INTERVIEW | JYMIT KHONDHU FROM KHALSA AID (@KHALSA_AID) TALKS ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCES

My first volunteering day painting fences at an elderly home in Berkshire, autumn of 2015.

My first volun­teer­ing day paint­ing fences at an eld­erly home in Berkshire, autumn of 2015.

How did you get involved with Khalsa Aid? 

Hi, my name is Jymit Singh Khondhu. I became a volun­teer with Khalsa Aid in early 2015, start­ing with an open day of 50+ new volun­teers hear­ing from the NGO them­selves, includ­ing Ravi Singh who star­ted KA in 1999 and we were given the his­tory, the past pro­jects and how we could best con­trib­ute, from the vari­ety of loc­a­tions around England us volun­teers came from that day. We got to meet and talk with the trust­ees, hear from those that have been on the front line and more so on relief pro­grammes in and around Lon­don and wider England. More on the past and present pro­jects here, https://www.khalsaaid.org/projects

One note­worthy story here about the fel­la with the beard and the hat stand­ing to my left in the bot­tom right image.

Feeding the homeless 2015 during lunch at Chelsea Methodist church.

Feed­ing the home­less 2015 dur­ing lunch at Chelsea Meth­od­ist church.

He him­self is home­less and through com­ing to the church and volun­teer­ing him­self, he finds calm and under­stand­ing behind help­ing his fel­low broth­ers. In many respects he reminded me of an uncle of mine who is no longer here, and we became friends and we recog­nised each oth­er when we met after that day. That was a nice con­nec­tion made.

​Not­ably cook­ing and serving at the same Meth­od­ist church Christ­mas eve of 2016. It was a suc­cess and we even had a couple volun­teers singing Christ­mas car­ols.

Fast for­ward to 2017, I have par­taken in and raised money towards a hike up Snow­don in June, mar­shalling a 5k char­ity run in Hyde park in August and recently the chance to go to Haiti to provide con­tinu­al earth­quake relief in Octo­ber.

Tell us about your recent trip to Haiti — what was the reas­on?

I have always wanted to do char­ity work abroad so when I heard from Khalsa aid of the dates I jumped at the chance. Where I work we are gran­ted 5 days paid leave that we can use towards char­ity work, so this synced up really well.

The 2010 Haiti earth­quake was cata­stroph­ic with a mag­nitude of 7.0 Mw. It’s epi­center near the town of Léo­gâne (Ouest) which is approx­im­ately 25 kilo­metres (16 mi) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s cap­it­al. Dev­ast­at­ingly leav­ing 220,000 people dead, des­troyed 50% of the schools and adversely affected over 3,500,000 people.

Khalsa Aid partnered with United Haitians in the UK (UHUK) to provide much needed human­it­ari­an aid in the region. Khalsa Aid has estab­lished an offi­cial oper­a­tion center from a dis­used clothes fact­ory for all inter­na­tion­al NGOs to setup and effi­ciently coördin­ate relief oper­a­tions.

Due to the strong links built with loc­al com­munit­ies Khalsa Aid spon­sors now 9 almost 10 orphan­ages, cir­ca 700 chil­dren and have provided sup­port for the last 7 years.

Our local Khalsa Aid man on the ground who is born and bred in Haiti, Marcsan Balan, pictured in the blue and myself in the white T-shirts, at one orphanage we grew to call 'the mountain one'.

Our loc­al Khalsa Aid man on the ground who is born and bred in Haiti, Marc­san Bal­an, pic­tured in the blue and myself in the white T-shirts, at one orphan­age we grew to call ‘the moun­tain one’.

The reas­on for my trip to Haiti was to provide the con­tinu­al sup­plies post the earth­quake. Khalsa Aid go out to Haiti every 3 to 4 months to meet with 9 orphanges we provide sup­plies to, talk to the mem­bers run­ning the orphan­ages, spend time with the chil­dren who are not just home­less due to the earth­quake but because fam­ily can­not simply afford to sup­port them.

Provid­ing a smile, play­ing games with the chil­dren and some­thing as sim­ple as given them a hug and show­ing some love goes a long way, and it did.

How was real­ity out there in com­par­is­on to what you had seen via media? 

I don’t feel that post the earth­quake much has been covered in day to day media about the poorer and impacted parts of Haiti. That said Haiti remains the poorest coun­try in the Amer­icas and one of the poorest in the world. I note that the media are more likely to have cov­er­age of the cap­it­al, Port-au-Prince and the affairs of the gov­ern­ment and state.

So by going out to one of the poorest coun­tries in the world and being able to see first-hand the orphan­ages, the streets, the mar­kets, the day to day liv­ing of the coun­try and its people was eye open­ing. I saw, held and took time to talk (given my lim­ited to none French and Creole) with babies and chil­dren from the ages of 1 years old up to 18, boys and girls across the 9 orphan­ages we sup­port. The real­ity and the one word that stuck in my mind was grat­it­ude. A lot of the impacted areas and people were liv­ing out­doors or in huts, with very little to eat and no clean water. This was seen com­ing out of the air­port at Port-au-Prince all the way west down to Léo­gâne.

