New Delhi: As nature played havoc with Kerala, several charities came forward to help. Among them was UK-based Khalsa Aid. They did not make the headlines, but the volunteers did touch the hearts of the people of the flood-ravaged state.

The Sikh volunteers arrived in Kerala from across India and other countries to start a community kitchen at Kochi, providing meals to 13,000 people twice a day, besides helping the locals clean up slush and debris from places of worship in and around Alleppey.

Over the past 20 years, Khalsa Aid has been at the forefront of several relief operations, guided by the principle: Recognize the whole human race as one. It has covered 22 countries across four continents, serving, among others, refugees in Syrian camps in 2017; the displaced population in Yemen following the civil war in 2015; victims of the Nepal earthquake; refugees in Greece; and orphans in Haiti.

Khalsa Aid was born out of the Kosovo refugee crisis. In 1999, when Sikhs were celebrating the 300th birth anniversary of the Sikh religion, UK-based Ravinder Singh was struck by the plight of refugees in Albania, and decided to reach out to the them with two trucks and a van load of supplies.

“We believe in communal harmony and that’s the message we want to send across people," said Amarpreet Singh, Asia-Pacific managing director, Khalsa Aid, adding that the foundation provides humanitarian aid in disaster areas and civil conflict zones around the world, besides running two round-the-year programmes—Langar Aid and Focus Punjab.

While the free kitchens—or langars—serve food to everybody, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender or social background, Focus Punjab assists Sikhs with education, health and other welfare programmes. Khalsa Aid has already raised more than £62,000 of the £100,000 it aims to contribute for relief work in Kerala.

Jaspreet Singh and Gurpreet Singh, who have been working tirelessly since they arrived in Kerala, said: “We are overwhelmed by the love the people have shown us. When you see a smile on their face all the tiredness vanishes and you feel happy and contended. That is the best feeling."

The group has volunteers from all age groups and coordinates with several international organizations, including the UN Refugee Agency, World Food Program, International Red Cross, Red Crescent Movement and Medecins Sans Frontieres. In June, Khalsa Aid’s Langar Aid team was awarded the Queen’s award for community service in the UK.

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