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From the Field
Relief Workers' Report

GLOBAL SIKHS is an international relief effort to help the victims of the Tsunami in South East Asia. The mission is open to people from all races, religions and nationalities. The mission is a partnership between Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia, a 41-year old Malaysian-based youth organization, UNITED SIKHS, an international non-profit human development NGO, and Waves of Mercy, a group of Langkawi-based sailors. Our mission is to assist the humanitarian relief operations in Aceh, Indonesia, in the most effective manner possible.

LIFE: Part 3
(Jan 14)
By Navneet Singh, Volunteer and Team Leader for UNITED SIKHS

Life works in interesting ways sometimes. We had just left the orphanage, 10 minutes ago, and we were all sad to be leaving Chandra, Priyanka, Deepa and 33 other wonderful friends we had made at the orphanage in such a short time. As soon as we leave, for some reason, along the way, everything I saw was bright and cheerful and an aura of happiness seemed prevalent in the air. I asked my friend Ganesh on why I felt that way? (I met Ganesh and became good friends with him due to my consistent visits to the collector's office, he works there and he saw we were persistent and were going to help somehow, so he came up to me and has been extremely an angel sent from God to help us out with everything we need, be it latest updates for the disaster relief or just a simple translation from Tamil to English).

Upon my asking he answered, perhaps it's just your way of looking Navneet and I didn't have anything to say, a second later, he goes "oh, I see, I forgot, it's Pongal eve today, tomorrow is Pongal, a huge festival here in South India, that is why everyone is happy and cheerful." (to put it into perspective, Pongal is the celebration of Harvest time - just like how we always look upon Baisakhi in the Punjabi culture"

As I was about to ask more questions, we reached our camping grounds for the night, and I looked at my watch, it was 9:30pm. As I asked the team to go eat, I started looking around in panic - but this time it was just to search for an internet cafe so I could reach back to my UNITED SIKHS team HQ in US. Everything shuts down here at 10pm and I didn't want to miss out on reaching the team. I made it at 9:50 just enough time to shoot a quick email back.

I also contacted the project coordinator to talk to her and provide her an update on the team efforts in Cuddalore and the updates from Port Blair where Bhai Esher Singh had gone.

I explained the team about the plans on how we were planning to go back to Mudasal Odai and taking new sarees for the mothers, new suits for younger unmarried girls, new shirts for all kids, and new dhotis for all the men in the village in honor of their celebration of Pongal. This is something they look forward to all year, deep down in my heart I felt that we ought to make this the best one they can have to the best of our abilities and we will personally go. We had planned to buy fruits, clean filtered water in packs and bed sheets to take in the morning to give to villagers. An update on Bhai Esher Singh's flight to Andaman was given and how the next few days would be very crucial for us but we were ready to keep the mission moving forward, nothing would stop us from reaching to everyone. Everything was in order

Before I left, I called back home to tell them I was safe and about Pongal and life here, (I hadn't talked to my family in 3 days now) when suddenly I found out that a few hours ago, my grandmother in Punjab, had passed away. I was speechless again.

I walked back thinking a million things in one second, what do I do now? Should I go back to Punjab, should I continue to be here? Confused as anything.

Life had brought me to another turn. I decided to sleep over it (except for the fact that sleeping was going to be impossible) and go with what my heart told me.

-Navneet Singh

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