SikhNet visit to Sydney and Melbourne (Australia)

SikhNet CEO Gurumustuk travels to Australia to participate in Sikh camps, promote SikhNet, and meet the sangat...

I was recently invited to Australia to participate in two Sikh camps and was excited about the opportunity to see Australia for the first time, and meet the Sikhs who live in this part of the world. I have traveled to many parts of the world, but never made it “Down under,” so was interested to see life as an Aussie Sikh.

First a few facts....Australia is home of the annual Australian Sikh Games and to a rapidly growing population of Sikhs who immigrated from India, Singapore, Malaysia, Kenya, UK and other parts of the world. Sikhs in Australia grew from 26,000 in 2006 to 72,000 in 2011, a rise of 174% and currently at 125,000 as of 2016 census. When you arrive in Australia that growth is reflected in the diversity of people that now call it home.

The Hari Singh Nalwa Retreat

For aspiring Leaders in the Panth

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I started my visit to Australia in Melbourne, to participate in The Hari Singh Nalwa Retreat - for aspiring Leaders in the Panth organized by a Sikh organization called Akaal Fauj. This was a unique new camp format that was designed to help Sikhs who want to make a difference in their communities through service projects, offering some help to get them going, as well as the chance to learn from others who have successfully started and run service projects.

The core theme of this camp was to equip young minds to be more effective in their communities and take them from being just dreamers to leaders who have the tools and information to create change.

Attending and leading the camp was Harshdeep Singh (the brainchild of this camp) along three facilitators to help guide the process.

Mejindarpal Kaur (UK), a former senior crown prosecutor in the UK, is the International Legal Director of UNITED SIKHS, a UN associated NGO that has been in the forefront of advocacy for religious freedom globally.

Harjit Singh (Perth, Australia)  Founder of Turbans and Trust which has generated over 10,000 one-on-one conversations between strangers to build an understanding of respect and equality. Turbans and Trust seeks to get Australians to embrace the turban as a powerful way of building compassion and understanding between diverse people.

And me, Gurumustuk Singh (USA) as Founder of the oldest and largest Sikh website serving the Sikh community in a myriad of ways for the past 22 years.

Our goal was to inspire the attendees through our own experience and leadership. The camp focused on personal development for leadership and emphasized being action-based – not just talk and hype

 

Below were some of the areas that participants felt had issues in the Sikh Community
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The group of youth came full of energy and chardikala spirit and left with new direction, inspiration and projects to take forward. It was inspiring watching them first identify the many problems in our community, look at the causes, and then focus in on the areas that they felt most passionate about and wanted to tackle. We often talk and complain about the many problems in the Sikh community. It was inspiring to be with individuals who were interested in taking a step and working towards creating change.

To help motivate the groups on the final day, $10K of support funding was offered to the group with the most compelling project.  The ending of the camp came with the different project groups pitching their ideas to the facilitators and presenting their six-month project plans to get started.  Now only time will tell what will happen with these planted "seeds."

The goal is to have this type of camp on an annual basis to help seed change in the Sikh community. I was super grateful to be a part of this first camp with a group of amazing individuals.

Melbourne Community and Gurdwara Visits

Following the end of the camp I toured many of the Gurdwaras in the Melbourne area, sharing some of my experiences growing up as a Sikh with the Sangat, as well as SikhNet's work. Surprisingly, even after almost 23 years online, there are still many people who have not heard of SikhNet, so was a great opportunity to let people know about the many services that SikhNet offers and meet people face-to-face.

It was also great going on some Australian radio shows to promote SikhNet, as well as giving an interview for “The Indian Weekly” magazine.​

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Sikh Youth Australia Summer Family Camp

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My second stop was Sydney for the Sikh Youth Australia Summer Family Camp, which has been serving almost as long as SikhNet! They started in 1998 and their first summer youth camp was held in 1999.  They are a group of dedicated volunteers who have a passion for seva and helping to inspire those around them. Aside from their summer camps they have regular initiatives that serve to give leadership skills, and to promote Sikh awareness and traditions.  

One of the things that I loved about the SYA summer camp, was that it was for people of all ages. Truly a “Family” camp. Most summer camps I have seen are just for kids, but this one was for everyone. It had classes and activities for the little kids, teens, young adults, adults/parents/grandparents. We all need inspiration no matter our age!

Because of whole families going to the camp together, everyone was in sync and on the same page. Everyone grew spiritually together and had a shared experience that helped attendees to better support each other to keep up and keep going in this direction.

The camp balanced “fun” activities along with lots of time to go deeper and develop one's spiritual side. The atmosphere was very positive and open, with Sikhs from all over Australia and all types (short hair and long) with everyone being welcome. Everyone was interested in connecting to the Guru and working on themselves.

I enjoyed multiple hour sessions with each of the different age groups discussing Sikh Identity, growing up in today’s world as a Sikh and sharing some of my experiences and challenges as an individual, parent and in my role at SikhNet.

One of the nights they setup a giant mobile TV screen (on a truck) out by the entrance of the building and the kids enjoyed watching some of the new SikhNet Kids animated videos. It was good fun.

SYA holds this camp every year first week in January....so be sure to look them up if you are there during this time. This was their 21st year!

Sydney Community and Gurdwara Visits

After the SYA camp I traveled to different areas to give talks and presentations about SikhNet at local Gurdwaras in Sydney (Glenwood and Penrith ) and Home kirtan events with Veer Manpreet Singh. Many people still are not aware of SikhNet and its many services so it was great to talk to people and share SikhNet's work.

SikhNet Giveways

In addition to the SikhNet t-shirts and various cards and magnets....The kids loved the SikhNet Stories sign where they would put their face into the hole to become part of the "Team Khalsa" characters and get a picture. The "I love SikhNet stories" stickers were also a hit. People also appreciated the "I am a Sikh" business card size cards to keep in your wallet to give to anyone who is interested to know who the Sikhs are when you don't have time to discuss it with them in more depth.

The Sangat there in Australia was very welcoming and appreciative of our visit, and Australia is a beautiful place. I highly suggest you visit sometime to see the country, as well as meet some of your Sikh brothers and sisters there :)

Next Stop...England!

In March… I, Guruka Singh and Gurujot Singh will be traveling to the U.K... Stay tuned for details!

Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa

Gurumustuk Singh Started SikhNet.com in 1996 as a teenager out of high school during the beginning of the Web to bring much needed information to Sikh youth at the time.

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