Power of an idea

Harpreet Singh of Cardinia Shire pitches two unique ideas for Vic government’s Pick My Project initiative

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Great things have come out of simple ideas – add to that intent and you get a vision that can come to fruition and benefit the community at large. Pick My Project, a Victorian Government initiative aims at bringing to life ideas of the residents to make the community a better place to live.

The first of its kind, the $30-million online grants program provides a unique and valuable opportunity to the residents of local communities in the state to suggest improvement and developmental ideas. Submitted ideas are put to community vote.

No idea is too big or too small in Pick My Project; the project ideas with the most votes will be presented with the opportunity to receive funding. Each project idea that’s chosen receives funding between $20,000 and $200,000.

Among the many entries are two ideas from Harpreet Singh, a resident of Cardinia Shire. The 40-year-old lecturer, with support from the Sikh community and his friends Harman Singh and Avtar Singh, has submitted not one but two project ideas for the grant, both of which are now eligible for community voting .

Harpreet’s submitted pitches – Creating Bridges: Free Sikh Community Kitchen  and Creating Awareness About Our Unique “Salad-bowl” Status  – are anchored on bridging different cultures and bringing the local community closer.

Harpreet is no stranger to community activities. An environmental engineer by profession, he is a campaigner for sustainability, community and celebrating the diverse cultural backgrounds of the country.

Harpreet’s first pitch draws inspiration from the Sikh faith that centres on brotherhood and equality, and the famous free community kitchen known as langar, an open-to-all food service available after prayers in Gurudwara, the Sikh place of worship. The food is typically vegetarian, prepared fresh by volunteers and served to people of all communities and ethnic backgrounds.

In the Shire, the proposed Free Community Kitchen aims to create awareness about Indian and Sikh cultures, multi-cultural engagement, educating kids about food security and wastage, and providing food for the less fortunate among other things. “This cause is very close to my heart, and I believe that food has the ability to bring people closer to each other. The Free Community Kitchen will transcend religion and create inclusivity in the community,” says Harpreet.

The proposed project idea also focuses on reducing food waste and creating sustainable kitchen operations. Harpreet adds that “the Sikh community owns 20 acres of land that will house the proposed kitchen, and in the future it will also have a vegetable garden so that local produce can be used in the kitchen”. Harpreet’s vision is that the project will bring people together – irrespective of their religion or community – during Christmas, Eid, Diwali and other festivals. Not only will that foster a sense of harmony, but it will also promote healthy eating and introduce communities to the diverse culinary specialties of different cultures.

The other idea, Creating Awareness About Our Unique “Salad-bowl” Status is aimed at creating awareness in five primary schools in Cardinia Shire about the two Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities, Sudanese and Sikh. “With the recent negative media surrounding the Sudanese community, there is a greater need to educate and sensitise kids, families and the community, and to alleviate the fear and create inclusivity,” explains Harpreet. He believes in ‘catching’ them young and teaching them the importance of global citizenship and developing a better understanding of the country’s rich multi-cultural background.

The project aims to achieve that through interactive presentations, photographs, tours, and competitions. In addition, the project will upskill school staff and parents about other cultures and faiths and promote community bonding on a wider scale. “The project would have the potential to reduce racial violence and create a welcoming community in schools and outside,” says Harpreet.

You can vote for your three favourite project ideas. Voting closes on 17 September, 2018. Find Harpreet’s projects at https://pickmyproject.vic.gov.au/

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Nanditha is a food blogger, qualified journalist, writer and editor. Her passion for writing includes feature articles, lifestyle, food, and fashion.
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