7 Sep 2020

Essential services - Sikh temple volunteers step up

From Voices, 9:00 am on 7 September 2020
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Photo: RNZ/ Kadambari Gladding

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Each Wednesday and Sunday, the Takanini Sikh Gurdwara sees hundreds of cars driving into its gates to pick up free food bags. Volunteers line up, open the boots and load up bottles of milk, bags of fresh veg and fruit and even icecream on some days. It's one large, seemless and contactless operation.

What started in Level 4 lockdown in March as an act of charity synonymous with the Sikh faith, has carried on and now includes mobilizing members of the wider community.

Behind this mammoth effort are two teams of volunteers from beyond just the Sikh community - from Samoan to Cook Island Maori who join others to form a massive packing line to help fill food bags worth around $20 to $30 each. 

Distributing free food to the needy is fundamental to the Sikh religion. Daljit Singh, spokesperson of the NZ Supreme Sikh Society says this is for everyone - you can't turn anyone away based on their race, beliefs or religion." 

The New Zealand Supreme Sikh Society is made of different Gurdwaras or temples, across the country.  During crisis and times of need, resources are immediately pooled together for humanitarian help across New Zealand or even globally. 

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Photo: RNZ/ Kadambari Gladding

The scale of the operation here during the recent alert level 3, simply boggles. Apples being trucked in from Hastings, vegetables from Te Puke and Pukekohe, and other items are being bought through cash donations or simply dropped off in bulk and unopened cartons. 

Each food bag comprises food for a family of four for a period of two to three days. Each day of food distribution anything between 1500 and 2200 bags are given out, effectively feeding nearly 10,000 people. 

Through a Whatsapp group, Daljit organizes this twice a week and within a day usually all food needs are met by people responding on the group with what they're willing to contribute with. 

"We receive about 14 tonnes of food each time we put a call out."

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Photo: RNZ/ Kadambari Gladding

"Covid-19 lockdowns have affected many people badly in South Auckland he says, from jobs losses to financial losses. What we've seen is that Covid-10 really united people, especially here in South Auckland. We now work closely with many maraes, churches, different community groups."

"Not just for myself, but I tell my volunteers to spend a whole day helping needy people and just see how you feel. I can't express it in words."

The distribution will carry on at the Gurdwara until Auckland returns to Level 1.