Day of Service in Camden, New Jersey, USA

Sadh Sangat Ji,

USA:-On August 4, 2012 The Sachkhand Express Corporation was able to help organize and participate in the Annual Camden Day of Service at Farnham Park in Camden, NJ. Camden has been a severely impoverished community that has been plagued with violence over the past 20 years and has set an unprecedented murder rate leading the country in 2012. The citizens have been traumatized by the events that have taken place repeatedly and there is very little hope that it will ever get better. It seems as if the government, both local and federal have given up trying to change things and instead focus their efforts on other issues. Sachkhand Express is a 501(c)3 organization founded by local Sikh members that live near Camden and wanted to engage our fellow brothers and sisters in despair and perform Sewa in places where the love of Guru Nanak is desperately needed. We could not think of a better place than Camden to kick off our first Sewa event and the opportunity presented itself in a timely fashion. Many people were skeptical in our plans to be a part of this Day of Service. There were people that agreed with the idea but were hesitant to join in on the effort. We did not allow any negativity to deter what we felt was a right step for our organization and for Sikhism.

Our members agreed that a good way to promote awareness of Sikhs and our beliefs was by engaging the community directly and performing selfless service to show them that we cared for them as fellow human beings. We wanted the participants and residents to know that we are just like them and that our Guru has taught us to lend a helping hand to those in need. If God is One and He prevades all, then this means that he is in everything and everyone! Therefore, service to the poor without a selfish motive is service to God. Poor does not necessarily have to be financial, but it can be educational, spiritual, physical, mental, or social. “Satgur ki sewa safal hai, je ko kare chit laye (Sri Guru Granth Sahib).” Translated this line means, “Service to the True Guru is fruitful and rewarding, if one performs it with his mind focused on it.”

The majority of our organization participates in Sewa at our local Gurudwaras on a weekly basis. However, most of us felt that there was more that should be done for humanity and Sikhism by engaging the local communities outside of our normal Sunday interactions. We decided to be prepared to educate non-Sikhs on who we are and the basics of our religion. Knowledge is empowerment and can break down walls of doubts and insecurities. Our group of Sewadars were of ages 18-55, but mostly were comprised of Sikh youth that will be the leaders of tomorrow.

The preparation took place the previous night and we were not sure what to expect the following morning. On the day of the event, everyone was prepared to serve fresh fruit, doughnuts, juice and coffee to general public. There was a bit of hesitation at first from our members and the locals, but within five minutes everyone was enjoying the breakfast that was prepared for them. This also opened up dialogue between Sachkhand Express Sewadars and local residents, law enforcement, and other volunteers. It gave us a chance to show people who Sikhs are and what we are taught to do. Also, it allowed us an opportunity to speak about Sikhism and explain our beliefs and at the same time learn about other people’s belief systems. At the end of the day, all you could see were smiles and enjoyment shared by everyone there. The venue no longer seemed to be in Camden, the dangerous city we were constantly warned about before the event, but it seemed to be in a place of peace and love. Our volunteers were fulfilled and thankful for the opportunity. One them said, “I feel like this is real Sewa. I have never felt like this when I do Sewa at the Gurudwara.”

As for the children and residents of Camden, they reciprocated the love through their infectious smiles and continuously telling us how awesome we were. Sachkhand Express was proud to be at the service of the Guru and it gave our organization a memory that we will never forget. It taught us a few things as well:

1.) Never listen to negativity when pursuing a noble cause,
2.) Always do what you can for people in need,
3.) Everyone is a child of God,
4.) Do not limit Sewa to just Sundays and only at the Gurudwara, and
5.) There is more work that needs to be done.

The next morning was the tragic day when the attack on the Wisconsin Gurudwara shocked the nation. This only confirmed the reflections from the day before and emphasized the need for Sikhs to reach out to the broader population within their community to promote awareness and the One Love of the Divine. “Tu mera rakha sabhni thai tabhau keha kara jio (Sri Guru Granth Sahib).” The Guru states, “In all places you are my protector, why should I fear?”

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