The Algoma Sikh Association is partnering with international relief organization Khalsa Aid to address food insecurity in Sault Ste. Marie during the COVID-19 crisis.
Khalsa Aid Canada has provided the association with a startup of $1,000 in order to purchase food, which is currently being distributed to international students at Sault College and Algoma University by volunteers in the local Sikh community.
“Khalsa Aid noticed that there were a lot of students that have lost their jobs, and many of which don’t qualify for the CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit), especially the international students that came over in the last year or so who don’t have that $5,000 from last year to qualify,” said Algoma Sikh Association President Gurwinder Singh. “They noticed there was a need within the student community throughout Canada that needs to be addressed in terms of food insecurity.”
Singh tells SooToday that although the aid was initially geared towards students, anyone can access the food donations made possible through Khalsa Aid and the local Sikh community, especially seniors and more vulnerable segments of the population.
The Algoma Sikh Association is also offering to do grocery delivery for seniors as part of its humanitarian efforts to address food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re just trying to help out with food insecurity. At least that’s one thing off their plate and they can focus on their other aspects because if you’re going through food insecurity, it takes a big toll on your mental health,” said Singh. “Going through the pandemic with that type of stress on your head, it’s pretty unfortunate, whether you’re a student or if you have a family at home and you just lost your job.”
Singh expects a number of international students to volunteer their time to distribute the food - which is currently being housed at an Algoma University residence - to organizations and people in need.
Singh hopes to pull in $1,000 in donated funds each week from Khalsa Aid Canada and the local Sikh community in order to keep the program running.
“I’ve been here for seven years, and this place is home. So it’s definitely a good feeling just doing this - and hopefully, it continues throughout, even after this pandemic is over,” he said.
People looking for more information on how to volunteer can contact the Algoma Sikh Association directly via Facebook, Instagram or email.