015 Youth Summit on Capitol Hill, and were informed about this issue. Sikh congregations across the United States welcomed us to their gurudwaras, where we held petition signing events.

Your support is what makes this possible. Give a gift to help protect someone’s rights or empower their future in 2016.

Keep up to date on other UNITED SIKHS initiatives by following our social media accounts:Facebook | Twitter

Issued by,

Mejindarpal Kaur

Director, International Legal Attorney

International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA), UNITED SIKHS

E: law-global@unitedsikhs.org

Create Ripples With Us

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”-Mother Teresa

Global: UNITED SIKHS’ health and education projects continue to address growing needs of our community by expanding in scope of current services and projects. From oral health to hypertension to access to health insurance information and services, the Community Education & Empowerment (CEED) team is committed to bringing much needed resources to the community.

Before we highlight some of our ongoing work in the community, we ask your help to double the impact! UNITED SIKHS is providing one-on-one enrollment assistance in New Jersey entirely supported by private funding. A generous funder has offered to match the money we raise SO PLEASE DONATE WHAT YOU CAN, $20, $50– IT ALL HELPS.

Here are other ways you can help:

  • Volunteer with us. We need motivated community members working with us on projects and provide support.
  • Talk about the importance of health and education: Access to health and education is crucial for our growth and development as a community. If you think that your local community can benefit from a CEED project or service, contact us at ceed@unitedsikhs.org

A few highlights for 2015 from our CEED projects:

Ongoing ACA Outreach and Enrollment: With the important changes that are occurring in healthcare in the United States, UNITED SIKHS continues to provide free enrollment assistance in New York and New Jersey under the Affordable Care Act. Over the past few years, UNITED SIKHS has assisted nearly 1000 community members and reached out to over 15,000. The 2015-2016 open enrollment period is ongoing now, so if you live in New York City or New Jersey, and you need affordable health coverage, make sure to contact our team:

For health insurance assistance appointments in New York, please call us at 718-441-6644.

For health insurance assistance appointments in New Jersey, please call us at 732-860-5066.

Sikh American Families Oral Health Promotion Project: In partnership with the DentaQuest Foundation, UNITED New York University Health Promotion and Prevention Research Center, and New York University College of Dentistry, the Sikh American Families Oral Health Promotion Project has engaged over 200 members in oral health promotion. Community members across New York and New Jersey completed an oral care curriculum that focused on providing information and resources for better access to care in language and in a culturally competent manner. Results show a culturally-tailored community health worker (CHW) program may foster improved oral hygiene behaviors and increased confidence in being able to take care of one’s own oral health as well as engage with providers. The program also promoted oral health care access and was well-received by community members.

Flossing demonstration in Carteret, NJ

Health Equity Hero Award: DentaQuest selected Dr. Rucha Kaur, Project Manager for the CEED at UNITED SIKHS ,as one of its 2015 Health Equity Heroes. Dr. Kavathe was recognized for her work in assisting immigrant communities in New York and New Jersey navigate the U.S. healthcare system. She is one of only seven individuals honored in the inaugural year of the Health Equity Heroes awards. Each hero is making a significant contribution to removing barriers to achieve optimal oral health for all.

Project Manager Dr. Rucha Kaur with the DentaQuest Foundation team at the Health Equity Hero award presentation.

REACH FAR: Experts suggest that 1 in 5 Asian Indians in USA has high blood pressure, so to increase awareness of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in the Sikh American community, UNITED SIKHS has engaged community members as part of REACH FAR, a 3-year program funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through a REACH grant awarded to the NYU Center for the Study of Asian American Health (NYU CSAAH). REACH FAR stands for Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health for Asian Americans, and the goal of the program is to prevent cardiovascular disease in Asian Americans living in New York/New Jersey by increasing access to healthy foods and culturally tailored health coaching efforts to improve high blood pressure management.

REACH FAR promotion event in Carteret, NJ

Hypertension awareness project launch in Van Wyck, NY

Volunteers, partners and staff at the Keep on Track training, Richmond Hill, NY

Faith Based Fitness Initiative: Community members in Richmond Hill, Queens participated in a series of fitness classes as part of the Faith Based Fitness Initiative, supported by New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (NYCDOHMH). Certified instructors led weekly classes for 6 weeks to engage community members in physical activity. The goal of the Faith Based Physical Activity Challenge is to promote physical activity through the faith community to enhance the comprehensive obesity prevention programs in New York City.

Community members with their fitness instructors, Faith Based Activity Challenge.

