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

Help the Urgent Medical Need in Nepal

Dear Supporter,

In April, UNITED SIKHS volunteers examined Phoola Maya Tamang at a medical camp set up in Nepal after the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that devastated the nation and left many in need of urgent medical aid. When it was determined that the 57-year-old mother needed further medical care, we transported her to the nearest government hospital, and promised to cover all medical expenses when she was admitted to the high care unit. Phoola was one of over 1,000 individuals treated during our Nepal Relief Effort of 2015.

Little did we know that Nepal would need our help so soon after we bid the nation farewell. But the call has been heard, and we need your help to support Nepal again.

Reports from the Red Cross in Nepal and our contacts on the ground have impressed the need of urgent medical aid to be delivered to Nepal. UNITED SIKHS aims to help supply various medicines and 25,000 urgently-needed blood collection bags (bags that will be used to store blood for individuals in need of blood transfusions), and we need your help to do this. We humbly request you to donate whatever you can to help provide the funds necessary to supply urgent medical care to those in need in Nepal.

UNITED SIKHS providing medical care in Nepal earlier this year.

Why is medical aid urgently needed?

The current situation prevailing in Nepal has caused one of the most dire fuel-shortages the country has ever seen. Medicine and other supplies are also in dangerously low supply. Life saving medicines such as Injection Adrenaline, Injection Succinylcholine, Injection Nor-adrenaline , Atropine , Anesthesia, and Injection Dopamine are already out of stock in most of the major retailers. Nepal doesn’t manufacture injection (IV) products (mostly used in surgery and emergencies), except for one manufacturer with a limited band of the product. Hence the majority of such emergency drugs are rapidly becoming out of stock. Hospitals are also running very low on labor-inducing drugs, and some areas outside of the nation’s capital of Kathmandu have been forced to stop performing dialysis. Click hereto track current medical needs.

Earlier this year, we provided thousands with aid and assistance in Nepal. Once again, we have been called on by Nepal–this time with the specific request for medical aid. We cannot heed the call without your support; please donate today.

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

Guru Nanak Sahib Ji’s Teachings Illuminated at White House for Sixth Year

Washington, DC–On December 14, the White House welcomed Sikh Americans for the sixth annual celebration of Guru Nanak Sahib Ji’s gurpurab (day of birth) through shabad (religious hymns), poetry, and a roundtable meeting alongside other Sikh organizations and White House officials to discuss Sikh issues. In addition to White House officials, speakers included Professor Amritjit Singh of Ohio University; Professor Nikky-Gurinder Kaur Singh of Colby College; Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President; and Vanity Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General.

During the round-table meeting, Sikh issues were brought to the forefront. We used this opportunity to discuss our work with the Department of Homeland (DHS) security in New Jersey, Georgia, and New York to make sure that Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) become safer through grants from the DHS to put in cameras, and how it is critical that these grants be extended to all major states of the USA. Also discussed was the video of a sleeping Sikh man that was put online, labeling him as ‘Bin Laden,’ as well as the recent upsurge in general anti-Sikh hostility following the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and the lack of public statements condemning anti-Sikh hate crimes. Finally, we discussed the importance of knowing that our children will have the freedom to live their lives as both Sikhs and Americans, without having to compromise their turbans to go to school, their kirpans to leave their homes, or their beliefs, to live out their dreams.

“Recently, there have been some abhorrent incidents of hate against Sikhs. Discussions and events like these represent the important role the Sikh community plays in this nation’s fabric, as well as solidarity. Our work to ensure the rights and freedoms of all Americans regardless of race or religions is far from over, and it is crucial that meetings like this one are held to raise awareness of this issue,” said UNITED SIKHS staff attorney Jaspreet Kaur.

“As we celebrate Guru Nanak Sahib Ji’s gurpurab, it is important to make an effort to revitalize the role his teachings play in our lives. At the White House this week, we did this by proliferating his timeless teachings to an audience of government officials, many of whom were new to the teachings of Sikhism. One such message is that of sacha sauda (the true bargain): The true bargain of life is sharing one’s earnings with the needy and helping in whatever way we can. Humanitarian aid is one of the ways we strive to recognize the human race as one–another lesson we learned from Guru Ji”, said UNITED SIKHS operations manager Surmeet Kaur.

