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Ramneet Kaur is a former Sikh Coalition Operations/Marketing Intern in the National Office
As a freshman at Baruch College and a former intern for Sikh Coalition, I felt an immediate desire to participate in the 2nd annual Sikh Scouts event. Sikh Scouts is essentially a small-scale Sikh youth mentoring event that aims to forge and develop a long-lasting relationship with children in need of good Sikh role models to help them guide them on the path towards Sikhi. And so, I, along with eight others, woke up at 7:30am on a Sunday and trekked out to Richmond Hill, Queens for a fun-filled day at the New York Hall of Science. We were each paired with a same-gender child ranging from the age of 5 to 12, based on some mutual interests and off we went to the NY Hall of Science. We went from activity to activity, laughing, learning, playing games, making shadows and blowing bubbles. I forgot how much energy kids these days have! I think it’s safe to say that most of the mentors got “schooled” by the 10-year-olds, instead of the other way around.
After they warmed up to us and broke through their initial shyness, the kids couldn’t stop talking about their favorite movies, TV shows, and music – the Jonas Brothers and what not. And in between all of that, we got down to the serious issues: a majority of the kids did not enjoy school and felt uncomfortable because of harassment or teasing by their peers. We told them that we could relate to them, that we had been through it as well and that you have to try and go to school with your held up high and not show any fear–that everyone at school is going to be different from each other in some way.
After our outing, the mentors and mentees exchanged numbers and email addresses. All of the mentors made it clear to the kids that they shouldn’t hesitate to contact us. We wanted them to know that all of us have been through some sort of teasing or harassment during our childhoods too and that it was okay for them to call us if they needed someone to talk to. We gave them goody bags and they wrote us the sweetest letters and we hugged goodbye.
Before attending this event, all of the mentors knew that Sikh kids, especially in Queens, NY, face tremendous amounts of bullying because of their faith. But it was only after the event that all of us understood the enormity of the situation. I especially was angered that these cute little kids did not like to go to school because of the bullying – a place where they should be happy and feel safe.
At the end of the day, Sikh Scouts was a great success and we would do it again in a heartbeat. This event can be implemented with any Sikh Student Association around the world. It is important to lend a helping hand to our Sikh youth so that they do not get lost amidst all the pressure from society.
For more information about Sikh Scouts, and how to start a similar event at your school or community, contact the event creator: Jagdeep Singh at Jagdeep.Bhamra@baruchmail.cuny.edu
Ramneet K Sachdev