Friday, 5 April 2013


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Temples to collect food for the poor
The city's Sikh community will be collecting thousands of pounds worth of food to help the poor and celebrate Vaisakhi.
The festival of Vaisakhi, when farmers traditionally give thanks for their harvests, takes place on Saturday, April 13.
Vaisakhi is one of the most important dates in the Sikh calendar.
The occasion, which dates back more than 300 years, not only celebrates the Sikh New Year and harvest but also commemorates the establishment of the sacred Khalsa ceremony in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh, when Sikhism was transformed.
At the East Park Road temple, in Leicester, which is attended by up to 25,000 visitors each week, there will be a food drive for the British Red Cross, Fareshare and Leicester's Dawn Centre homeless shelter.
Temple secretary Surinderpal Singh Rai said: "This is a new thing this year, and we're doing it because it's needed in this economic climate.
"Our temple has a kitchen that serves free food to a few hundred needy people each week, so we see the increasing importance of this sort of help.
"Our food drive will just be for packaged, non-perishable things such as rice, beans and cereal, as well as toiletries such as toothpaste and toothbrushes.
"I know our community here will be very generous. I'm sure we'll get items worth a total of several thousand pounds."
The temple, which is known as the Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurdwara, will be holding the food drive in partnership with Oadby Gurdwara.
As well as worshipping, Vaisakhi is a time of the year when selfless service is encouraged.
Simone Connolly, Fareshare's project manager for Leicestershire, said: "This will make a big difference as the food will be distributed to our community groups who help almost 2,000 of the most deprived people in the county.
"We are also very keen to engage with the different communities in Leicestershire, so we're happy to be working with the Sikh temples."
During the food drive, a marquee will be set up as a collection point, outside the East Park Road temple. Food will be collected between 9am and 4pm.
For religious reasons, donations should not include any meat, eggs or alcohol.
The food drive comes the weekend before Leicester's Vaisakhi parade, which will see thousands of Sikhs from across the region joining a colourful parade from Holy Bones, in the city centre, to the East Park Road temple.
It will take place on Sunday, April 21.
Mr Singh Rai said: "I'd expect between 15,000 and 20,000 people will attend, depending on the weather.
"We've had a few wet and cold years recently but on a good day the event gets up to 35,000 people."

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