As articulated by Professor Amritjit Singh, it is crucial that our organization continue to carry out humanitarian relief efforts around the world so that Sikhs become visible through seva, or selfless service. The idea of celebrating gurpurabs in the White House is something many of us could not have imagined even ten years ago. Please support our advocacy and civil rights efforts to help us continue working towards an even more inclusive America for us and for generations to come.

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

 

Imagine Her as Your Child

Tabanovce, Macedonia: On December 16, 2015, the UNITED SIKHS Refugee Relief Team watched in stunned silence as a 5:00 am train carrying hundreds of refugees arrived in Tabanovce was greeted by subzero temperatures. Safeea was one of hundreds of toddlers who shuffled off the train after a train ride of four hours, and in the morning walked a few kilometers to the nearest village in Serbia. Despite her silence, her face spoke volumes.

Safeea could have been one of those hundreds of refugees who had not had a hot meal for the last 12 hours, before they arrived in Tabanovce, Macedonia. The same town where thousands of refugees from Syria and other tumultuous nations arrive every night after fleeing dire political situations and being trafficked across deadly waters. Our team of volunteers that night were headed by UNITED SIKHS Asia Pacific Coordinator Rishiwant Singh. Even with his ten years of field experience on the humanitarian aid front Rishiwant was totally unprepared for the physical and emotional toll of witnessing hundreds of children, too cold to cry, trudge solemnly ahead in their journey of survival.

“I could barely breathe let alone stand completely numb in the cold. The pain was just excruciating. I kept looking at the children. Thank God it was dark. So no one could see me crying. How can we stand aside and do nothing while these people are suffering so much,” he said.

On Sunday, the UNITED SIKHS Refugee Relief team working with our local partners started serving the first hot meals to refugees arriving in Tabanovce. We are compelled by the authorities to obtain the hot meals from a licensed company at set rates. For £3 ($5) we can serve a hot meal to a family of three. Our partners, the Bektashi community of Macedonia, the European South Eastern University, and NUN Kultura Civil Association Skopje Macedonia will assist in the distribution of the hot meals, fruit and bread to as many refugees as possible. Our media partner Sikh Channel will relay videos of our relief work in Tabanovce where up to 2,000 refugees pass through every day.

Donate just £3 ($5) to serve the first hot meal of lentils and bread to a refugee family tonight.

In the days leading up to their arrival in Macedonia, each of these individuals have risked their lives–likely more than once–across multiple countries, seas, and trains. After our team meets them, they continue out into uncertainty. But during that short time, your support allows us to be a beacon of hope that greets them with a smile, and the comfort of a hot meal.

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

Want to bring a bigger change?

 

 

 

Divya Kaur (right).

Below is a message from UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid (AHAA) graduate Divya Kaur. 

 

Dear Supporter Ji,

Right from my childhood, I have faced the challenges of modern society. Should I learn Gurmukhi or Spanish? Harmonium or Piano? Shabad Kirtan or Choir? Would colleges give me credit for choosing something they are not familiar with? Would organization and corporations understand that Langar Seva (serving food) is on equal footing with volunteering at a food shelter? This created an emotional tussle between me and myself, but I chose the former-my Sikh identity-because that’s who I am.

As a teenager, I realized that America welcomes everyone. However, Washington D.C. expects different communities to speak up for themselves. Without the hard work of a few, minority groups will neither get recognition, nor their rights. That’s why, although I had many opportunities for internships and other programs, I was ecstatic to be chosen into the highly selective UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy (AHAA) this summer. Meeting with congressmen in D.C. and being part of the minority voice was a dream come true. It is not that I walked into their office and they had an open time slot to meet with me. The bigger question was “What coherent powerful impressionable statement would I make when I meet with influential policy makers?” Never had I thought about such details, until I decided to be mentored by professionals.

AHAA students met with the office of Congressman Mike Honda.

First, I applied and was welcomed into the UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy. The Academy platform was used to organize workshops to decipher the policy making process. It arranged for speakers to highlight global Sikh issues and helped students like myself network with professionals whose business is advocacy. They taught the entire process of engaging with lawmakers to make powerful impression. Just the inspiration from the boundless energy of the people itself was priceless. My mentor, UNITED SIKHS attorney Jaspreet Kaur, actually drove down from New York and dedicated countless hours to coach a team of us.

