Sikh volunteers prepare 30,000 free meals for people in isolation

If you know anything about Sikhism, this news will not surprise you. If you don't, you're about to learn about a religion with a long history of humanitarianism.


Sewa, or "selfless service" is a way of life for Sikhs. It means helping others with no expectation of anything in return or hope of gain in any way. Through sewa, Sikhs demonstrate the equality of all people, show love and respect towards others, and protect themselves from selfish vices.

And during a time of global crisis, sewa from everyone is more needed—and appreciated—than ever.

Knowing the impressive capacity for service in the Sikh community, the New York Mayor's office reached out to New York Sikhs with a request for food packages. The Sikh Center of New York kicked it into high gear, preparing and packaging more than 30,000 home-cooked vegetarian meals for Americans currently self-isolating.

Beans, lentils, and rice were cooked in humongous pots before being served into to-go containers to be distributed to elderly and immunocompromised people in isolation. Strict food hygiene practices were observed, and social distancing measures practiced as much as possible during the food preparation.

"The meals were prepared on Sunday and was packaged and loaded for delivery, " Himat Singh, coordinator of American Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (east coast) told Asian News International (ANI). "The distribution starts on Monday in the morning, by local authorities. Volunteers who prepared and packaged the meal had a medical check and have been approved by physicians and health authorities."

Sikh communities across the nation have stepped up to help out their neighbors.

"Once we heard people were having a problem with food when they go shopping, they can't find food in the shopping center, then we started reaching out to people in our personal capacity in the Bay Area." Dr. Pritpal Singh, coordinator of American Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee (west coast) told ANI.

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded in India in the 15th century. There are about 27 million Sikhs in the world. More than three quarters live in the state of Punjab, India. Approximately 500,000 Sikh live in the U.S., primarily in California, New York, and Washington state—all hard-hit areas in the coronavirus outbreak.

Many thanks to the Sikh community for your sewa during this time.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.