How did the Caring Coalition get started?
It started as a small effort I was doing on my own. One of my friends in New Mexico was participating in a backpack food program at a local school, and I was inspired by her involvement in that program. After I saw her participating in that Seva program, I went to talk to the school in my neighborhood in Arizona and asked if they could use weekend food for the kids. They said yes, definitely. So each week I started putting together five lunches, loading them into my car, and delivering them to the school. A friend of mine saw what I was doing, and helped me create a nonprofit structure for the program. People started to hear about the program, and I received a lot of support for the program in my neighborhood. It kept growing from there.
Can you describe the work of the Caring Coalition, for those who haven’t heard of it before?
Arizona ranks 11 out of 20 states with the worst food hardship rates. One in five children in Arizona struggles with hunger. In response to COVID-19, we are now feeding about 40 whole families (20 families receive food each week on an alternating schedule) of students from Emerson Elementary School. We have delivered over 1,100 food boxes to date.
Caring Coalition takes care to ensure the food we are serving is nourishing and nutritious. We focus on ensuring the food we are delivering contains protein, minerals and fresh produce whenever possible. We have begun incorporating organic foods. We avoid delivering food that contains chemical additives. I will not serve things that I wouldn’t eat myself.
The values of equality, justice, nurturing and love are very important to me and it is my goal that they permeate this program. I feel blessed that volunteers keep coming forward who share the values of the program, and who convey the kind of spirit and concern, that I believe in, for the families we serve.
Can you offer advice and inspiration to those who might like to start a similar project, but feel overwhelmed?
I feel overwhelmed when I listen to the news. I want to feed the whole planet, and make sure everyone has a home. But this program serves me as much as those I’m serving. Doing the little bit that I’m doing, I remind myself every day that I can’t solve world hunger, or the pandemic. But I can feed these 40 families. As long as I have support from volunteers I can keep doing it.
Start small. Think big. Ask for Guru Ji’s help. I’ve almost hit bottom on this program so many times over the years, and something always comes through to keep it going. I continually remind myself of the intention that this isn’t about me, it’s about doing the work of the primal being, being the hands and eyes of the Divine. It’s about serving the mission to create equality and justice in our society. That intention on the part of me and my volunteers has made this program successful. There’s mistakes I’ve made over the years, but I overcome them, and it just keeps plugging along.
Can you share five quick tips with our global audience on how they might start their own projects?
- Set the intention.
- Start small.
- Find like-minded people to serve with.
- Don’t compromise your values to receive benefits. Hold to your values.
- Be clear about your mission and have a clear vision of what you want to do.
Do you encounter any challenges when running the Caring Coalition? How do you overcome them?
There’s been so many challenges. Maintaining funding is always a challenge. After the pandemic everyone wanted to give. But still every month I always have to ask myself how long we can keep going. Maintaining funding is an ongoing challenge. When I’ve really needed help, and the bank account for the program got too low, I’ve called those I’m close to and asked for donations – they were happy to give. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Managing my own ego and opinions that go with it in running the program is another challenge, and maintaining relationships with my volunteers. I learned it’s important for me to be definitive about my vision and to communicate this clearly to those I’m working with, while also taking their feedback on board and incorporating that. Maintaining professional boundaries is important too – I am learning about this more over time.
Don’t get too caught up in the details. I try to always remember that this is an exchange of energy that is for my soul evolution as much as it is for those I’m serving. If I stay connected to the Infinite part of myself and call on that, then things always seem to work out.
I’m learning to stop worrying about the future of the program. I have faith that if I can do it, I’ll keep doing it. If it doesn’t work out the way that I think it should, it will work out some other way or I’ll find some other way to serve. I’m going with the flow.
Being connected to the wider community around us is important. Once we reach out, there’s all kinds of support available. It is important to have connections with those living in poverty, to have relationships with them.
Can you share a high moment or inspiring story that you experienced with the Caring Coalition?
The families we serve demonstrate such a generosity of spirit. They are always cautious in receiving the food, and will often ask if someone else that we know of needs it more than they do before they accept it. Whenever they have a surplus of food, they will share it with others in need that they know. It is really a special exchange – when we deliver the food, we always receive affection, love, smiles, and well wishes for our family in return. The exchange conveys love and care. These relationships nurture me on the soul level.
Do you draw inspiration from Sikh Dharma when doing Seva?
Vand Chakna – sharing with others – is one of the core pillars of Sikhism and is so definitely part of the Sikh Dharma way of life. I also draw inspiration from my mother. She was very generous and involved in the community and did a lot of community service. She reached across cultures when serving and had no enmity when serving others. She embodied this in her being.
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Sat Kaur Khalsa – Caring Coalition Director
Sat Kaur Khalsa founded the Caring Coalition in 2014 and continues to serve as the Program Director. She works in the healthcare industry in Phoenix, Arizona. .
Visit the Caring Coalition’s Website: https://www.caringcoalitionaz.org
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