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Vasakhi – Covid19 – Khalsa Aid

1 May 2020

08unloading-heavey-workThis year Vasakhi was very different from any previous year because of the shut down in most parts of the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for volunteers across the world the situation was no different, just the need was greater, especially for those in difficult circumstances. Since mid-March in Canada, the government assisted many individuals and businesses who were impacted by the shutdown, the need to stay at home, and the need to keep physical distancing. During this time, some newly arrived immigrants and international students, many from Punjab were severely impacted as jobs disappeared and schools closed, and this left them with limited means and without government assistance. Khalsa Aid saw the desperation in the community as Gurdwaras — where most international students gathered — closed, and setup a temporary distribution centre at Speranza Banquet Hall to meet this need.

The GGSCF, with the help of the Punjabi Radio Station hosts at 770AM, held their annual Vasakhi radiothon in support of this initiative by Khalsa Aid. On April 15th, listener pledges in the amount of $37,000 were received. As the need was immediate, the Asian Food Centre provided food to Khalsa Aid on a verbal commitment until funds were collected. On May 1st, the Punjabi Radio Station hosts and representatives from the GGSCF gathered to take food to Khalsa Aid and presented an initial cheque for the funds raised to Major Natt (owner of Asian Food Centre and long term sponsor of the GGSCF). A truckload of food (flour, lentils, chick peas, sugar, cooking oil, vegetables, species etc.) was taken to Speranza Banquet Hall. There, a team of volunteers from Khalsa Aid were present to unload the truck, which took some time due to the manual heavy loads that had to be hauled onto skids within the hall.

Randhvir, a radio host and Khalsa Aid volunteer, took interviews and gave live video updates to his listeners on the how the initiative was organized. Khalsa Aid volunteers at the weekend, broke down the bulk food into bins, from which smaller packets are made so that the food can be distributed into packages with about a week’s worth of basic groceries in a carrier bag. The packages are then supplemented with other items donated by individuals (cookies, pasta, soap, noodles) and perishable items such as vegetables, bread, milk, etc. Some of these items cannot be prepackaged as they could spoil with time and some items need to be refrigerated. Gurcharan Singh from Khalsa Aid Canada said the need has grown from a local initiative to across Ontario. At the moment, some 600 packages are distributed weekly which target some 600 homes. He mentioned sometimes the packages are supplemented based on family size, and type of need. He mentioned the City of Brampton had provided some names and addresses where there were people in need and some of the Gurdwara volunteers were assisting in delivering these to their local community. He described the trips to other cities such as Barrie, London, Hamilton, Niagara Falls and even as far as Sault Ste Marie. Asked how much can be done and for how long, in true Sikh tradition, he said this is Guru di Kirpa.

The GGSCF volunteers were glad to support this great local initiative by Khalsa Aid. Usually we send financial support to children in need in developing countries, but this year with COVID-19 things were different. The whole experience was brought to light as some individuals turned up at the front door to ask for assistance, some had their children with them, others were students with their backpacks.