Anti-Bullying Campaign Workshops: This year, anti-bullying workshops were held across the United States. During these workshops, children were given the opportunity to stand up and speak about their experiences with bullying, while parents and students also received resources to help them handle instances of bullying. In 2015, we had the privilege of working with partners such as the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, UK artist DhanjalArt, and filmmaker Harpreet Kaur to make each workshop a unique experience, and introduce attendees to the allies who are there to stand by their side.

Anti-bullying workshop in Sterling, VA

CEED team members and volunteers are committed to supporting and helping community members in need. Together we will initiate effective and long-lasting changes. With greater awareness, as a society we can develop effective ways of responding to the needs of our community.

This year, UNITED SIKHS has positively impacted thousands of lives. We CAN DO much more with your help.

Keep up to date on other UNITED SIKHS initiatives by following our social media accounts: Facebook | Twitter

Issued by,

Dr. Rucha Kaur

Project Manager,Community Education & Empowerment Directorate (CEED), UNITED SIKHS

P: (+1) 718-441-6644

E: ceed@unitedsikhs.org

Help More People in 2016

Thanks to your support, 2015 was one of our best years in humanitarian aid. Together, we brought hope to the flooded alleys of Chennai, earthquake devastated Nepal and Pakistan, submerged Malaysia and to thousands of Syrian and other refugees arriving in Europe. Join us as we take a look back at some of our humanitarian highlights this year.

Click here to read more about the Pak-Afghan relief effort.

Click here to read more about the Refugee Relief effort.

Click here to read more about feeding the homeless in New York.

Click here to read more about the Nepal Earthquake relief effort.

Click here to read more about the Malaysia Flood relief effort.

Click here to read more about the Washington Wildfire relief effort.

Now is the time to begin preparing for the assistance that will be required of us in 2016. What you give today will determine how far we can go tomorrow.

Keep up to date on other UNITED SIKHS initiatives by following our social media accounts:Facebook | Twitter

Give a Gift They Won’t Re-Box

Two of the 3,000 Syrian and other refugees who have already received hot meals from UNITED SIKHS, thanks to your support.

Today, we’ll gather around the hearth with our children and loved ones, as we remember the 300th anniversary of the shaheedi (martyrdom) of the Chhote Sahibzadey, who were six and nine years old when they were bricked-up alive by the Moghul authorities for refusing to give up their Sikh faith. Whilst our thick walls will shield us from the cold, we will recall how they were first kept in a cold burj (tower) with their grandmother, Mata Gujri, as pressure was put on them to give up their faith.

While you cherish their bravery, we also hope you’ll think of the young Syrian, Afghan, and Iraqi refugees and their families, who are in need of a hot meal when they arrive on a night-train in Tabanovce, Macedonia. One such family is that of two-year-old Habiba, who arrived in subzero-temperature in Tabanovce this week, leaving behind unthinkable dangers in Iraq, and continuing on an equally treacherous path. Our team struggled to communicate with Habiba’s family, who spoke a little English and Arabi, but Habiba’s father continued to repeat two words to our volunteers in earnest: “Thank you.

18-year-old UNITED SIKHS volunteer Mussa Suleiman puts gloves on Habiba as her family eats hot daal (lentils) and bread.

In our six days in Macedonia, our team has heard the cries of children separated from their parents, the traumatic tales of survivors who narrowly escaped their home countries, and the tearful thanks of those who receive a cup of hot soup and a piece of bread–provided by your support for the UNITED SIKHS Refugee Relief Effort of 2015.

Over 3,000 refugees have been fed to date. With your support, we need to feed another 20,000 this Winter.

Benny Arben Suljmani, Mussa’s father and our partner from the local Bektashi community, says, “The refugees are hit by the coldest subzero temperature here in Tabanovce for the first time on their long and dangerous journey. This is the most important hot meal they will be fed. And we must feed each and every one of them.”

Kastriot Rexhepi of NUN Kultura Civil Association Skopje Macedonia said, “In cooperation with partner organization UNITED SIKHS, we provide the hot meal “Mercimek,” known in Arab countries as “Ades”, to warm up the refugees’ stomachs, and to reduce their challenges in the cold weather, very often below zero degrees Celsius in the evening and late nights at the transit refugee camp in Tabanovce. Hot meals are essential for the refugees in Winter. The smiles come back to their faces after they receive our hot meal service. Thank you friends from UNITED SIKHS for making this happen for them.”

