At the start of 2018, Prabhjot Kaur made the decision to volunteer abroad. Having been working with SAF international since October 2017, she was inspired by the touching stories she often read about in her work and wanted to gain first-hand experience with the initiatives SAF took on in India. After consulting with founder Shamandeep Singh, they decided having her travel to India would be beneficial to her work at SAF.
On April 22, 2018 Prabhjot boarded a plane to India. “I had mixed feelings at this point, excited that I was given a once in a lifetime experience, but also nervous about what the journey would entail. I didn’t know the people I would be travelling with, and I was apprehensive about witnessing all the poverty and hardships of the families I was going to visit. I was overwhelmed but in a good way”. After 23 hours she landed in Delhi where she was met by two India SAF employees, Jaspreet Kaur and Harjinder Singh alongside a film crew who would be documenting their travels. Together they would embark on a 10 day journey into the rural parts of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
After leaving Delhi the team arrived in Indore where they had a 4 hour drive to Burhanpur. They stayed at a local Gurdwara. Every day they would travel 2 hours by car to the village of Pachori. On the first day they met with the families and children residing in the village. On the second day they visited Guru Kul Academy, the local school. There they played games with the children and helped them with their school work. Prabhjot also put on a seminar at the school about female hygiene and handed out sanitary pads to the pre-teen girls.
It was also during their visit to the school that the principal made them aware of 3 nearby villages that were in desperate need of SAF’s help. On the third day he took them around those villages. The villages were surrounded by jungle and dirt. The village people lived in huts made out of mud and straw. There was a small building dedicated to being a school, and an unreliable teacher who only taught up until Grade 5. The teacher would often show up intoxicated or not show up at all. When speaking to some of the kids, their response was that they wanted to learn so they can grow up and have good jobs but they couldn’t learn if the teacher never comes to teach.
The fourth day was much of the same, Prabhjot and the SAF team continued to speak to the village people about their living situations. Most of the families discussed how they made a living by working labour in other cities, clearing out forest land to farm their own crops, or in desperate times getting involved in the illegal selling of merchandise.
On the fifth day the team went back to Pachori where for the first time ever, the SAF team handed out 75 water filters to the families. This would be the first time these people would drink uncontaminated water! SAF will continue to provide these families with new filters every 6 months.
Prabhjot had become attached to these families and had a hard time saying goodbye. “I felt saddened to leave, even with so little their hospitality really showed how caring and how big their hearts were”. They left the next morning at 4:30am to the airport. They flew to Delhi where a car awaited their arrival to drive them to Alwar, Rajasthan.
The day after reaching Alwar the team when to visit Bright Star Academy, a school fully funded by SAF International. Here they spent time getting to know the kids and playing games with them. “They were so excited to have us there with them, so much love and beauty radiated from the children”, Prabhjot stated.
On her final day in India Prabhjot and the team distributed shoes, scarves, and Dastar’s for the children of Bright Star Academy. As part of SAF’s initiatives is not only funding the children’s education but also their uniform and school supplies as well.
That evening a huge storm hit Alwar. Prabhjot felt it as a sign of renewal, washing away her old self into a new person whose life had been changed by the last 10 days. She was overwhelmed with emotion, happiness and sadness alike. Happy for this experience and sad that it was time to go. At 4am Prabhjot boarded the plane back to Canada. “This experience changed me, and more importantly made me understand the importance behind SAF’s work. Visiting these families and learning about their lives gave me the drive to work even harder. Even though I will be back in Canada, every day I go into work I feel my connection to them and it keeps me going.”
There will be a documentary film on the Sikligar Sikh’s being released Fall 2018.