California has been hit with its fair share of disasters over the years, and while there are numerous organizations that step up to help out in these times of crisis, Sikh temples and the people who belong to them across the state have been there to help out in a major way.
Sikhs have lent a helping hand as the wildfires that have plagued California in recent years have forced people out of their homes and into the street. In 2019, a man named Kashmir Shahi received a call asking if he would be able to feed roughly 700 people who had been burned out of their homes in Northern California. Shahi is a member of a Sikh temple called Gurdwara Sahib of Fremont, and he called his fellow temple members to put out the word about the hundreds of people who were without food and were staying in a shelter.
A group of people prepped food in the temple’s kitchen and later that afternoon they drove carloads of food up to the evacuees. This is just one example of the many times Sikhs have banded together to help out their neighbors in California over the years.
People from about 20 Sikh temples throughout Northern California formed a group called Sikhs for Humanity which has proved to be a great pipeline to help out those in need during these disasters.
Kashmir Shahi said he’s been helping out disaster victims in the state since 2009. Sikh temples in such Northern California cities as San Jose, Fremont, and Santa Rosa provided over 1,300 meals to people affected by the Kincade Fire last fall. In 2017, members of the Sikh Gurdwara – San Jose, the largest Sikh temple in America, partnered with the San Jose police department to fill a tractor-trailer filled with diapers, food, and water to people affected by the North Bay fires, which destroyed over 6,000 homes.
Karanbir Singh, who is affiliated with the Sikh Center of San Francisco Bay Area, says,
“We follow the teachings of Guru Nanak [the founder of Sikhism], and one of them is to share with other people and to help them.
We try to help out anybody who comes here; day or night we provide them free food or lodging.”
In addition to their work with disaster relief, the doors to the temple (also called a gurdwara) are always open.
A Sikh named Channy Singh, says,
“We serve food 24/7 to anyone who comes, regardless of religion or anything else.
In the gurdwara, the food is always cooking, always there in large quantities, in large pots. We use the same facility to prepare those meals for disaster-prone areas.”
Now that’s what religion (and I mean any religion) should be all about.