By Harman S. Pandher
Trustee, Burnaby Board of Education
Vaisakhi. Grammatically, it’s a noun. Agriculturally speaking, it marks the harvest festival. Religiously, historically, and metaphorically, it’s the season in 1699 when Guru Gobind Rai became Guru Gobind Singh; sheep became lions; peasants became princesses; and sparrows began hunting hawks. And symbolically, it’s a time in our calendar that’s come to be synonymous with a fresh start, altruism, empowerment, and oneness.
But the time has come for symbols to be replaced by deeds; for words to transform into actions; for lip service to give way to service. That’s right. It’s time for Vaisakhi to become a verb!
To volunteer, to give back, to pay it forward, to serve, to help, to uplift, to unite, to create. These are the seeds that we should scatter this Vaisakhi all over British Columbia and across Canada. By carrying out these actions, we leave legacies for our communities that reap rewards beyond measure.
Young people here at home have increasingly been feeling the kind of Vaisakhi vibe that I’m describing. Community service and action-oriented organizations have begun to spring forth from the grassroots with greater regularity. Non-profit groups like SONG Creative Mentorship, Core of Kaur, AltruYouth, We Live to Empower, New Beginnings, One Blood for Life, Vancouver Outreach, Tian-Jin, UNICEF SFU, and Youth Transforming Society, to name but a few, are leaving their footprints on the landscape of the Lower Mainland.
They’re helping the homeless, feeding the hungry, providing opportunities, creating leaders, mentoring youth, giving guidance and voice to students and artists, saving lives, highlighting global concerns, and documenting important community issues with the power of social media.
Well-established charitable institutions like Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen are also expanding their mission and extending their reach.
Elementary and secondary schools are thinking globally and acting locally by using elements of the new BC curriculum that encourage students to investigate real world problems and find real world solutions, and then share their findings with their peers and the public in other parts of the world.
Students are using the new Applied Skills and Design curriculum to create and innovate. They’re using their entrepreneurial skills to raise awareness and money for causes such as We Walk for Water (they build water wells in developing countries so families have convenient access to clean water so children and women arent’ compelled to walk long distances for water instead of getting an education or earning a living); the City Paks Project (which makes specially designed, durable backpacks to meet the unique needs of the homeless community).
From Surrey’s Tent City to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to middle-class suburbia, there’s a movement growing – and young people aren’t waiting for governments or their parents to catch up. They’re taking action themselves to help the less fortunate, cleanup neglected streets, talk openly about their own mental health, and engage with isolated and underappreciated seniors.
These youth understand that we’re all connected – to our land, to our water, to our air, and to ourselves. When there are weak links in the chain, we’re all the weaker for it. And when we work together to mend those links and tighten those bonds, we’re all stronger.
It’s Vaisakhi! Let’s harvest all that positive energy and get to work.