As people across British Columbia offer whatever help they can to evacuees and travellers stranded and displaced by this week’s catastrophic floods, Sikh temples have been doing what they’ve always known how to do: Make enormous quantities of food and get it to those who need it.
From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. since Monday, the Sikh temple in Kamloops, B.C. has been running full-tilt to provide hot meals to truck drivers stranded on highways near the community. About 30 people have been cooking rotis, chapatis, rice and other dishes at the temple’s langar – a community kitchen that provides hot vegetarian meals to anybody who needs one, regardless of race, religion or creed. The group has served hundreds of truckers daily. Other temples in the province have also been gathering essentials such as diapers and medications for motorists and communities that are cut off by flooding and mudslides.
Ishar Singh Bhatti, secretary of the Sikh Cultural Society in Kamloops, said they will keep it up until the situation improves – a time frame that could take many more days at least.
He says the Sikh community is dedicated to caring for others. “Whenever there’s a problem, they help out,” he said.
Thursday afternoon, members of the temple set up a table at a gas station, serving hot food and tea to drivers when the city was hit by snow.
Since Tuesday, Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib in Surrey has been arranging for helicopters to airlift food and goods to people trapped in Hope.
Giani Nurinder Singh, the temple’s high priest, said when he woke up to the news of worsening conditions in southern B.C., he began to contact people to co-ordinate help for those left stranded. His request for assistance, announced through a local radio station, yielded many volunteers within just a few hours. By Monday at midnight, gurdwara members, students and other Surrey residents had amassed more than 3,000 meals. The next morning, the first load of food and goods was delivered by helicopter.
“When [they] need people, anything, we share with them. This is actually our tradition,” Mr. Singh said.
Volunteer Amarjit Dhadwar said that over the past few days, the gurdwara received a flood of calls from people wanting to donate goods and money. Several private flying clubs have also reached out, offering to help transport meals.
Mr. Dhadwar said the effort has been overwhelming, but the appreciation from those who have been helped makes all the work worthwhile. “When they call us, they cry,” he said.
The gurdwara is looking to co-ordinate with the City of Hope to set up a temporary food bank in the community to help tide people over during the crisis. And after the highway between Agassiz and Hope reopened late Wednesday afternoon in a limited capacity, volunteers planned to send supplies to areas hardest-hit by the flooding, such as Merritt.
At a second Surrey temple, the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, volunteers were working to secure lodging for drivers who remain in limbo after having to abandon their trucks because of the flooding and landslides.
“If they don’t have accommodation, food, anything, we are available 24/7,” said Manpreet Singh, a committee member of the gurdwara.
He said the temple is gathering food for farm animals and plans to send it to Abbotsford later this week.
“This is the basis of our culture: serving people, helping whoever needs help as much as we can,” he said.
We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.