Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jasvir Kaur: UNITED SIKHS Haiti humanitarian aid volunteer

Excellent article on UNITED SIKHS AID volunteer out in Haiti. Below is a snippet I have taken from interview.

Jasvir Kaur: A Life Well Lived

She is not a woman of complicated words, just simple actions.

I came across Jasvir Kaur towards the end of 2004, on a trip to Chicago where I was invited to speak at the IFCAPS (Institute for Conflict and Peace Studies) Conference - on the topic of Sikh women and their place in society today.

This International Woman's week at, I am honored to bring you Jasvir Kaur Singh ... in her own words.

Jasvir, what can you tell us about yourself?

I am a pharmacist. I moved to Chicago from Punjab in 1980 in my elementary school years. My free time is spent doing yoga, listening to music (Punjabi folk, classical Indian, Sufi, R & B, etc.). I also love biking, hiking, running and spoiling my nieces.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A helpful, genuine and dedicated GurSikh.

Why does the seva concept of Sikhi appeal to you the most?

It is a positive way to impact your own life as well as the life of others. Because humans are co-dependent on one another, it forms a brother/ sisterhood despite man-made biases and boundaries.

How did you get involved with volunteerism in the field of humanitarian aid?

After graduating from pharmacy school, I felt fortunate to be educated and thankful to the Guru for blessing me with Sikhi. I felt it was my duty to now empower others that may not have the same opportunities as I have had. I went to India for a year to volunteer.

A lesson I learnt was that to blindly give my donations to an organization is irresponsible. I was able to see first hand where the sangat's money was going and it wasn't to the orphan children, widowed mothers and the poor, as promised in speeches at gurdwara fundraisers.

From then on, I made a promise to myself that along with giving monetary donations (daswandh), I would also give my time in helping others. So, the journey began.

What are your personal ruminations from these trips?

The tsunami experience was interesting; I learned that people have different definitions of seva. It is difficult to find people who give selflessly without want of fame and glory.

My most recent trip to Haiti taught me how little I appreciate my life and good fortune. This impoverished nation with a country of now homeless people taught me that genuine happiness and wealth lies in strong faith in God and simplicity in life.

Although the Haitian patients lie in the hospital beds with no home to go after being released, mothers with their children would throw their hands up and sing praises of God for being alive. I saw no anger or resentment, just praises and acceptance of God's Will. Even though their day to day needs were not met, they stood resilient.

The respect we were given when we went to a poor village by the pastor of the community is unforgettable.

What areas were you able to contribute in?

The medical field - helping doctors cleaning wounds and applying medication. Also helped organize and set up pharmacies with the medicinal donations sent from around the world.

What are the Haitians in most need of in the short term and long term? What can Sikhs provide?

They still need the basics - food, water, medical help. Long term, they need housing, health and hygiene, medical care, but most of all, education.

The Sikh community can provide both short and long term needs. We are doing an excellent job with langar seva and in the medical field already. I believe long term is imperative for them to rise above their impoverished state of being that was there even before the quake hit.

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