The Friendly News is a collaboration between TELUS and Daily Hive. Together, we’re creating a space for important, feel-good community stories to be told, where Canadians can immerse themselves in uplifting news and articles featuring community leaders giving back during a time when we all need it most.
Written for Daily Hive by Ahmar Khan, a journalist based out of Toronto who covers politics, race, sports, and inequality.
Whether it’s grocery runs for the elderly or delivering coffee to first responders, Canadians know one thing — how to help those in need. The Canadian Sikh community has taken it to another level, as across the country they’ve kept the Gurudwara kitchens open to continue feeding thousands of people a day.
“Regardless of COVID-19, the Gurudwara and langar is open to anyone regardless of their caste, creed, and beliefs,” said Amanpreet Bal, member of the World Sikh Organization and volunteer at the Ontario Khalsa Darbar in Mississauga, Ontario.
The voice of Canadian leaders rallying on Canadians to stick together and continue to help one another out did not go unnoticed to diaspora Sikhs who call Canada home. For Sikhs, the act of seva, which is the act of giving back to the community without receiving, has come to light during the pandemic as they continue to ensure everyone can eat.
“We’re just trying to be true with our history and practices which are to share with the needy, we are trying to help the people that need support now,” he said.
The Ontario Khalsa Darbar is located in Mississauga, Ontario is the largest Sikh Gurdwaras in North America. Usually, Gurdwaras receive donations of food and money, which they use to keep the daily langar going, which is a vegetarian or vegan meal for anyone who wants one. Despite in-person services being stopped altogether, the volunteer kitchen staff has continued to cook meals for people in the community.
“The Ontario Khalsa Darbar feeds about 500 people in a day, we’ve had to scale down the kind of food, but sometimes the number can get up to 700,” he said.
Anyone can simply walk up to the front entrance of the Gurudwara where the meals are placed in containers, and take them home for themselves or loved ones. The meals typically feature lentil soup known as daal and white rice and are available to anyone in need. The only requirement for those who are seeking help is to not be intoxicated or be carrying any tobacco when on the grounds of the Gurudwara.
Bal said that there are several Gurudwaras across Canada who have kept their kitchens open, while some local Sikh-owned restaurants and banquet halls have opted to help those struggling.
The World Sikh Organization was one of the first religious organizations to decree they would be shutting down their religious places of worship, and according to Bal, continuing to serve langar was necessary.
“Volunteers prepare the food, and any needy person can up to the Gurudwara take a food package. As they go down in numbers, we replenish them,” said Bal.
In terms of continuing to serve the people while there is an ongoing pandemic, Bal said the executive committee of Gurudwara wanted to continue following Guru Nanak’s messages. The first one being to work hard and honestly, meditate, and remember god and share with the needy.
“The people who are coming for help, without them even saying anything you can read the fear on their faces, the situation is not changing weekly it’s changing hourly,” said Bal.
From International students from India who are without jobs and thousands of miles from home to households of multiple people who have all lost their jobs, the ongoing pandemic has particularly impacted Peel Region. Bal noted that as a result, the langer service has expanded from meals to assistance with everyday matters including trying to find people employment.
“People’s jobs have been impacted, a lot of international students are concerned about what their future holds, we’re also trying to provide some counseling,” he said.
Providing the help was going to be a constant for the Sikh community, but to constantly hear elected politicians call on Canadians to step up was a signal of how desperately needed the help was. For Bal and others, they’ve recognized they’re part of a larger system of Canadians who have been ensuring that the most vulnerable in society are continuing to be uplifted.
“It’s not just the Sikh community, these are Canadian values to help, whether you hear these messages from the Prime Minister or Premier — we are in it together,” said Bal.