Auckland, April 16, 2022
When Daljit Singh was honoured by Gandhi Nivas (a unique organisation that engages with ‘family violence offenders and counsels them to return home as reformed men) along with Sahaayta (a Counselling and Support provider to Gandhi Nivas) at a simple ceremony on March 29, 2022, at a facility in the South Auckland suburb of Papakura, it was a moment of gratification for all of us.
For, our Chote Bhai (younger brother) Daljit has become a symbol of selfless service not only to the Sikh community but also to almost all sections of the New Zealand society. He has especially been more active since the advent of Covid-19 and its variants in 2020.
Sucharita Varma, Director of Sahaayta, who had organised the little ‘Honour Ceremony’ said that Daljit was the most important point of contact for people in need.
“Apart from arranging and delivering food supplies to those in need, his services to the various communities have been exemplary. No one who comes into contact with him has gone without any reasonable help that they would have sought. We at Sahaayta have been inspired by his penchant for community service. We look forward to the continued association with him, the Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand which he represents and Sri Kalgidhar Sahib Gurdwara in Takanini, South Auckland.
Food Parcels during Covid
The first lockdown imposed by the government in March 2020 as Covid-19 began to spread in the community, hit hard some of the vulnerable members of our communities. Assisted by the members of the Supreme Sikh Society Executive Committee and volunteers, Daljit commenced free delivery of parcels to anyone who needed them.
“Each food parcel that we put together was substantial, sufficient to a normal family for about ten days. As well as grocery items, milk, cooking oil, vegetables, fruits, milk and break, each parcel contained cooked meals. Covid’s adverse effects were felt by all communities and hence we did not restrict the distribution to Sikhs, Punjabis or those who visit our Gurdwara in Takanini. This was a human cause and hence called for human effort. Hundreds of cars were seen at our place of worship on each of the days of distribution. We followed all the health procedures strictly,” he said.
Daljit and the Supreme Sikh Society’s organised service was so popular that Sri Kalgidhar Sahib Gurdwara was recognised by the Auckland Council as an ‘An Approved Food Distribution Centre,’ through all subsequent lockdown and other measures.
Recently, the Ministry of Social Development also recognised Sri Kalgidhar Sahib Gurdwara as a ‘Food Hub,’ while the New Zealand Food Network enlisted the Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand as a Partner.
Daljit and his volunteers were soon involved in nationwide efforts to ensure that the needy did not go hungry and that food parcels reached them. Those, especially the sick and the elderly who could not drive to the Gurdwara were served in their homes.
“To date, we have distributed more than 300,000 food parcels throughout the country with the involvement of over 500 volunteers. Items such as medicines and Rapid Antigen Test Kits, masks and other items were added to the delivery. On any given day, at least 100 families, covering up to or more than 400 people benefited from this service. We also welcomed on an average about 2000 people every day at our Gurdwara who came either to collect food or eat during Langar,” he said.
Sucharita Varma told the group that attended the event to honour him, that Daljit and his volunteers went beyond their call to be of service to New Zealanders.
“Cooked means and food parcels were distributed to anyone who wanted them, irrespective of their religious or other beliefs, gender or ethnicity. We have heard that many organisations, including the New Zealand Police, Victim Support and Auckland Emergency, to mention a few, referred people seeking help to Daljit and the Supreme Sikh Society,” she said.
Free accommodation for new arrivals
Soon after the government announced the opening of borders requiring people to undergo self-isolation, Daljit announced that the Supreme Sikh Society and the Gurwara will provide free accommodation to people who do not have housing facilities on arrival. Although the relevant rules have been relaxed, families are welcome to use the services offered.
“We are extremely happy that 60% of the families who benefited from this service were from the Hindu community and the others are Muslims. True to the teachings of our Guru Nanak Dev Ji, we support people from all races, religions, income groups and other man-made differences. The free food and accommodation that we are offering to families and individuals arriving from overseas is a part of service to the ethnic communities,” he said.
New Zealand Food Heroes Award
The Supreme Sikh Society of New Zealand was the winner of the People’s Choice NZ Food Heroes Award in 2020, weeks after it started a Food Bank at Sri Kalgidhar Sahib Gurdwara. The initial aim was to distribute 1100 food paces to people struggling during the lockdown.
They were able to feed around 66,000 families impacted by the lockdown from Auckland right down to Queenstown with their simple motive to “recognise the whole human race as one.”
Their nationwide food distribution project started the day after the lockdown but the Society surpassed its own target by distributing more than 300,000 parcels to date.
Daljit said that the basic principle of Sikhism is to share with others, and food was an important part of that during Covid-19, “so that nobody goes to sleep without food. Recipients of food parcels were often in tears, telling volunteers: “We never knew who the Sikh people were before. But now, everybody knows who the Sikh people are.”