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Washington, DC-We are pleased to announce another successful completion of the UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy (AHAA). This 5-day training program lasting from July 6 to July 10 took place in the heart of the nation’s capital. Our AHAA graduates came from all over the United States, and had the opportunity to experience a wide range of interactive lectures, presentations, and documentary films, facilitated by speakers from the Department of Justice, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and UNITED SIKHS staff. Sessions included:
-"Sikh American Identity" presented by Vishavjit Singh (Cartoonist- Director and creator Sikhtoons also known as "Sikh Captain America") -"USAID" presented by Peter Morris (Division Chief with the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance) and Sonia Walia (Public Health and Nutrition advisor for the Preparedness, Strategic Planning and Mitigation Division at the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance) -"Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division Processes to Work on Civil Rights/ Sikh Issues" presented by Eric Treene (Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice) -"The Role of Faith Based Organizations in Developing International Policy" presented by Sahar Chaudhry (Senior Policy Analyst with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom) -"Department of Justice Community Relations" presented by Harpreet Mokha (Regional Director of the Department of Justice Community Relations Service) -"Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division Processes to Work on Civil Rights/Sikh Issues" presented by Eric Treene (Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice) -"The Role of Faith Based Organizations in Developing International Policy" presented by Sahar Chaudhry (Senior Policy Analyst with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom) -"Department of Justice Community Relations" presented by Harpreet Mokha (Regional Director of the Department of Justice Community Relations Service) -"Role of Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) in Eliminating Extreme Poverty" presented by Rishiwant Singh, also known as "The Flying Sikh" (Radio TV presenter for RTM and Humanitarian Aid Coordinator and Director of Malaysian Food Bank for UNITED SIKHS)
Our new advocates completed their training with an Advocacy Day on the Hill,during which they met with congress persons and their staff to discuss the most pressing issues facing American Sikhs today, and advocate on behalf of the Sikh community.
We are excited to introduce you to our new advocates, and share what they have to say about their experience.
Not Pictured: Gurpreet Kaur
"In 5 short days, I met some of the most inspirational human beings I have ever come across in my lifetime. Waheguru brought all of us together to learn about not only one another's amazing journeys but about who we are as individuals. This was a beautiful experience and one which I will always remember. I left Washington DC looking at the world with a renewed, more inspired lens and have never been more optimistic and enthusiastic about my future as a lawyer."
"This was by far the most intimidating experience I have ever had on paper. Meeting congressmen, exploring Sikhism, dissecting history with fellow students that I have never met before after a rigorous application cycle seemed beyond daunting! Yet these expectations were disappointed… in the best way possible. The AHAA has boosted my confidence within my own capabilities, as well as enlightened my perspective to the world around me. This could be the aftermath of the speakers who visited and my fellow applicants-each of whom expressed both radically diverse experiences and a strong commitment to empowering the Sikh community. Now that the academy is over, I not only have strong connections to such dignified officials, but I have strong connections to my fellow AHAA graduates. I am so thankful to have been a part of it and, in the twenty-four hours I have been away, have already recommended it to four of my closest friends."
After a long day of rigorous instruction, our advocates-in-training toured some of DC's most iconic sites, including the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial
"Participating in the Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy was truly uplifting. By revisiting the events surrounding the genocide of 1984, meeting with government officials working towards fully ensuring Sikh American civil rights, and advocating for Sikh rights by meeting with congressional representatives, I have been thoroughly motivated to make an even bigger difference in the Sikh community."
"This academy has been a tremendous educational experience. Highlights include a variety and depth of speakers to first-hand experience at the Capitol, interacting with legislative directors and even congressmen themselves. These workshops made apparent the many overlooked, but nevertheless significant, issues that the Sikh, and other communities face. Overall it was an incredible learning curve: I learned how best to assist minorities in gaining the correct recognition, and opened my horizons to consider different career prospects. I appreciate UNITED SIKHS for providing me with this amazing opportunity and I will always recognize the impact it has had."
"The UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. I got to make new lifelong friends from all over the world, I had the enlightening opportunity to explore some career fields that I never considered before , and I was able to learn about Sikhi; which most definitely contributed to my growth as an adult and as a Sikh. I would totally tell my friends about this amazing academy."
"The UNITED SIKHS Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy helped me discover the possibilities for a young Sikh American in governmental and non-governmental organizations. Before the Academy, I was uncertain about my future. The Academy delivered speakers and presentations that helped pave a clear path for my future. AHAA wasan amazing experience for a young Sikh American like me due to the opportunities it delivered."
"The Academy was a great opportunity to get a hands-on experience in advocacy work. I was granted the opportunity of meeting and bonding with a diverse group of young people who all share a drive to fight for Sikh rights. We heard from a variety of speakers who gave us insight as to how we can have voice within our society. The Academy was an unforgettable experience and I will carry forward the lessons preached throughout the week as I pursue my future."
"I definitely recommend this academy. I met such amazing people and I was able to learn so much about how to use advocacy and humanitarian aid to better our society, even on a small scale. It was a great learning experience and I hope that those who are interested will apply."
Each of these individuals left DC with a solid foundation of understanding of civil rights, advocacy, and activism, as well as with the knowledge and resources to help them become involved in their areas of interest. Additionally, each one left with a plan of action as to how to implement what they had learned into their communities.
By training a new generation of Sikh advocates, the AHAA has become an instrumental tool to the Sikh Community.
We’d like to thank our speakers, presenters, and volunteers who helped make this Academy possible once again.
To support the AHAA, please click here
The future lies with our youth; let's invest in them together.
International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA)
Tel: (646) 688- 3525