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Up close with Amar Singh, NSW Local Hero 2023

A sneak peak into Amar Singh’s life and work as founder of the charity Turbans 4 Australia

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Amar Singh, founder of Sydney-based charity Turbans 4 Australia (T4A), has won the Local Hero award in the NSW 2023 Australian of the Year awards announced recently.

Under the 41-year-old’s stewardship, T4A packages and distributes up to 450 food and grocery hampers weekly, to people experiencing food insecurity brought on by drought, bushfires, floods or COVID-19.

Here’s a sneak peak into the life and work of Amar Singh, Local Hero.

What brought you to volunteering

My first experience was with the Red Shield Appeal as a high school student. Shortly thereafter I volunteered at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. With both, I found I loved connecting with people, and knew I wanted to do more.

How T4A came to be

Turbans 4 Australia was launched in 2015 as a way really to curb the racism that Sikhs relentlessly faced. I realised we would have to proactively find ways to fit in, instead of having to constantly explain our very existence. One way of doing this was to actively help local causes. This would stamp home the fact to those outside the community – as well as those within – that this is our home now. We belong here, and want to consciously contribute.

That the organisation would grow so large, I had no idea. Today we have 200 volunteers undertaking different roles – whether in picking up or dropping off supplies, packing, technology, social media.

AmarSingh with supplies for Turbans 4 Australia
Pic: Jonathan Ng

An interesting episode from the activities at T4A

The Hawkesbury floods in March 2021 had devastated the region. As we served there and access began to diminish, we figured the quickest way to drop off supplies would be by air. So we took recourse to helicopter. That we managed to help stranded people then, was pretty amazing.

But it is the people’s responses that always gets us. Only months ago, as we drove back from serving at the Annual Sikh Games, we stopped for a break. An Australian person walked up to say, ‘I know you, you’re the guys that help people in distress situations. Thank you for what you did at Lismore.’  And then he insisted on giving us $100. When regular people on the streets – not the big corporations – appreciate our efforts and relate to us, that’s humbling and memorable.

Amar Singh of T4A delivering supplies
Pic: Jonathan Ng

The most touching thing told to you about T4A

This would have to be the young kids in our own community in whom we’ve sparked a light.  When they do high school projects on T4A, for example, it is clear they’re looking up to us as role models. It reinforces the belief that no matter your faith or background, if you step up to the cause, you’ll be greeted with open arms everywhere.

The funniest / strangest thing people have asked you about your turban or beard

I’m constantly asked about my turban and hair! How long is your hair? How do you tie the turban?? How do you sleep with it??? I can’t tell you how much I love these questions. It gives me opportunity to talk about my faith and my people.  I love that there’s interest. If they never ask, they’ll never know! These conversations break down social barriers; they also promote understanding and acceptance, such as for example, that it’s ok to dress differently.  And that’s why we have the term in our name Turbans 4 Australia: our turbans don’t make us any different from regular Australians.

Amar Singh Local Hero 2023
Pic: Salty Dingo 2022

How you explain Sikhism to Australians

It’s a religion with the core values of Seva (selfless service), Kirat karni (honest living), Vand chakna (sharing of resources and/or skills), and Naam japna (meditation).

A teaching from the Guru Granth Sahib that inspires you

Sarbat da bhala. Literally, it stands for ‘Well-being of the Human Race’, or ‘Peace and prosperity for all’.

Favourite inspirational quote

You either win or you learn.

What you’re reading right now

I have strange reading habits. I’m not exactly reading a book at the moment, but I’ll regularly do a deep dive into anything I come across that piques my interest – an event from history, or a philosophical concept.

What you’re listening to

I’m strong-willed and positive, so I want my music to fill me with energy. Punjabi music does this to me very effectively – whether traditional or popular or Gurbani kirtan. Anything that uplifts or pumps me up, I love!

What you’re writing

Personal diaries – but in the form of emails to my kids who are 9 and 3. They’ll get them when they are 18. I write about family, my observations on life, my day-time job (I run a trucking company), my work in volunteering. Today for instance has been significant for me – we’ve just launched the Melbourne chapter of T4A. I’ve already been thinking of what I’ll write about it.

What you’re planning right now

Christmas activities. We’re about to start creating hampers for people in the regional areas who continue to struggle. If you want to volunteer, reach out to us at www.t4a.org.au

 

READ ALSO: Young Sikh professionals unpack the concept of seva

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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