Sikh Community is Here to Help

Here to Help: The Dashmesh Culture Centre conducts a food bank in Calgary from Monday to Sunday, where people can come and get food hampers and hot meals for themselves and their families. Fri., Feb. 3, 2023. (Photo by Shreya Kochhar/The Press)

As the cost of living in Calgary rises, many people find it difficult to purchase basic necessities. Members at Dashmesh Culture Centre (DCC) recognized that the Sikh Temple in Calgary would have to find a means to keep its kitchen open and help people solve this problem.

The DCC, like many Sikh temples across the world, has a langar, also know as a community kitchen, that serves hot vegetarian meals to anybody in need, regardless of race, religion or faith. It has offered free food to thousands of people every day for over 40 years.

“The langar seva in our communal kitchen, located in our basement, is open seven days a week from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” said Gurjit Singh Sidhu, chairman at DCC.

The distribution of free meals is a religious ritual that is integrated within Sikh culture. Today, as people lose their jobs and food banks are running out of food, temples throughout Canada are seeking new ways to carry on the tradition and expand their reach.

“During COVID epidemic More than 500,000 meals were provided, and more than a million pounds of food was distributed. Our food bank continues to support approximately 50 families each week with the food hamper, which includes all the basic necessities,” said Raj Sidhu, director of operations at DCC.

Jaskaran Singh moved to Calgary a year and a half ago as a student and soon found himself alone. “I still remember I used to hide myself in the washroom and cry for hours,” he said.

A relative informed him about this Sikh temple one day. “I felt something. It felt like home the moment I walked in,” Singh said. “Dashmesh Culture Center helped me overcome my anxiety attacks.”

Singh didn’t know how to cook, and juggling school and work made it tough for him to prepare a nutritious lunch for himself. He said, “The langar seva at the gurdwara helped me live in those difficult days.”

While providing langar seva to thousands of people, the food bank is open seven days a week from noon to 4 p.m.

“We have a email address. Anyone may submit a request, and we make no distinctions or have no credit application. We operate on an honour system and promote all communities,” Sidhu said.

The temple, which is situated in a heavily Sikh-populated area of northeast Calgary, came up with the tagline “No Hungry Tummy,” and publicized it on social media. Additionally, connections with local, provincial and federal administrations helped in spreading the message.

“The centre also helps the Calgary Food Bank, Airdrie Food Bank and other organizations in the area,” Sidhu said.

“Food rescue groups collect leftover food on a regular basis and distribute it across the city to various organizations and persons in need,” Sidhu said. “We work closely with the Calgary homeless Foundation and the support individuals that unfortunately don’t have shelter and are living out on the streets. We make sure that we support them with a safe place to come warm up have a meal and have the necessities that they require from the food bank.”

Saksham Thakur is an international student studying in Calgary for six months. He visits DCC twice a week. “Despite being a Hindu, I never experienced any discrimination in the Sikh temple.”

Additionally, he explains how he sets aside money from each checqe and makes sure to give there once a month to help someone in need. “I buy a bag of flour and donate it to the food bank at DCC as soon as I get my first check of the month,” Thakur said.

Raj Sidhu, the director of operations of DCC, expressed his hopes for the organization’s future growth and the accomplishment of several social programs, such as food security.

“We are also constructing a women and children’s transitional housing project to support women and children who may, unfortunately, be in abusive relationships,” said Sidhu. “This project is accessible to everyone in the community and is not just for the Sikh community.”

“Women’s shelters will encourage lots of women to stand up for themselves and fight for what’s right,” Thakur said.

Made with Love: At DCC, Dilbagh Singh is a volunteer. He has been providing help at the centre for a while now and enjoys it. Fri., Feb. 3, 2023.  (Photo by Shreya Kochhar/The Press)

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About Shreya Kochhar 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Shreya Kochhar is working as a writer for The Press in 2022-23.