Interview with Amar Singh, Founding President with Turbans4Australia (T4A)
In his own words.
“We as humans, should always uplift, support and be kind. People during times of need remember kind gestures and this is what restores their faith in humanity”.
Can you tell us about your organisation ?
T4A is a charity organisation that was founded in 2015 to encourage Australia’s Sikh to help anyone in need regardless of their religion, race or ethnicity. We raise awareness about important social issues, fundraise for worthy causes and participate in charitable works, all while promoting multiculturalism and religious tolerance. Although we started out in Sydney, we now have a volunteer base in cities across Australia, with around eighty people volunteering with us every week during Covid-19.
Through our charity work, we strive to eliminate the fear surrounding cultural and religious diversity, showing our fellow Australians that we share the same values of egalitarianism and mate-ship. While our commitment to charity work is grounded in the Sikh concept of “seva” or selfless service to the community, we are equally committed to embracing people of all faiths and therefore do not engage in any acts of proselytisation.
What work has T4A has done to support communities and how you did it?
T4A has a strong history of assisting vulnerable Australians facing hardship and disadvantage. For instance, in 2015 we delivered much needed supplies to drought-stricken farmers in Coonamble and Dubbo, transporting seven semi-trailers full of hay and $3000 worth of groceries. In 2018 we delivered Christmas presents to Coonamble’s Indigenous community, and in 2019 we handed over groceries and warm winter clothes to those facing financial hardship in the small regional town of Weston.
However, 2020 has by far been our biggest year yet, requiring more labour and resources than any of our previous projects. During Australia’s devastating bushfire season of 2019/20, our volunteers delivered emergency food, water and grocery supplies to regional and rural communities on New South Wales’ north and south coast.
From November to mid-February, we made eight trips to twelve towns across New South Wales, contributing at least thirty to fifty hours of volunteer labour per trip. We distributed 80 tonnes of donated goods valued at around $65,000, delivered 120,000 bottles of water, prepared hot meals for emergency service staff and people displaced by the bushfires, and bought and delivered $4,000 worth of hand tools to help Cobargo residents clean up in the bushfire aftermath. We raised a total of $10,000, a quarter of which was donated to a local Lions club. Another quarter was given to Milton Rural Fire Service, and half was handed over to Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade.
Later this year our volunteers stepped up yet again when we launched our first-ever nationwide project in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic sent Australia into lockdown in March, our team has been providing freshly cooked meals and grocery hampers to people in need. Many of the people we help are elderly, disabled or homeless, while others have recently lost their jobs and are struggling financially. Some have chronic health conditions and are self-isolating to protect themselves from infection or are undergoing their mandatory fourteen-day quarantine after returning from overseas. Others are international students or temporary migrants who may be ineligible for government financial support and are unable to return home to their families.
Our volunteers have been operating out of crisis response centres in Canberra, Queanbeyan, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Wollongong, Goulburn and Sydney. From our two venues in Sydney, we have cooked around 16,000 hot meals and packed over ten tonnes of groceries. In Canberra, we have provided over 4,000 meals and 500 hampers containing three tonnes of groceries. From one venue alone, we can hand out more than 250 meals in a single day.
Listen to additional audio interview here with Amar
See more stories from the Asia Pacific including Turbans for Australia on the UNOCHA website here https://whdasiapacific.org/stories/amarsingh.html