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One of the many responsibilities of a Sikh includes the practice of dasvandh, or sharing a part of one’s earning in the name of the Guru towards common resources of the community. Dasvandh should be distinguished from dan, or charity; contributions made in the spirit of dasvandh focus on projects of universal social reform and maintenance of religious institutions such as gurdwaras and guru ka langar.

Although Sikhs have been practicing dasvandh since the time of Guru Amar Das Ji, the potential of this collective resource remains untapped. The Sikh-American community has only recently started to organize to address current and future challenges, but it still remains paralyzed by inefficiency and lack of consistent funds. The Dasvandh Fund, a pooled investment fund aimed at investing our financial capital in Sikh enterprises securely, thoughtfully and ethically, is the first of its kind (to my knowledge) and currently in the works.

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The venture fund is on the lookout for a smart, dedicated and passionate intern to commit 6+ weeks over the course of Summer 2009 to assist in setting up the fund. If you’re the lucky sevadar, you’ll help the fund:

  • connect with other non-profits who are structured in a similar way to learn best practices
  • build relationships with Sikh non-profit organizations in the U.S.
  • construct the member organization application form and ongoing oversight process
  • establish a marketing program to publicize itself to the Sikh community
  • specify the layout and functionality of its website

If you’re ready to make waves in the future of the Panth, email inderpal.singh@dasvandhfund.org with a brief statement describing your interest and a resume. And after you’re done with the internship send some updates–we’d be stoked to hear them!

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Many like to joke that mini-Punjabs exist in some Canadian cities. It’s understandable when you review the stats: of the roughly 64,000 South Asians in Brampton, Ontario, 34,000 speak Punjabi. According to census data, 135,000 Sikhs reside in Vancouver alone. Sikhism also constitutes the largest religion in Surrey, Vancouver, making up 16.3 percent of the population. Numbers alone, however, aren’t enough to attract influence. The growing Canadian Sikh community garners significant political support because it is able to organize effectively, raise substantial funds, and contribute to its local and national economy.

In 2005, it was announced that a new hospital, the William Osler Health Center, would be built for the Brampton community. Under the public private partnership (P3) funding formula used to build the new hospital, Bramptonites were required to raise 30% of the building’s total cost of $536 million. Canadian Sikhs, along with local Hindu and Muslim communities, eagerly came together to show their commitment to the future of local health care. Canadian Sikhs generously pledged $10 million for the hospital. A “Better Health Radiothon” broadcast on Punjabi radio stations raised more than $3 million (nearly $1 million in the first 90 minutes!). The Sikh community in particular was recognized when officials announced the name of the Emergency Department as Guru Nanak Emergency Services Department. The Guru Nanak Emergency Services Department greeted its first patient in July 2007.

It appears that Guru Nanak Dev Ji is causing a stir not only in Brampton but in hospitals across the land of the maple leaf. The Guru Nanak Healing Garden, at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, occupies the fourth floor of the Alberta Heart Center.* Two weeks ago, Surrey Memorial Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia announced that Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s name “will adorn the main entrance of the new emergency centre in recognition of the importance of Surrey’s South Asian community and its support of hospital fundraising efforts.” “By naming the entrance of this Surrey Memorial Hospital centre after Guru Nanak Dev Ji, we are saying this is a place for everyone,” said Premier Gordon Campbell after making the announcement.

Which hospital in the United States will be the first to jump onto the movement? A better question may be which proactive American Sikh community can foster enough support on the outside and camaraderie from within to move forward with such a proposal.

*Note comments below.