When the cyclone hit and the power went out, members of the Hastings Punjabi Sikh community jumped into action knowing there were going to be a lot of people without food.
Now, more than a week after Cyclone Gabrielle, Hawke’s Bay’s Punjabi Sikh community has cooked and delivered more than 7000 meals so far to those in need.
After a friend from Esk Valley showed Punjabi Sikh volunteer Sukhdeep Singh photos of the devastation Cyclone Gabrielle had caused on the morning of February 14, he knew he needed to find a way to help - and the rest of the Sikh community felt the same.
Once Hastings lost power, it was clear to Sukhdeep that no power meant people would not have any way to cook meals as not everyone had gas cookers, BBQs or gas burners.
“My first thought was that people need food so why not cook in large quantities,” Sukhdeep
Sukhdeep made his way to the Eastbourne St Sikh temple in Hastings early that morning to start cooking meals on gas burners with help from the Sikh temple priests and a number of young volunteers. The group cooked and delivered more than 600 meals that day.
“Our main focus was delivering to the evacuation centres for the first three to fours days then we started the rest of Hawkes bay,” he said.
For the next three days, Sukhdeep worked on identifying the locations to distribute free, cooked, warm meals, and to source the supplies.
On the first day, food containers were sourced from the owners of the Indian takeaway Star of India, and over the next two days, Sukdeep spent a lot of time coordinating with Civil Defence centres to help with supplies like rice, lentils and food containers.
From Wednesday, more volunteers started showing up to help. Because of such high demand, the Hastings temple combined with Havelock Ravidass temple and they were getting out 1000 meals combined every day.
The Hastings Sikh society has two temples - the Hastings city Sikh temple and Guru Ravidass temple in Havelock North.
“Both temples are doing a service to our Hawke’s Bay community during these challenging times. We are blessed and grateful to get an opportunity to serve our communities,” Sukhdeep said.
They have been cooking pure vegetarian food, mainly curry and rice, in the temples and now also distributing pizzas, water and other drinks.
“We try our best to deliver food where it is the need,” Sukhdeep said.
The group has been delivering hot vegetarian curry and rice to Hastings and Napier communities including Hastings Community Centre, Flaxmere Te Aranga marae, Cook Islands Centre, Malamalama Church, Flaxmere community hall, Ascende Global Church, King’s House church, Freshco Limited RSE workers, Crasbourn RSE workers, Napier EIT international students, Roopu A iwi trust, Maranui community, Pakowahi Rd homes, Taradale community, Esk Valley community, Eskdale community and many more.
A moment Sukhdeep will never forget is when he was at the Hastings sports centre and a woman who had been evacuated there came up to him with tears in her eyes and said thank you.
“She cried and I think I will never ever forget those tears and faces in my life.”
When asked why the Hawke’s Bay Punjabi Sikh community has jumped in to help, Sukhdeep explained the Sikh community is known for Sewa around the world.
Sewa is a distinct and unique feature of Sikhism, meaning selfless and voluntary service for the benefit of humanity without any personal gain.
The highest service according to the Sikh religion is the service of mankind, the community leader said.
Now the Punjabi Sikh community is working with officials to also get some of their meals out to the more isolated rural communities that need help and will continue to help with hot meals for as long as they are needed.
- Please donate - how you can help the victims of Cyclone Gabrielle; NZ Herald teams up with Red Cross
- If you have been unable to contact a friend or family member - or if you have fled the storm and want others to know you are safe - you can post a message here on the NZ Herald’s community noticeboard.