I wasn’t one that had trav­elled to poor coun­tries before so this was a first. The real­ity was eye open­ing and emo­tion­al. The con­tinu­al thoughts were how I could do more as an indi­vidu­al. What could I do in the long run in Haiti and what could I do in my life in the long run for the wider impacted areas around the world? I want to help, I feel it is a part of my being and story in the long term, opposed to being sat behind an office desk.

What life les­sons have you learnt from these trips? 

Grat­it­ude and appre­ci­ation for whom you have in your life and what you have. It really is the small things that count and life is short.

See­ing chil­dren hav­ing the most fun with a foot­ball or a stick means so much more than mater­i­al objects. This trip was just a reit­er­a­tion on the basics we grew up on and a remind­er to stay groun­ded.

jynti

How in your per­son­al life here in UK do you try to make a dif­fer­ence to soci­ety?

Now not just due to my Sikh upbring­ing but more so what I feel is part of my path in life, I enjoy giv­ing and being a part of the big­ger move­ment in life and help­ing those in need. Being able to be a part of Khalsa Aid and more so the pro­ject out in Haiti, I want to do more and on a reg­u­lar fre­quency. Wheth­er that is loc­al to where I reside, not just dur­ing fest­ive times and times of bit­ter weather but con­tinu­ally. Per­haps use my work hol­i­days for some­thing more live ful­filling and reward­ing. I know that for my birth­days and days such as Christ­mas where I rather be and what I rather be doing. Help­ing those less for­tu­nate. In the longer spec­trum of things, we, people, every­one in gen­er­al are stronger as a col­lect­ive and not small segreg­ated groups.

What dif­fer­ences can we make in our daily lives as a col­lect­ive?

Now this is just from my own ideo­logy but less waste of food and plastics goes a long way. If we have a roof over us, clean water and ample food to sus­tain us twice over, then we are spoilt. I believe you don’t need to be a part of some­thing or a col­lect­ive to be nice or to give. We should always seek to bring a smile to our broth­ers and sis­ters we walk past day to day. 1. It may really go along way and 2. giv­ing makes your own body or soul a hap­pi­er place. It gives you a feel­ing of com­ple­tion and joy. Hap­pi­ness is see­ing oth­ers smile.

What would you say was the most chal­len­ging part of your trip?

I had this one par­tic­u­lar exchange with Marc­san who lives and still resides in the impacted part of Haiti. Marc­san has been work­ing with Khalsa Aid since 2010 and as we go out their every 3 to 4 months, he is pivotal to trans­lat­ing French Creole to Eng­lish as well as talk­ing with sup­pli­ers and resourcing the best sup­pli­ers we then pur­chase and share out to the orphan­ages.

When we are out in Haiti, we take care of rent­al of vehicles, pet­rol, sup­plies and food, etc. On this one par­tic­u­lar early after­noon, Marc­san turned to us and asked “Can I have some water”. Just hear­ing that alone made me very emo­tion­al. That some­thing sim­ple for us back home to walk up to a faucet and pour some water into a glass, is being asked for.

The chal­lenges I myself faced were see­ing those less for­tu­nate wanted to give what little they had. For example, on return to one of the poorest orphan­ages Khalsa Aid sup­port, we were met with the chil­dren run­ning up to us with a fist in their hand as a sign of appre­ci­ation and thanks for the sup­plies we have earli­er in that day dropped of. Sup­plies such as rice, pin­to beans, tomato tins, milk, san­it­ary sup­plies, baby food, wash­ing up powder, etc. On return to this par­tic­u­lar orphan­age, a child ran up to me and put in my hand a hand­made string wrist­band with a Haiti flag emblem in the centre. I was like no way, 1. Earli­er that day I was think­ing about what could I buy to remind me of my spe­cial trip out here and 2. I was emo­tion­al at the thought that these young kids had spent their day mak­ing this, they have noth­ing and live in a shack with a tent roof, beds made of wood and very little sup­plies. This trip was full of so much giv­ing. It was nice to feel the love from all the chil­dren dur­ing my time in Haiti. It is some­thing that will stay with me forever.

Future trips ?

At present I have no future vol­un­tary trips planned with Khalsa Aid. I am aware of the pro­jects they have out in Malawi due to water short­ages, Nepal due to the earth­quake and more recently the hur­ricane affected islands of the Carib­bean.

If I get the chance to go out to any oth­er pro­jects, I deem it as a bless­ing being able to help those in need and really stand behind the eth­os of Khalsa aid that we recog­nise the whole human face as one.

Im still rais­ing money for the Haiti trip gone, please find the link here, https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jymitkhondhu

 

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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rish­ma Dhali­wal has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rish­ma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.