How a Sikh organization brings relief to the world's needy
Khalsa Aid, an international Sikh relief organization, has set an example by helping those in need, whether its refugees in Greece, flood-hit civilians in Gujarat or Yazidis escaping ISIS in Iraq. The NGO, founded by Ravi Singh in 1999, is taking the Sikh principle of "Sarbat da Bhalla," which translates to well-being of all, worldwide. In this timeline, we track Khalsa Aid's remarkable journey.
Ravi Singh grew up in rural Punjab. In 1981, aged 11, his family moved to London. At 25, he learnt that his childhood friend was allegedly tortured to death by police back in Punjab. This sparked Singh's religious awakening who decided to translate the teachings of the Sikh Gurus into reality. In 1999, he founded Khalsa Aid and hasn't looked back since.
A Khalsa Aid volunteer said it's a Sikh's duty "to do something for the community." For Khalsa Aid, the word "community" literally means the entire world, in tune with Guru Gobind Singh Ji's words: "Recognize the whole human race as one."
Since its inception, Khalsa Aid has conducted relief work in the Andamans following the 2004 tsunami, in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, in Uttarakhand after the 2013 floods, in Kashmir after the 2014 floods and in Nepal after the devastating 2015 earthquake. Khalsa Aid has also provided langar or free food to thousands of Mumbai's local train commuters trapped during heavy rains in 2015.
Last year, the Indian army ordered the evacuation of areas along the Pakistan border in Punjab, as a precaution for potential hostilities after the surgical strikes. Khalsa Aid volunteers mobilized immediately. When they realized hunger was the biggest problem, they quickly organized langar meals.
The founder Ravi Singh actively leads Khalsa Aid's relief efforts, often in the world's most dangerous places. He has provided aid to ISIS-persecuted Yazidis, as close as 70-km from its stronghold of Mosul in the heart of Iraqi Kurdistan. He has also visited war-torn Syria, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Somalia and helped victims of Boko Haram attacks in Syria.
Traveling continuously across the world in inhospitable conditions has taken a toll on Singh's health, The Hindu reported. Singh also feels guilty about being unable to spend enough time with his children and has trouble sleeping due to nightmares from his experiences. But Singh stays true to his Sikh faith and says Khalsa Aid is a way of life.