Written by Communications Intern, Cassandra Riabko
Sikh Youth Calgary, a group of young professionals and students working together to enhance the communities in which they work and live are determined to find a way to eliminate hunger in Calgary communities despite the increasing of numbers suggesting that more and more Calgarians are going hungry. The group incorporates food drives, sporting events, mentorship programs and volunteering opportunities as a way to inspire others to get involved, making positive changes in the community.
Even during times of celebration Sikh Youth Calgary exudes commitment to the Calgary community by incorporating the Walking Away Hunger campaign into the Sikh Parade also known as Nagar Kirtan; Nagar meaning city and Kirtan meaning hymns. The parade celebrates the birth of the Khalsa which is the welcoming of those who vow to be completely dedicated to Sikhism.
Vibrant colours of traditional silks paint the community of Martindale as 50,000 Calgarians from all religions, faiths, ethnicities and communities come together to celebrate. The Nagar Kirtan is the second largest parade next to the Calgary Stampede Parade. As attendees walk and sing throughout the streets, delicious aromas of food float through the air. Over 30 tents serve free, authentic vegetarian meals for those attending. The significance of the food is that in every Sikh Gurdwara there is a free kitchen called a Langar. Those dedicating their time in the Langar have taken an oath to provide food and protection to anyone in need. “Everybody should get food, everyone is welcome from any religion, country, social status; literally anyone can come,” said Calgary Sikh Youth team lead, Sandeep Sidhu.
As the parade continues throughout the community, there is an additional element that makes it very special, the Walking Away Hunger Campaign. This campaign reaches out farther into the community by accepting non-perishable food items. The idea is to take all of the donations collected and give them to the Food Bank. “The reason we connect so closely with the Food Bank is because our values align directly. The inter-faith and inter-community programs focus on everyone having the opportunity to meet their basic needs.” said Sidhu.
The blitz of donations comes from door- to-door donations in the community. It brings all Calgarians together to participate in this great initiative. Sikh Youth Calgary makes it easy for everyone to get involved while the youth group then picks up and delivers the donations to the Calgary Food Bank. From Apr.1 to May 14, 18,000 houses were reached by the volunteers and members of Sikh Youth Calgary.
High schools and junior high schools also participate in the newly implemented door-to-door campaign helping to reach a record breaking $71,016 worth of food, a $20,000 increase from 2015.
In the ten years of including Walking Away Hunger into the Nagar Kirtan, Sikh Youth Calgary has raised $398,000 in food and funds for the Calgary Food Bank. The vast amount of community support from Calgarians of all backgrounds creates a unified culture. The generosity from the Sikh community helps to eliminate one of Calgary’s biggest challenges in keeping Calgarians fed as they generously contribute to the Calgary Food Bank.
Do you want to get involved next year?
Check them out on Facebook: Walking Away Hunger Campaign
Photo Courtesy of Anuraj Singh