The Sikh community in the City of Swan is the quiet driving force behind a program improving the lives and filling the stomachs of those most in need.
Every Monday, orders get sent to the Sikh gurudwara in Bennett Springs, triggering a chain of events that feeds hundreds of people in Perth.
They are orders for food – delicious food, at that – cooked by volunteers in the Sikh temple’s commercial-size kitchen.
Once City of Swan staff have relayed the orders that come from a range of support services, the volunteers get to work, putting out about 850 meals a week.
The support services then distribute the meals to those who need them most.
The volunteers had long cooked free meals at the gurudwara, offering them to whoever came through their doors on a Sunday.
But their approach changed in April 2020, when COVID-19 plunged Perth into lockdown and the Sikh community stepped up to help.
Sikh Gurudwara Perth president Jarnail Singh (pictured below) said the committee decided to contact the City and offer to make free meals for those in need.
“Our community, in our religious teachings, is taught to help the needy whenever there is a crisis anywhere in the world – all of the gurudwaras worldwide will do the same,” he said.
Since those early days of COVID, more than 150,000 of their free meals have been distributed.
“It started with about 150 meals a week but within two or three weeks the demand had gone up and it was over 1,000 meals,” Mr Singh said.
“Now it’s declined a little bit because things are getting back to normal.
“But we have started a new initiative where we are providing groceries for international students who are struggling and cannot afford them because there are cost of living and rental issues as well.”
The City is home to a thriving Sikh community, with four per cent of the population born in India and two per cent speaking Punjabi at home – more than double the State average.
The gurudwara on Cheltenham Street serves free meals on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and everyone is welcome.
“We don’t believe in caste, colour or creed. We believe all humans are one,” Mr Singh said.
“It’s not just the Sikh temple in Perth – if you see a Sikh temple anywhere in the world, you can come and we will do our best to serve you.”
Jose Ciciliamma, City of Swan Community Development Officer, said the volunteers had not missed a week since the program started.
“It is a testament to the dedication of the Sikh gurudwara community and all organisations involved in providing meals to those who need them the most,” he said.
“The initiative began in 2020 with the assistance of Evan Hillman, Community Development Officer for Beechboro at that time, and it has made a big difference for those in need.”
The support services involved in the free meals program include:
- Bluesky Group
- Brockman House Beechboro
- Meerilinga Beechboro
- Midland Meals
- DreamBuidlers Midland
- Salvation Army Swan View
- Salvation Army Northbridge
- Salvation Army Morley
- Noranda Community Pantry