"It breaks a mother's heart to watch her child cry."
Today my 6-year-old son started crying, saying he has no friends in school because he wears a turban. While my husband and I try to provide him with a good life, I realized, that doesn't compensate for what he thinks he lacks at school. I began to think about other Sikh parents who go through this but might not be equipped with the resources, responses, or time to help their children.
I am not sure if my son's situation is even solely due to his identity. At that age, children bully one another for a number of reasons. Regardless, I found it heartbreaking that my son thought it was due to his Sikh identity he was a target. In an attempt to create self-realization, I started to ask him, 'If you didn't wear a turban, do you think the bullies would really leave you alone?' But halfway through my question he confidently said, 'Waheguru said I have to wear one.'
I thought of the important messages of maintaining Sikh pride instilled by UNITED SIKHS in their ABC workshops: "Never alter your faith or identity for a bully. Use our tips to constructively stop a bully, all while continuing to be confident in your commitment to Sikhi." I am grateful such values have been instilled in my son. UNITED SIKHS' efforts might be a source of someone's happiness and well-being more than you probably even realize. We don't know which one of the kids sitting in the sangat today, in the past, or in the future, is someone depressed, or someone contemplating suicide because they feel alone and cannot cope anymore. UNITED SIKHS might have avoided all of that by telling children and their parents that they have to be there for each other and that this organization is always here for them."
- Ashween Kaur , Califorina
USA- The Anti-Bullying Campaign by UNITED SIKHS is a two-fold national campaign aiming to proactively assist Sikh victims of bullying while educating non-Sikh students about Sikhism.
Proactively, we have reached out and provided anti-bullying materials to all superintendents of schools in states which are heavily populated with Sikh youth (New York, Texas, and California) for them to distribute and use in their schools. Presentations on Sikhism have been initiated at schools across the country to educate non-Sikh students about Sikhism to avoid future cases of bullying and to strengthen the foundation of Sikh youth. These presentations explain the articles of faith, their significance, and the importance of treating others the way one would want to be treated.
The campaign has also been launched by volunteers and staff in different regions who have been going to Gurdwaras to teach Sikh students how to cope with and handle bullying through topics of mental health, statistics (such as how 69% of Sikh students in the U.S. are being bullied), and resources.
In these presentations, students stand up and speak on their personal experiences with bullying, how it made them feel, and how they would handle it if they had the information they have now. Students are also given an opportunity to report their current situation with a bully and we provide them with one-on-one guidance on how to move forth.
Above all, the Sikh community (kids, youth and parents combined), are engaged in simran sadhana (meditation) to seek mental strength from the Almighty to be able to appropriately manage these situations.
See where we have conducted ABC workshops and other youth engagement initiatives this year!
ABC Gurudwara Workshops (2014):
- Hicksville Gurudwara (100 attendees)
- Baba Makhan Shah Lubhana Gurudwara, Richmond Hill, NY (200 attendees)
- Singh Sabha Gurdwara,Fairfax,Virginia (150 attendees)
- Nanak Naam Jahaz Gurudwara,Jersey City, New Jersey (200 attendees)
- Sikh Center of Virginia Gurudwara,Manassas, VA (50 attendees)
Youth Engagement Initiatives (2014):
- STARAE Scholarships granted to students in India
- JUNG Gatka Anti-Bullying Awareness Event
- Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy
- Feeding the Homeless to Recognize the Human Race As One
- Hicksville Gurdwara Youth Kirtan Darbar in loving memory of our Elder Brothers, CHAAR SAHEBJAADE (200+ attendees and over 40 participants)
These campaigns and initiatives hope to address the shockingly vast percentage of Sikhs being bullied, one city at a time. We believe it is vital for parents and their children to step outside of the shadows and speak up about their experiences, learn how to handle bullying, and proudly blend into society without compromising our beautiful Sikhi principles.
Balwinder Kaur, mother of two, said, "Listening to the Ant-Bullying workshop done by UNITED SIKHS in Virginia, it is a huge relief to know UNITED SIKHS is there looking out for the safety of my children. Even though my son is only 6-years-old, I know that because he wears a patka, he is at a higher risk of falling victim to bullying than most other kids. I am grateful that he and my 12-year-old daughter were able to attend the workshop to obtain confidence and resources to face bullies."
We would like to thank all the Gurdwaras and schools for allowing us to come and speak to the young members of the sangat, as well as their parents.
See our Anti-Bullying Campaign website here.
Together we can educate students and teachers on Sikhism and together we can expand minds and combat ignorance and hate.
None of the projects can be sustained without your contribution, however BIG OR SMALL! Help us help those who need us, by donating here today.
Staff Attorney and Policy Advocate
International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA)