Can you describe the work of the U Foundation, for those who haven’t heard of it before?
I want to share a little background history: mental health and seva are paramount for the U Foundation.
About eight years ago when my Mom passed away, and I went through a period of depression, I also suffered bullying and ridicule at the hands of some of my own people. It was the doing of SEVA that brought me out of that depression.
The Universe founded the U Foundation in 2016 to bring communities together and to empower people regardless of their religion, race, social status or background. The motto of the U Foundation is, “Service to others is key to improving our own mental health while building a caring community.” We strongly believe and promote the idea that the act of doing seva improves our own mental health along with the medication that the doctors may give us.
Our seva is about the hunger to have more people willing to help others. It is about changing the mindset. It is about mental health awareness and the goal is to bring communities together to serve each other.
The U Foundation has four projects:
- Langar for Hunger: Meal prepping in shelters across the city; providing hot drinks and food; and care package distribution on a regular basis.
- SoxBox Campaign: Call to the community to donate socks for men, women, youth and children, to be delivered at local shelters.
- Achint Universe Project: Free seminars to promote a better understanding of mental health care.
- Community Outreach: We call in volunteers to help during and after a natural disaster, providing these communities with food and hard working hands to help repair damages.
There are no strangers in the world, there are only friends we have not met yet!
Can you offer advice and inspiration to those who might like to start a similar project, but feel overwhelmed?
It is one thing to have compassion, however, it is important to turn that compassion into action and do something to show your compassion. I call that ‘Compassionate Action.’ I believe that the Universe helps us when we take the first step.
I’ll share with you an example of this:
In 2018, the tornado that hit the Dunrobin area of Ottawa, Canada, also caused damage in other areas of the city. In one area called Craig Henry, there was no power for several days. A friend and I went to a coffee shop and bought a large coffee carrier that holds 12 cups and comes with individual cups, creamers and sugar. We brought the coffee to Craig Henry, hoping to give a few cups to those who may not have had anything warm to drink that day.
As I parked on one of the streets in Craig Henry, a lady came out and watched us carrying my coffee. We asked her if she wanted a cup. She said she did not but wondered if we needed a table to put the coffee on. We gladly accepted the offer and set up the table at the end of her driveway. Soon we were serving coffee to her neighbors.
A little while later, a car stopped and gave us more coffee and some donuts too. We kept giving out the coffee. Then a lady brought out a cake she had in her freezer and offered it to us to give out to others. This type of thing continued, and our table was often full. This turned out to be a great community event of people supporting one another.
It all started with taking a simple compassionate action without knowing what we needed to do. We were just willing to help. The Universe took care of the rest of the details. I have so many examples like this where we took the first step and the Universe delivered the results we hoped for and often delivered far more than what we hoped for.
Do you encounter any challenges in running this program? How do you overcome them?
The most challenging part is getting people to help outside of the box. By this I mean outside of any defined religious or political ideals. There are many organizations doing wonderful seva around the world, but most of them are promoting a religion or have a political agenda.
It’s harder to find people to do seva without any personal gain whatsoever.
Can you share tips with our global audience on how to start a similar project in their community?
- The most important thing is intention. You must want to help others. It must be a burning passion within you, otherwise, it will not last and you may get burned out. You must pace yourself as well and remember that you need to take care of yourself well before you can help anyone else well.
- Choose how you want to serve. It can be as simple as volunteering at the neighborhood library. You can take a leadership role in your place of worship. You can call on the elderly near your home. The important step here is that you take the first step. The Universe will help you, but you must take the first step.
- I use the term Universe because it does not align with any religion and there is no picture formed in your head of that God or central figure. The word Universe does not promote a person but says how big and how all encompassing the Source of All That Is is.
Do you draw inspiration from Sikh Dharma when doing Seva?
It is the inclusive and universal message that the Gurus taught that inspires me – “Sarbat da Bhala” (may good come to all).
The well-being of all of humanity is the central message that the U Foundation delivers though all its initiatives.
After all, we are all from one: “Maanas ki Jaat sabh Ekai Pehechaan Bo” (recognize all of mankind as one). This message of the equality of mankind was promoted by the Gurus. It was their mission to root out the injustices and prejudices of discrimination from common human behavior. They wanted to bring this concept of equality to all humanity.
U Foundation strives to promote sharing and inclusiveness regardless of one’s background. The teachings of Vand Ke Chakhna (sharing with others) and Sarbat da Bhala are implemented.
If you had the chance to talk to every person on the planet, what would you tell them?
I would tell them that they are loved by the Universe or Source of All That Is. They are loved so much. I would tell them that the most important thing they need to do, is to love one another and to serve one another. That is all there is. Love is all there is.
Most people think that our lives are in competition. You compete against me and knock me down. I get up soon and I compete against you and knock you and others down. Those who watch us now live in fear, and go and knock others down because they see our example.
Everyone feels bad. The world around us becomes harder to live in as a result. Which world do you want to live in? You get to choose. Your life reflects the choices you have made. I am asking you to live in the cooperative world. To participate in what I call ‘Compassionate Action.’ Be the spark to change the world from competition to cooperation.
Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted in December 2019. Operations at the U Foundation may have changed since the COVID-19 outbreak began.”
Supinderjit Singh was born in Udhampur, India. Supinder came to Canada in 1998 and completed his education at Algonquin College. He works in the area of energy conservation and provides technical assistance to building automation and control equipment. A long-time member of the Gurdwara Sahib Ottawa Sikh Society, he was honored for his work in the local community by the World Sikh Organization in their meeting held in Ottawa in May 2018. He received a volunteer service award presented by the Government of Ontario in April 2018. He also received a 10-years volunteer award from the Heart and Stroke Foundation and was recognized by the Canadian Blood Services for more than five years of volunteer service.
Do you have an “Aquarian Sevadar” in your community? We want to share their story.
Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have someone in mind who has an inspiring story to tell.