Surrey Sikh community rallies for Haiti
Groups heading to the island to offer food and support: $1.5-million raised
Ramandeep Singh Khaira, a relief volunteer leaving for Haiti Thursday, has had trouble sleeping for the past few nights.
Mr. Khaira, a 29-year-old sales and marketing employee from Surrey, B.C., is part of Team Kitsilano - a group of five Sikh volunteers organized by the Surrey-based Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Society. The GNSGS raised $1.5-million for Haiti in one week, through three radio campaigns and donations from individual Metro Vancouver Gurdwaras.
“I'm so excited!”, said Mr. Khaira. “To have this opportunity - this is just an amazing thing to be part of this special group.”
Travelling with Mr. Khaira is Karnail Singh Rai, the senior vice-president of the GNSGS, Surjit Singh, a chef at Jagga Sweets, an East-Indian food restaurant in Delta, Sukhwinder Singh a medical graduate, and Jasvir S. Chattha a board member of the GNSGS.
The team's primary objective is to distribute food to the Haitian people and also to assist medical and relief personnel currently on the ground.
The GNSGS's first relief team of six – Team Jericho – travelled to Haiti last week to assist with food distribution. Since their arrival, Team Jericho has been keeping the local community updated with their activities in Haiti through daily blog entries at haitiblog.ca. “We have a couple of hundred readers every day going onto the blog site and it's increasing by the day,” said Sukhninder Sangha, vice president of the GNSGS.
In a Feb. 2 blog entry, Team Jericho described how they were abandoned by their security escort, but managed to cope with the chaos and served up meals until they ran out of food.
Volunteers are plentiful. “As of today, [we have] 40 people on our waiting list that want to go down to Haiti,” said Mr. Sangha. “They're all motivated and they have the spirit and willpower to make a difference.”
Though Mr. Khaira believes that his contributions will be limited, this opportunity was one he could not miss.
“It's not going to be a major impact but I think it will make a difference in one way or another at least for the time that we're there, they have something to eat,” Mr. Khaira said.
Mr. Sangha explained how the people of Surrey have come together to help out with the relief efforts by contributing money, food, toys and school supplies.
“There's not much that we can do without the help of the local community.”
Mr. Khaira agreed that people have reacted very passionately. He noted that it was also important to emphasize that these are long-term relief efforts.
“From what I learn [in Haiti], I can come back and tell people how it is and keep this relief going.”
Teams Kitsilano and Jericho, both named after Vancouver's beaches, join other Sikh relief workers organized by the U.S.-based United Sikhs.