If you need any more evidence that help doesn’t follow cultural or religious boundaries, just look at the tireless work of Amar Singh and other volunteers from Turbans 4 Australia.
The Australian Sikh charity, which Amar founded in 2015, is helping transform attitudes towards migrant groups everywhere with its compassionate work supporting vulnerable communities across the country.
At the moment, Turbans 4 Australia is focused on helping some of Sydney’s most vulnerable people – the elderly, sick, isolated or homeless – by delivering hundreds of delicious vegetarian meals made in volunteers’ homes.
Amar says his band of volunteers couldn’t sit around and wait for others to help. “Any crisis either breaks you or makes you,” he says. “As a community, we’re striving to pull it together. Our goal is to help people in need regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity, and we want to make mates along the way.”
Going the extra mile to help
Turbans 4 Australia has stepped up crisis relief efforts in recent weeks. Volunteers are making more than 40 hot vegetarian meals a day in their own kitchens for people who are living alone across Sydney – from Penrith to Campbelltown to the city. They’re creating food hampers for needy people and the elderly, too.
Selfless volunteers also give up their time to drive their delivery van to homeless hot-spots such as Parramatta, in Sydney’s west, so people can receive a rare warm, delicious and healthy meal.
“In this time of despair, a lot of mainstream charities are struggling to find volunteers and sustain their services,” he says. “Those people living under bridges and in parks are the first ones to suffer. They’re the most vulnerable in our society and we need to look after them.”
Sikhs don’t eat meat, but that isn’t why Amar’s group prepare only vegetarian meals. “We’re trying to satisfy everyone – some people eat kosher, some eat halal, some don’t eat fish or other things,” he says. “So we thought we’d just keep it simple and keep it vegetarian.”
Trucker by day, Helper by night.
When he’s not doing work with Turbans 4 Australia, Amar runs part of his family’s trucking business and works for Surf Life Saving Australia in an educational role promoting water safety in the migrant communities. “This is just my gig on the side that gives me a lot of inner peace and harmony, making sure I can go out and serve people.”
Amar says he started the charity to try to bring the Sikh community more into society’s mainstream and deliver help wherever it’s needed. “We’re big on multicultural events and we’ve worked with many charities across Australia,” he says. “We’ve been supplying food or collecting money and groceries in the cities, and driving out to areas where it’s needed. The regional people are the ones who often suffer the most.”
He says most people he helps aren’t looking for a handout. In fact, he’s regularly amazed by their generosity.
“We delivered a hamper to an elderly lady in the Sutherland area,” says Amar. “She actually had a hamper ready for us to take back. She goes, ‘Can you take it for somebody else?’ I didn’t take it. I said, ‘If things get worse, you might need this stuff – please hold onto it’.”
Motivated by love
Amar admits juggling life with community work can be difficult. Over the years, he’s missed many social events to fulfil his charity commitments, but says he’s motivated by the “love” he receives from those he helps.
“It’s absolutely amazing how much people receive you with open arms when you go out and help people,” he says. “That’s what you get out of it. The emotions, the feelings, the warmth you get is... you can’t give that a dollar value.”
One of the greatest things he has gained from his charity work is greater respect for the Australian Sikh community. “No matter what they look like, everyone is Australian,” says Amar. “And we’re all human beings. Charity work is one way of bringing out the humanity in everyone around us. I personally haven’t had any negative experiences. It’s all love and really warm feelings.
“We want to be part of the solution – to help out as much as we can with our volunteers and our manpower. We want to do something for the most vulnerable. To me, ‘help’ means putting a smile on somebody’s face and telling them, ‘Yeah, it’ll be right, mate.’”