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From the Field
Relief Workers' Report


UNITED SIKHS, an international non-profit human development NGO, is currently working to provide humanitarian aid to victims of the Asian tsunami disaster. Current UNITED SIKHS projects include relief efforts in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nicobar Islands, South India, and Aceh, Indonesia.

UNITED SIKHS GHANAIA—Project Coordinator'S Report
To Campbell Bay—With Hope

Bhai Esher Singh called this morning. I had the privilege of hearing his enthusiastic voice for the first time in 5 days. In last 5 days he has not left a stone unturned. The last time I called him, a Giani of Gurdwara KheRi in the district Sangrur, Punjab answered his cell phone. It was 5 AM in India. I asked to speak to Bhai Sahib, and the Giani said "well you can listen to him; he is doing Katha in the Gurdwara". I could hear Bhai Sahib in the background. Beautiful words from Gurbani, amazing conviction and purity flowing from his voice. Just the night before, he had met the key officials in SGPC and Punjab Government and held a press conference about the Campbell Bay sufferings of the victims, showing their plight on the media he recorded himself and had won their support. "What an amazing person", I said to myself. I am so lucky to work with him; nay UNITED SIKHS is so lucky; nay the people in Campbell Bay are in good hands when we have a Project Leader like him. In these five days he has traveled to Bombay, Pune, Hyderabad, Nasik and Banglore to show the victims' plight & needs, channel relief material and ask for people's support for various projects.

He said that the UNITED SIKHS team was onboard the ship 'Chowra' and had just left Port Blair and will be in Campbell Bay in 48 hrs. In the last 15 days UNITED SIKHS had gathered all the essential relief supplies based on assessment he had done in his first trip there and sent three ship loads to the islands. Now they can start the proper Langar, rebuild the gurdwara, motivate the people and help rebuild their lives in every way possible.

Along with the team of seven UNITED SIKHS volunteers is traveling Sardarni Darshan Kaur Grewal, who will be re-united with her husband she presumed dead in Campbell way. Hers is an amazing story. She literally ran a few kilometers to escape from the waves and was saved by a hill where she stayed for the next two days until the rain subsided. For the next couple of weeks she kept looking for her husband without any luck. After struggling in the relief camps and losing heart she decided to go to her relatives in Delhi. A few days later she heard that her husband was alive on the island. In a physically ill condition, mentally exhausted and unable to establish contacts, she approached UNITED SIKHS to help take her and reunite with her husband. UNITED SIKHS team members are excited to be taking her back home. In less than 48 hours she will have found home once again. For the time being in a family tent UNITED SIKHS will be providing for the displaced, but soon in a house that they will assist the families to build.

When the team landed on Port Blair from Chennai they also met with several Sikhs and other Punjabis who had left the islands in despair and in hope of better conditions in Port Blair camps only to be further disappointed. They mentioned that the situation in Campbell relief camps is pathetic. Fights and diseases are beginning to show up. Everybody is motivation less and depressed. There seems to be no hope. Some people are hoarding the relief supplies while the others were not getting enough for even a meal. When they heard about UNITED SIKHS relief plans and saw the team of volunteers; along with Bhai Esher Singh they got inspired once again. They decided to join the team and head back home as well. So along with Darshan Kaur, UNITED SIKHS is bringing another group of 18 people back home.

I wanted to hear a whole lot more but the phone got disconnected. When it rang next after 15 minutes, it was Navneet Singh the team leader. His voice was so enthusiastic. He was excited taking everyone back home with a ray of hope. He updated me with other details on the status of shipments and volunteers when suddenly I heard a microphone squeak. I asked him where are you? On the ship, he said. What was that Navneet? Oh thatů We are going to hold the evening Diwan on the deck of the ship. Bhai Sahib just connected a microphone to the amps and the speaker and there you go; do you hear him reciting Rehras Sahib ? We are going to motivate people, we are going to bring them back. We are not leaving until there lives are filled with Cherdi Kala again.

Go Navneet, I said. They need you. But call me everyday and let me know about every life we touch. Let us know what supplies you need and find out about the children who have nobody left. We will take care of them. We will make a difference.

I couldn't help being envious. I wanted to be there on the deck of the ship sailing to Campbell Bay bringing hope to people lives; bring them back home. Inspiring the hopeless and being inspired myself by the words of the Guru being recited in the open air in the Indian Ocean by the Sikh of the Guru who lives for sewa.

Please stay tuned for the proposed solution for long-term rehabilitation of the people of Campbell Bay and how UNITED SIKHS is going about it by visiting: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/ghanaia/





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