Metro Vancouver Sikh group creates culturally relevant vaccine outreach program for seniors

Apr 9 2021, 11:24 pm

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues in BC, one Sikh volunteer group is working to ensure Punjabi seniors are getting translated, and culturally focused information in an accessible way.

Sukhmeet Singh Sachal, a second-year UBC medical student who also with the Sikh Health Foundation, and his group of volunteers have been working closely with local gurdwaras to distribute information from daily BC COVID-19 health briefings and distributing it to Punjabi-speaking seniors.

“So essentially, all of the information that came out from the government around the different dates and everything Fraser Health has put out is often missing in different languages such as Punjabi,” Sachal told Daily Hive.

“What we did is we took that information and we made our own infographics out of that, which gurdwaras are using, and other organizations.”

Sachal adds that the goal of sharing translated health information is to also curb misinformation around vaccines.

“Clearly, there’s still so much misinformation out there and there are people who are trying to spread this false information,” said Sachal.

The Sikh Health Foundation’s infographics provide clear, simple explanations to commonly asked questions about vaccines.

One infographic provides an explanation in both English and Punjabi about COVID-19 vaccines were produced so quickly.

Another breaks down what is in the vaccine, and includes information for those who have dietary restrictions due to religious beliefs.

“We’re not creating our own information what we’re doing is we’re really taking that information from Fraser Health, and we’re taking from Health Canada all the health authorities, and essentially we’re combining them into a very easy to understand way for seniors and for the general public to understand,” said Sachal.

The infographics have been distributed to the elderly Punjabi population thanks to the power of social media and help from local gurdwaras.

“I mean we’re really on all different platforms to make it more accessible for people,” he said.

“We notice older adults tend to use Facebook more often.”

“Our outreach there has been unreal and we don’t pay for any ads or anything in our outreach is just crazy because people keep sharing it. They download, they share,” he added. 

Sachal also credits Fraser Health for its continued work to increase diverse messaging.

“I think when the pandemic started they, I think they were the first health authority that I noticed that was really trying to make an impact in terms of getting the information out in different languages,” he said.

“We’ve been working with Fraser health since June when I first started our project, and their team has been so supportive and providing us with all the evidence-based information we ever asked for.”

Aside from awareness on social media, Sachal and his team also worked to increase awareness around COVID-19 safety protocols in gurdwaras prior to the third wave hitting BC.

In August, Sachal was one of two Canadians chosen from 38 applicants around the world to receive a grant from the Clinton Foundation. The money was to be used to develop a project to help the recipients’ communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sachal used his funds to develop the COVID-19 Sikh Gurdwara Initiative. The project has three main goals: to encourage the congregation to wear masks, to promote handwashing, and to increase physical distancing efforts.

The team of volunteers worked with visitors to inform them about mask protocols, handwashing, and physical distancing measures in a culturally relevant way.

Simran SinghSimran Singh

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