Why we felt he needed to be included in this list: Ravi Singh is a humanitarian and founder and CEO of Khalsa Aid, the first cross-border humanitarian relief organization based on Sikh principles.
When natural or man-made disasters like floods, earthquakes, famine and war strike, one of the first on the scene to help distribute food, water, clothing, medical and sanitation supplies and even build semi-permanent shelters is Khalsa Aid International.
Inspired by one of the most important Sikh principles, “Sarbat da Bhalla” meaning “well-being for all,” the UK-based humanitarian relief charity reaches out to those in need, regardless of race, religion and borders, and responds to disasters around the world providing anything required to save lives, reduce people’s immediate suffering and help maintain their dignity.
Ravi Singh founded the charity in 1999 after watching footage of the plight of refugees in Kosovo on the news. That year was also the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Khalsa order of Sikhism. Singh and a few close friends were celebrating Baisakhi, which involves a lot of food, while watching images of people in Kosovo struggling to cross the cold, mountainous border into Albania and fighting and dying for a few pieces of bread. Very proud of the Langar (community kitchen for all) concept in Sikh, they felt compelled to get involved and take food to where it was desperately needed.
We had just had a large Baisakhi celebration and Baisakhi involves a lot of food. The TV had these images of people in Kosovo fighting and dying for a few pieces of bread. We felt compelled to get involved, to take some food where it was desperately needed.The Hindu
Singh asked to join a small group he read about who were organizing an aid convey to Albania to deliver aid donated by the Sikh community. Within two weeks they were on their way to Albania with two trucks and a van load of aid and Khalsa Aid, the first ever cross-border international humanitarian aid organization based on the Sikh principles, was born.
While the inspiration for the charity stems from Sikh principles, their work is not restricted to the Sikh community. Since their first mission in Kosovo, Khalsa Aid has worked in war-hit zones like Syria and Yemen; aided refugee camps in Greece, Lebanon and Congo; and helped multiple countries struck with disaster like the Nepal and Haiti earthquakes, famine in Kenya, and the Indonesia Tsunami. Closer to home, Khalsa Aid helped residents in the UK cope with the devastating floods that swept through Cumbria and the south-west of England and supported the families who escaped the fire at Grenfell Tower in London.
The organization is mainly funded by the Sikh community around the world — although they’ve had a lot of non-Sikh supporters from the UK in the past couple of years — and does not receive government funding. During major disasters, the gurudwaras also step forward.
Faith plays a big part in my work. But we need to go beyond faith and into humanity. You can learn a lot by being human.
Singh is a recognized advocate and speaker on humanitarian causes and has spoken regularly on national and international media and at TEDx. In 2014, the people of Somerset nominated him to appear on the national hit TV show Surprise Surprise (where he received a family holiday and a new car) as a way of saying thank you for his support during the floods. In 2016, BBC made a documentary, The Selfless Sikh: Faith on the Frontlines, about Singh’s work in Northern Iraq. The film follows Singh’s journey as he provides aid to Yazidi families who have fled their homes to escape the brutality of Islamic State. In 2017, Singh was honoured with the Bhagat Singh Thind Community Empowerment Award by the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund. That same year, Darpan Magazine presented him with a Darpan Extraordinary Achievement Award for International Sensation. In 2018, Khalsa Aid’s Langar Aid team was awarded the Queens award for community service, the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognize outstanding work done in their own communities.
Langar Aid, which provides emergency food and water supplies in disaster and war zones, and Focus Punjab, which focuses on providing long term support in the region, are two of the organization’s long term initiatives. Most recently, they launched Pad the Path, a new project in Malawi to educate women on menstrual health and hygiene and provide them with long lasting reusable sanitary products. It’s the first of many initiatives Khalsa Aid will be taking to help end period poverty for millions of women around the world.
Thumbnail Photo Credit: www.sikhpa.com
Main Image Photo Credit: www.indiaexpress.com