In less than a week, your support brought 3,000 hot meals to these refugees. Help us spread the warmth to 600 more refugees tonight, and every night in the coming Winter months.

Read a previous press release on our hot meals appeal for refugees arriving in Tabanovce, Macedonia here.

Keep up to date on other UNITED SIKHS initiatives by following our social media accounts: Facebook | Twitter

Seva Changed My Life – Help Me Do More

UNITED SIKHS Aid distribution in Nepal. Click here.

Dear Supporter,

Nepal is still vivid in my imagination. I reached Nepal on 28th April, 2015; just three days after the first major earthquake. I was one of the first team members of the UNITED SIKHS team in Nepal. To reach Nepal at its need of hour was crucial, it took me many hours to reach Kathamandu because of congestion. Finally I reached Kathamandu where we set our base camp at Gurdwara Nanak Satsang at Kupondole.

I am humbled by the spirit of Nepal.

In two months we established fourteen medical camps. All health camps were held in far-flung areas, which took us hours to reach, and required miles of walking. Our medical team treated 5,000 patients. Along with the camps, tarpaulins and food was distributed to those in need. Later, we helped people with Corrugated galvanised iron sheets, which are used for construction and known locally as Jaastas. One of UNITED SIKHS’ strategic decisions was to move away from Kathmandu and provide help to Nepalese who were cut off from all the support offered to Nepal due to reasons such as a lack of connecting routes.

My two months of seva, or selfless service, in Nepal has changed my life in many ways. It has added value to everything I do now. I never realised the worth of things, the way that I do now. Disaster has no religion; I realised that humanity is built across people of different nations, cultures, and religions. Some of them are amazed to see Sikhs for the first time in their life. I worked with a very enthusiastic team, with people from every profession and every age group working together relentlessly for the same cause. I realized that disaster binds humanity at large. The team was comprised of Amritpal Singh (Bhatia Uncle) 63, Architect Jasbir Singh, Inderjit Bhenji, Palwinder Veerji, Bhai Esher Singh, Mejinderpal Kaur, and doctors and volunteers between the age group of 25-40 years. Rishab, Gurvesh, Harneet, Harmeet, Amarjit, Intidnerpal, Gurjit, Majinderpal Singh, Manish, Amanjot, Sabin, Anup, Shyam Pandey, Raminder Kaur, Milanjeet, Martha, Latoya, Naina and our two drivers Ravi and Jairman. All of our work would have remained an unfinished task without the help of people from Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship): Karnail Singh, Preetam Singh, Gudi Aunty and other sevadaars (volunteers) who prepared langar; kids from gurdwaras who helped us in all this; a big thanks to all.

Exchanging a letter of appreciation with Nepal Army, Jagadal Battalion at Chhauni Kathmandu.

My journey of two months was made possible because of your kind support. Traveling to two epicenters of earthquake and almost all affected areas from Dolakha to Gorkha to Nawakot to Sindhupalchok all would have remained unfinished if it wasn’t for your donations and prayers.

I am thankful to UNITED SIKHS for giving me a chance to lead this project, especially in a region where women are still struggling to find equal ground. Their faith in me has enhanced my confidence like no other. This was not just seva, but a spiritual journey of understanding myself and assessing my strengths and weaknesses. I don’t have enough words to thank the Nepal Army headed by Captain Santosh as it shouldered our responsibility of relief work.

One of the most heartbreaking stories is that of Sagar, a 19-year old who lost his left arm due to the earthquake. Due to extreme conditions of poverty, Sagar couldn’t continue his education and had to work in a dance bar for two years. If that is not tragic enough, due to the loss of a limb during the earthquake, he is incapable of earning a living for himself.

I met him in the army camp where he was receiving medical treatment. He sounded very depressed about his future prospects as he is afraid to go back to his village because he thinks others will make fun of his disfigurement. He needs all the encouragement there is to start a new life. I plead to you that if you want to make a difference in the world, start with Sagar – help him realise his dreams, achieve his goals and foremost complete his education.

19-year-old Sagar

I have realized how a simple thing like one piece of tarpaulin can make a difference in anyone’s life. Nepal’s wholehearted acceptance of me and UNITED SIKHS’ help has changed me for life.

None of this would be possible without your support. Help us help them and donate to UNITED SIKHS today.

Keep up to date on other UNITED SIKHS events by following our social media accounts:Facebook | Twitter

Sincerely and in Chardi Kala,

Komal Jb Singh

Field Project lead, Nepal Quake Relief 2015, UNITED SIKHS