SAIT Sikh Students’ Association works to build community

Weekly prayers: Jotsaroop Singh, left, Harsidakpal Singh, and Sheraj Singh are singing Sikh prayers with the musical instruments at the Interfaith Centre in the Stan Grad building at SAIT, Calgary on Thursday, March 21, 2024. (Photo by Sukhneet Kaur/The Press)

The Sikh Students’ Association at SAIT is not just a club; it’s a vibrant community hub fostering connections, cultural pride, and interfaith understanding among students.

International students often feel alone and lost when they first land in a new country. But SSA is creating a sense of belonging for newly-arrived students.

“As an international student here, when you come to SAIT, you don’t have a lot of people you can get in touch with easily,” said Harsingh Sekhon, vice-president of finance at the SSA. “When I came here, I started to blend in.”

SSA provides a platform for students from similar cultural backgrounds to connect, share experiences, and maintain their identity while away from home.

It was started before COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic interfered with their plans, and it was restarted earlier this year.

There are six executive members and around 90 members in the club and they are trying to make it better every day by planning to organize big events, like Vaisakhi.

The celebration of Vaisakhi is a significant event for Sikhs. It commemorates the establishment of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh Ji in 1699 and marks the harvest festival in Punjab.

It is held in April each year when Sikh communities around the world come together to celebrate with vibrant festivities, including music, dance, and religious ceremonies.

“We are planning to hold a Vaisakhi event, and we are trying various ways how we can make the event better,” said Sekhon.

Member of SSA: Harsingh Sekhon stands outside the Interfaith Centre in the Stan Grad building at SAIT, Calgary on Thursday, March 21, 2024. Sekhon is a vice-president of finance at the Sikh Students’ Association. (Photo by Sukhneet Kaur/The Press)

In addition to traditional celebrations, the SSA also organizes weekly Simran sessions in the Stan Grad Centre, Room MB315, which is an interfaith centre on campus. These sessions are held every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., and all students from different communities are welcome to attend so they can learn something new about Sikh culture.

Students could learn about the teachings and enjoy the prayers and hymns of the Sikh holy scripture, Shri Guru Granth Sahib Ji at the event.

“We are seeing at least an engagement of about 80 students every week,” said Sekhon.

With a focus on inclusivity and engagement, the SSA aims to create an environment where students from diverse backgrounds can also feel a sense of community and belonging.

Fellow SAIT student Jotsaroop Singh says the SSA emphasizes fostering unity and understanding among students.

“The atmosphere during the prayer session is really calm and soothing and feels so nice when you sit with your community’s people, and share some thoughts, and get to learn so many things,” he said.

Another goal is to encourage Sikh students to wear turbans and dastars, so they can remain who they are and feel proud of it.

“Turban is such a beautiful thing. I started not to wear turban, and then you see you are blending in the western culture,” said Sekhon.

“You have to bring your own culture and you have to practice it as per you like, so this is what I have realized being involved at SAIT with the SSA, and it is helping me to remain who I am.”

Students can complete the membership form or reach out on Instagram at @ssasait to get in touch with the members.

Singing Sikh prayers: Harsidakpal Singh is playing Harmonium and singing Sikh prayers at the Interfaith Centre in the Stan Grad building at SAIT, Calgary on Thursday, March 21, 2024. (Photo by Sukhneet Kaur/The Press)
About Sukhneet Kaur 2 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Sukhneet Kaur is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.