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Community raises over $600,000 to support Sikh free food initiative

A team of Sikh volunteers preparing meals at a community kitchen in Melbourne's south-east. Source: Supplied by SVA

Within a week of posting an appeal on social media, community members have raised a whopping sum of $600,000 for Sikh Volunteers Australia's (SVA) effort to set up a permanent kitchen for their free food initiatives across Melbourne.

Melbourne-based non-profit organisation Sikh Volunteers Australia (SVA) has been providing free food to the communities during catastrophic bushfires and the various stages of COVID-19 lockdowns in Victoria.

The charity group says they have experienced a significant surge in demand for free food since the pandemic. They now aim to build on their initiative to provide free food for disadvantaged people and those in need of a meal during hard times.

A team of Sikh volunteers preparing meals at a community kitchen in Melbourne's south-east.
A team of Sikh volunteers preparing meals at a community kitchen in Melbourne's south-east.
Supplied by SVA

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, SVA has provided over 180,000 free meals to the doorsteps of community members in 41 Melbourne suburbs.

“In the time of need, we are there for those that need us more than ever. It’s what we do best. Help those in times of crisis,” SVA volunteer Manpreet Singh said in an interview with SBS Punjabi.

To further expand their operations, the group is now aiming for a bigger and better kitchen.

“Since 2017, we’ve rented community kitchens and have been supported by like-minded organisations that let us use their kitchen facilities. But to expand the scale of operations, we need a permanent kitchen,” he said.

Sikh volunteers out to serve food to lockdown-affected communities in Melbourne.
Sikh volunteers out to serve food to lockdown-affected communities in Melbourne.
Supplied by SVA

The SVA has raised over $600,000 through a fundraiser for this initiative.

“We’ve been able to secure a piece of land and are now eager to build our own commercial kitchen. It would allow us to cook approximately 10,000 meals a day and will enable us to cover almost all of Victoria regardless of the landscape and resources available in the area,” Mr Singh said.

While talking about their group's efforts, Mr Singh thanked the community for their generous donations.

“It requires a very kind, noble and generous heart to donate hard-earned money, and to do that during these tough times, people need a lot more humility and generosity,” he said.

Sydney Opera House sails illuminate with image of Sikhs helping bushfire victims
Sydney Opera House sails illuminate with image of Sikhs helping bushfire victims.
Supplied by SVA

Mr Singh recalled how they originally had a single van at their disposal, with which they gave free meals to the homeless. He says this gradually evolved into a "powerful act of kindness" during Melbourne’s most challenging times.

We feel proud to be part of this initiative. It is our duty to serve people when they need us the most

“We commit to serve with a kind heart and to reduce stress in society. No matter what the challenges, we need to serve, rise and celebrate our diversity," he added.

To hear their full interview with SVA's Manpreet Singh, click on the audio link above.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at http://www.sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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