Sikhs do Skydive
They say that a friend is someone who stands by you even when you are doing something crazy. Although I thought I was the crazy one, I awoke at 5am for a two-hour journey to Cambridge to support my best friend Kavan’s spontaneous decision to do a charity skydive. Playing the role of DJ and nerve-calmer, I had paid a donation to her selected charity Khalsa Aid but knew nothing about the charity itself.
As we parked at the airfield, I noticed a congregation of voluntary skydivers with their families; all predominantly of the Sikh religion. The atmosphere was jubilant as everyone battled between excitement and nervousness. Buying myself a hot chocolate while Kavan and the other skydivers went for some basic training about how to safely jump out of a plane, I decided to ask some of the Khalsa Aid volunteers how skydiving fits in with Sikhism.
As they set up a gazebo and attempted to light the fire for a vegetarian barbeque for everyone, they explained that Khalsa Aid is about ensuring that the younger generation stay on the right path. Tony Singh Kale explained “it’s all about keeping up with the times and getting young people involved” and skydiving is one way to keep up with the times. He explained that charity is a big part of Sikhism and skydiving is one method of raising a significant amount of money.
But I still did not know what the charity really stood for. Although I have a half Hindu half Sikh background, my religious views do not reside with any one religion. Thus, admittedly, the name of the charity did not seem too appealing to me. However, after learning that the word ‘Khalsa’ simply means ‘pure’ and that the organisation’s motto is “recognise the whole human race as one”, I am glad that I was enlightened.
Ravi Singh, CEO of Khalsa Aid, informed me that the charity puts the spiritualism of Sikh ethics at the forefront which is simply to regard humanity as one. The charity is open to everyone, does not discriminate against anyone, has no conditions and does not seek to convert anyone. Ravi founded Khalsa Aid in 1999 to mark the 300 year celebration of the Khalsa. He launched the charity by speaking on local radio stations, handing out leaflets and by word-of-mouth. During the 300 year celebrations of the Khalsa, the charity raised £20,000 which helped their first voyage to Kosovo to protect the weak and shelter the homeless.
Ravi told me that his craziest mission was to Congo when he and another volunteer were robbed by a gang man. Having their passports and phones stolen from them and facing death, they prayed for a miracle which arrived in the form of a man who was so well-respected that he phoned the Head of the Defence Commission to rectify the situation. The next morning at breakfast, Ravi tells me, the gang man who had stolen from them was summoned and returned their passports and phones.
As grave as this situation may sound, Ravi explained every detail with a hint of humour. When I looked around me I noticed that what had started as a one-to-one interview had turned into a large group listening to Ravi’s stories. Clearly an inspirational man, Ravi explained that although every mission has a risk and safety is not guaranteed, he is driven by passion. You can’t manufacture love for humanity. Guru Nanak travelled the world and the spirit of the Sikhs is to be fearless. Volunteer Tony will be travelling out to Haiti this week to help with a long term development project launched by Khalsa Aid.
After speaking with Ravi and Khalsa Aid volunteers, I can understand why so many people find the charity such a great cause to raise money for. Kavan, having previously climbed Mount Snowdon for the charity, raised £530 for her skydive. The charity appeals to her because it is based on Sikh ethics which are universal such as compassion and selfless service. Kuldeep Singh, raising £710, said that he heard about the charity through other people and had seen them at various events. Amit Hayer has climbed Mount Snowdon three times, bungee-jumped and has now raised £756 for his Khalsa Aid skydive. He explains that one of the reasons he likes the charity is because they help people in Punjab. He feels that he has a duty to help people in Punjab, India because of his affiliation to the place and family connections there.
As Kavan jumped out of the plane, glided down and touched the ground, I can say that not only did she land safely but the people who are going to be helped by Khalsa Aid and the people who volunteer for the charity are also in safe hands.
For more information about Khalsa Aid visit http://www.khalsaaid.org/