This experience was a must-have to provide a serious boost to my motivation and uplift my confidence. UNITED SIKHS arranged everything starting with picking me up from the airport. Because Sikh donors from all walks of life have contributed to UNITED SIKHS, I was able to have this experience at a mere nominal fee. Based on my firsthand experience, I know our future is in need of serious investment. We all make investments – financial investments for retirement, familial investments in our children, investment in our community to build a better world. Obviously, the better world must include our values and provide opportunities for our community.

Why not connect with UNITED SIKHS? It is an eminent organization that promulgates Sikh values and human rights. You can start with a donation! A part of your dasvandh (donation) can be used for a better future: yours and mine.

I am Divya Kaur, a graduate of the UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy, and a teenager focused on making an even bigger difference in the world, and I approve this message.

Sincerely,

Divya Kaur

Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy Graduate

UNITED SIKHS

U.S. Army Accomodates First Active Duty Religious Beard in Decades

USA: Months after Iknoor Singh won his right to enroll in the Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) , the first accommodation of a religious beard for an active-duty U.S. soldier in decades was granted to Captain Simratpal Singh, 27, last week.

Simratpal Singh (New York Times)

Captain Singh began his career as a West Point cadet at seventeen years old. In the last ten years, Singh has cleared roadside bombs in Afghanistan and earned a Bronze Star for his valiant services. But his passion to serve and protect others cost him his Sikh identity: from his time as a cadet until last week, Singh was forced to cut his hair and shave his beard–acts that are forbidden in the Sikh faith. As articulated by Singh in an interview where he discussed the requirement to shed his articles of faith, “Your self-image, what you believe in, is cut away.” While Singh’s honorable deeds as a soldier in the last decade exemplify Sikhism’s message to protect those in need and fight for justice, he was forced to routinely cut away the features that identified him as a Sikh to do so. Singh is not the first Sikh American whose ability to serve in the armed forces while maintaining his articles of faith has been challenged. However, Sikhs have been serving in international militias with their articles of faith throughout history, including during World Wars I and II.

Sikh personnel in Belgium in 1915. More than 169,000 Sikh soldiers laid down their lives fighting in the World Wars.

Just last month, Canada’s Harjit Singh Sajjan became the first baptized Sikh to serve as Minister of Defense in the Prime Minister’s cabinet. This comes after a career as an active-duty member of the military, during which he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and served three deployments to Afghanistan. When his religious beard posed the obstacle of preventing the use of a gas mask, Sajjan patented a gas mask he designed himself that could be worn over his religious beard. During his first appearance as Minister in the House of Commons last Monday, Sajjan was met with a standing ovation.

Sajjan was sworn in last month. 

UNITED SIKHS is pleased to see this exemption granted to a truly deserving American. While the years that Singh was forced to renounce his Sikh identity cannot be given back to him, we are hopeful that the victories of Sikh Americans in the U.S. Army this year will continue to serve as a precedent for years to come.

“Iknoor Singh approached UNITED SIKHS when he seventeen years old–the same age that Simratpal Singh first cut his hair to begin his training ten years ago. After a two year battle, Iknoor was spared of the ten-year turmoil endured by his fellow Sikh American when justice was ruled in his favor this year. We hope to see times continue to change in favor of unity and acceptance in 2016 and beyond,” said UNITED SIKHS’ Staff Attorney Jaspreet Kaur.

Manmeet Singh, Counsel to UNITED SIKHS added, “The decision by the Federal Court of DC earlier this year in Iknoor Singh’s case has turned the tide towards acceptance of Sikhs in the U.S. armed forces, the most recent example of which is the accommodation given to Capt.Simratpal Singh. In Iknoor Singh’s case, it was the first time in decades that a court of law granted relief to a Sikh on the issue of religious accommodation in the armed forces. This case was a trendsetter, and we are elated that its aftereffects are being seen in the form of accommodations to well deserving soldiers such as Capt.Singh. The legal team at UNITED SIKHS is proud to have served attorneys of record in Iknoor Singh’s case along with attorneys at the ACLU.”

Please make your tax-deductible year end donation today to help us protect civil rights around the world.

 

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

Sikh Traveler Filmed, Mocked, Labeled “Bin Laden”

UNITED SIKHS received an email from 20-year-old Prabneet Kaur, daughter of elderly Sikh man and California resident Darshan Singh. She had just been made aware that a video of her father sleeping on a JetBlue recorded by the man sitting next to him was circulating on the internet. The video is titled Would You Feel Safe? and its description says flying with bin laden.

Mr. Singh recalls his Jetblue flight from New York to California in November as unremarkable. He didn’t exchange words with the man sitting next to him, and was surprised when he saw the video of himself online, which is currently sitting at over 62,000 views and gaining more every minute.

This act of ignorance is the latest in a series of anti-Sikh hostility in the days following the horrific shooting in San Bernardino, California on December 2nd. On December 6th, a Sikh Gurudwara (house of worship), was vandalized with anti-ISIS graffiti. On the same day, four Sikh men were stopped from entering a football game because of their turbans. Their car was searched for bombs.

Sikh Americans have long been the target of racially motivated violence and discrimination in the United States. Although the majority of anti-Sikh hostility and hate crimes occurred post 9/11, Sikhs continue to be the target of racially motivated violence. On March 5, 2013, a Sikh-American owned convenience store was set on fire in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This incident occurred less than a month after a Florida Sikh was shot while driving. On February 23, 2013, Mr. Kanwaljit Singh was traveling home with his 13-year-old son when individuals in a black truck fired six shots at his car. In 2014, UNITED SIKHS advocated on behalf of a Sikh man who was called a racial slur and spit on when the incident was not recognized as a hate crime. To learn more about anti-Sikh hate-crimes, read our Global Sikh Civil and Human Rights Report.

“Incidents like this are shocking. No one, Sikh, Muslim, or otherwise should be afraid to travel. These types of incidents only weaken the fabric of our nation. It is everyone’s responsibility to be aware of acts of ignorance around them, and to report them when they see them. Only then can we unify ourselves against hate, ignorance, and discrimination.” said Jaspreet Kaur, staff Attorney, UNITED SIKHS.

At UNITED SIKHS, we are working to have the video removed, report the incident to the appropriate authorities, and raise awareness of such ignorance.

During these times, it is crucial that the Sikh and other communities often victim to this form of aggression remain vigilant. If you are victim to discrimination, please contact us at law-global@unitedsikhs.org . Please support our fight for global human and civil rights and donate.

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

Turn the Tables on Hunger: Donate to Feed Another 3 Million in 2016  

UNITED SIKHS volunteers feed the homeless of New York every Sunday. Click here to learn more about our humanitarian aid work.

Dear Supporter,

Among our many goals, we at UNITED SIKHS aim to alleviate hunger globally. While nutrition is our first priority, we also strive to maintain cost efficiency so that we make the most of your generosity. This year, your support helped us provide over 3 MILLION* meals to people in need, from the marshes of Myanmar to the streets of New York.

$10 = 25 Meals

Your $10 will bring us closer to feeding another 3 million people in 2016. To receive updates and to view pictures, please visit our facebook page. With your contribution today, we will prepare to help the needy of tomorrow.

How many are you willing to feed?

Sincerely and in Chardi Kala,

Jatinder Singh

UNITED SIKHS Director (Sikh Aid)

*This number is a summation of food distribution in Chennai, India; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; New York, USA; Washington, USA; Canada; Malaysia and Panjab in 2015.

Chennai Needs Your Donation Today

Click here to view more pictures.

Chennai, India: UNITED SIKHS began its Chennai Relief Effort on December 2, 2015 in response to the devastating floods that hit the Coromandel Coast of India, with Chennai being one of the cities worst affected. Over 600 people have lost their lives in this calamity, while nearly 1.8 million people have been displaced.

So far, your support has allowed us to:

  • Arrange a ferry to transport groceries to a Gurdwara to prepare hot meals (langar) for flood victims
  • Serve langar to victims three times a day
  • Serve more than 15,000 victims daily
  • Deliver food, milk, water, and other relief materials to victims, regardless of caste, color, creed and religion
  • Assist in establishing medical camps and serving 800 patients

We plan to continue our relief efforts in the days to come by expanding our medical aid services. Our team on the ground headed by Arunjit Kaur and Harsaran Singh will continue to assess the needs of the victims, which we will aim to meet as soon as we have the data.

Our donors have allowed us to keep this effort going, and that support is vital. Donate now to help us continue our relief efforts.

Nature has hit Chennai and the surrounding region with force – Help us fight back!

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