Posted by David Fallick

Last Tuesday night our Club was fortunate to be joined by Jaswinder Singh, his wife Manjeet Kaur and nine-year old daughter Divjot Kaur.

Jaswinder, as a very active leader in the rapidly growing Australian Sikh community, wears many hats or, more accurately, turbans. He is Secretary of Sikh Volunteers Australia (SVA), serves on the Sikh Interfaith Council of Victoria, speaks publicly on both the Sikh faith and the work of SVA whilst holding down his day-job as a mechanical engineer and project manager.
Although he did share with us that he is currently training to move from engineering to a career in humanitarian service.
After a brief introduction on the origins of Sikhism in the 16th Century in Lahore on the north-west frontier of India and on the direct route taken by invaders from the Middle-East, Jaswinder took us through a detailed explanation of the four original ‘classes’ of traditional Indian society and how Sikhism differs from the widely known caste system. With Sikhism there are no ‘untouchables’.
And after a somewhat amusing explanation about how the local Sikhs arrived at the name, SVA, for their new venture into ‘giving-back’ to those less fortunate, we watched a brief pictorial summary of a diverse range of SVA’s activities helping the victims of bushfires, floods and, more recently, the Covid-19 lockdowns.  The SVA food vans appeared to be everywhere dispensing free freshly prepared hot vegetarian meals wherever the need was greatest.  One particularly memorable example of the lengths to which SVA compassion and humanity can extend was when, having taken the food van from the Devon Meadows ‘base’ and commercial kitchen, to Bairnsdale during the disastrous bushfires over New Year 2019-2020, they travelled on to the fire-front at Mallacoota, served all their meals and then had to evacuate back to Bairnsdale. Quite a drive for one day; covering 900 kms!
After such a thorough address, Jaswinder was happy to take questions because, as he said, questions help him to judge whether he has effectively reached his audience. There were several questions to which our guest provided detailed answers, however, notably the opening question was from Rob Winspear wondering when the Sikhs would form their own Rotary Club?  And the closing question from Isaiah Lahai whose question stimulated an interesting reflection on the similarity of beliefs in Sikhism and Christianity.

As Jaswinder declared the Sikhs in their adopted country are Australians dedicated to helping wherever possible their new neighbours.  I believe we are truly fortunate to have had them join us!