British Sikh Organisations Coordinate to serve London in Time of Need

The blaze tore through the 24-storey block, Grenfell Tower, early morning, with flames still visible over 24 hours later...

In the early hours of 14th June 2017, reports started coming in of a massive devastating fire in an apartment block in Notting Hill district of London, just 5 minutes down the road from the Europes's oldest Sikh Gurdwara, Central Gurdwara Khalsa Jatha. The blaze tore through the 24-storey block, Grenfell Tower, in North Kensington at 00:54, with flames still visible over 24 hours later. During this time over 250 fightfighters with 40 engines tried to bring the fire under control. At the time of writing, 17 people had died and 17 lay critical in hospital with near 37 more people in hospital. With hundreds being evacuated from surrounding buildings, without a home or any belongings, a crisis situation developed calling London's Sikh community into action.

First on the scene at 5am, was Satnam Singh, a sevadar and local resident from Central gurdwara who was woken by helicopters and fire engines. He began reporting on facebook of the situation on the ground, prompting Gurpreet Singh Anand, committee member, into posting video and text updates on the Gurdwara's Facebook group.

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Soon after, Sikh charitable organisations joined the Gurdwara's sevadaars on the ground, with groups such as Khalsa Aid, Nishkam SWAT, Basics of Sikhi, United Sikhs, Seva, Sikh Press Assoc, and Sikh Youth London, as well as pockets of locally networked Sikh individuals, coordinating with each other to understand the urgent needs of the community. This required This required not just resources for the displaced and the emergency services, but a coordinated and efficient team of manpower to administer them. Instrumental to the coordination was disaster relief veteran Ravi Singh of Khalsa Aid who met and worked with the surrounding churches, community centres and the Gurdwara to put together a plan of action.

As donations poured in from all over London and neighbouring towns, centres became full of donations, and the Sikh groups began researching what was needed and not needed on the ground, disceminating that information out to the sangat. This coordination enabled the London Sikhs to get much needed essentials like phone charging banks, childrens nappies and bins liners to where they were needed most. It also allowed teams to share the needs of the victims, mostly from the Islamic community taking part in Ramadan, enabling langar teams to delay distribution in time for breaking of the fast.

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The Central Gurdwara itself was undergoing major refurbishment, and consequently had no kitchen. But one phone call to Sarvan Singh, langari at the nearby Ealing gurdwara, allowed food for 300 people to be quickly prepared and made ready for collection. More sevadaars arrived from as far as Kent, Berkshire and East London, alongside Sikh businessmen and women from the local area. A team from the Sikh-run Punjab restaurant in Slough arrived with more langar for another 200 people and set up in a different part of Notting Hill to spread the service.

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Several members of the sangat were interviewed by the major TV and Radio networks, who are now familiar with the role of Sikhs in times of crisis. This tragic incident followed the recent major terrorist incidents in Manchester and London Bridge, where again the Sikhs were out in full force serving the needy.

See Gurdwara updates and live postings from the night on:┬Čif_t=group_activity┬Čif_id=1497440712608111

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