Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
I still remember hearing about Dasvandh Network for the first time. My cousin was telling my dad about an organization he was involved in that would be an online platform for Sikhs to fundraise and to give back to causes that they valued. It sounded like a great idea, but as a child, I thought, how does dasvandh apply to me? I don’t have any money to give.
As a college student, I still struggle to financially involve myself in the concept of dasvandh, but my internship with DVN has given me an opportunity to expand on that definition beyond my fiscal capabilities. Now, I understand that dasvandh is a simple expansion on Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s ideas of vand ke chako and kirat karo. Giving back to my community can happen through other skill sets, whether it is doing seva projects in the larger community, volunteering and working with other organizations, or even doing civil rights and activism work for Sikhs and other oppressed communities. One of the most interesting things I learned is that, in terms of sustaining a donor pool and ensuring a long-term relationship with donors, it is more effective to have a large number of people who donate small amounts, than a small number of people who only give once. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about–sustaining and strengthening a community through its own effective measures.
Working with DVN has been an incredible opportunity to become more involved in my community, and understand it in the broader sense of the word. The Sikh community has always been one that is very tight-knit, but with DVN, it expands. We are able to support projects happening halfway across the country – and halfway across the world! DVN builds upon the values of the Gurus by using modern technology, continually expanding upon what it means to be a Sikh. With the Dasvandh Box Initiative, even young Sikhs are able to get involved and understand that they, too, hold a strong part in the formation of our panth. DVN is a strong organization that is truly creating a more generous and invested panth.
What I truly love about DVN though, is the way that it hits so close to home and allows you to really select how you want the community to grow. Out of the dozens of projects, there really is something for everyone, and it gives you the opportunity to target issues that have been personal for you. I have had the great fortune of both participating in a food drive with the Khalsa Care Foundation in Pacoima, CA, as well as participating in the SikhLEAD internship program this summer. With both of these programs, I was very conscious of the fact that the experiences I was having were very directly funded by my sangat, whether I knew them or not.
Although it made me excited and proud to know that we are supporting such initiatives, it also created a sense of responsibility for me internally. This summer, I did the best I could do because I wanted to have a good internship experience, but also because I knew that Sikhs around the country had spent their dasvandh ensuring that I could even have that experience. It is a very lucky feeling to know that others have invested in you, and these causes are making such a large difference, too.
When I joined Khalsa Care Foundation for their Friday food bank at the Khalsa Food Pantry, I saw the dozens of families that were overjoyed to receive fresh produce from smiling faces. In that moment, I saw cross-cultural collaboration, and a bright future for our community and many communities of color. The ways that we are able to help each other go beyond our community, and they also carry out the purest forms of our Guru’s philosophies.
For me, dasvandh is the simple act of giving, and then giving, and then giving more. It’s a continuous cycle because the more we do it, the more we want to participate. After all, the greatest giver is Waheguru and by giving our own temporary worldly belongings, we can only hope for the darshan to become closer to Waheguru and embody those same qualities.
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
Harleen Kaur is a senior at the University of Michigan, where she is studying English with a minor in Community Action and Social Change. Harleen is actively involved in the Sikh community as an organizer of Camp Sikh Virsa in Wisconsin, a volunteer advocate for the Sikh Coalition, and SSA President at the University of Michigan.