Jakara Movement | Annual Report 2013

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TABLE OF CONTENTS state of the movement....................5 lalkaar conference..........................6 jakara juniors.................................10 bhujangi youth academy................12 bhunjagan leadership retreat..........14 misls..............................................16

focus on education.........................18 sikholars conference......................19 mata dharat mahat gardens............20 events............................................21 behind the scenes..........................24 finances.........................................26



Activism stems from looking within yourself and the Guru to ask what can you do for your Qaum? Connecting with the right sangat to fulfill that seva is the most inspirational of experiences. The Jakara Movement provides that sangat. — Sarina Kaur


14 years ago, I along with 120 other young Sikhs attended a conference that created a space for discussion, community and activism. Today, that conference is now an organization that offers 3 conferences across the United States, 30+ camps, retreats focused on at–risk youth and leadership, health clinics, and much more. As I reflect on my second year as Director of Programs of the Jakara Movement, I am proud, honored and inspired by what the organization has achieved in the last two years.

forum to celebrate Kaur expressions in art, poetry, and music), Bhujangi Youth Academy (a camp aimed at “at–risk” high school boys), Bhujangan Kaur Leadership Retreat (the first retreat aimed at building leadership skills for high school girls), Sikholars (the first Sikh graduate student conference), Confronting Violence–Ending Silence (a townhall meeting in Sacramento on the issue of domestic violence) and the list goes on. There was an overwhelming need and desire to reproduce programming in all local communities that our volunteers resided. This required capacity. It has always been a long–term vision of the Jakara Movement to develop a local structure for our volunteers.

Jakara Movement volunteers at their core are activists. They see a problem in the system and will not rest until they do something about it. This spirit of activism led to the emergence of Kaur Voices (a

In 2013, with the addition of a new community organizer, Palvinder Kaur, we are witnessing a new future. Striving for local engagement, we were able to implement local misls (chapters) that

vwihgurU jI kw ^wlsw ] vwihgurU jI kI &qih ] Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

allow members of the organization to connect with their local Sangat and create relevant programs. Whether it be a town hall to confront domestic violence in our community or preparing and serving a warm meal to the houseless, projects are tailored to the Sangat’s needs. Repeatedly throughout the past two years I was in complete awe and admiration of our sevadar/nis. These individuals take on the responsibility of the Panth and bring passion and dedication to their commitments. I have had the opportunity to witness collective leadership through our misl councils, project committees and board. The result is an organization that is constantly striving to define the next level of growth and outreach. Gur Fateh,

Ravneet Kaur

Director of Programming ravneet@jakara.org

LALKAAR CONFERENCE Lalkaar began as an idea, a thought, a vision. Our flagship conference, then named the Jakara Conference, started in 2000 and in nearly fifteen years has become an institution amongst collegiate youth. Rebranded as the “Lalkaar Conference” in 2011, it has moved from Fresno to Sacramento, where it has found fertile ground and continues to grow and inspire a new generation of Sikh youth. The goal of the conference has remained the same – it seeks to bring the Sikh Youth together to openly discuss the issues they face as individuals and as a part of a greater Sikh community. That is the most critical step. The conference seeks to empower and inspire youth with the tools to begin changing their local communities.

A JOURNEY OF PERSONAL GROWTH Tarandeep Kaur is a third year at UC Davis.

A friend once told me that college is the time when the most transformation in character takes place. Whether it’s to define your identity and purpose in life, or to redefine the way you see yourself and the world, there couldn’t be a better time in our lives to explore, learn, inspire, and educate ourselves and our fellow Sangat members about our identities as Sikhs. Every summer, Lalkaar offers a safe space for discussion, education, and activism to take place. Not to mention the genuine connections and friendships we build that last us beyond the four– day Conference. This year was my second time attending Lalkaar. It was something I was looking forward to in light of my newfound interest in Sikhi, and a desire to learn more. There are two things I greatly appreciated about

the conference in regard to this. One, being surrounded by fellow Sikhs of my age allowed for more openness and comfort to discuss controversial and taboo subjects. No one was here to judge or be judged. Secondly, the youth coordinators behind the program geared the lesson materials in ways that we could understand and relate to. This was not a lecture–oriented education. But rather, a team collaboration to discuss, interpret, and think critically. I believe every person who attended this Conference was impacted in different ways. However, I think the greatest personal message I took back home was something that was said in one of the discussions: “Never feel like you can’t (as if you’re not allowed to) connect with the Guru.” I think living in the Western world greatly imposes challenges on our generation of Sikhs. Stuck at the crossroad between our desi and American identities, we grow up with Sikhi in a relatively limited way then from the time of our immigrant parents. I have personally struggled with developing

a relationship with Sikhi. But it is events like Lalkaar that foster understanding, community, and love for those of us who had internalized a disconnection with the Guru. As I continue to work on my personal journey reconnecting and learning about Sikhi, I would like to thank and encourage Jakara for everything that they do. Improvement comes through action. And together, we are the movement.


More than a one-day camp, Jakara Juniors is an introduction into a world of Sikhi – teaching, learning, serving, and connecting with all. — Palvinder Kaur

JAKARA JUNIORS Jakara Juniors was launched in 2005 and was our first initiative that brought the topics of the annual collegiate conference into local communities throughout the country. From the five CA Gurudwaras that housed the first camps, thousands of children from throughout the United States, and even as far as Canada have participated in this unique Sikh youth event. There are many Punjabi/Khalsa schools doing exemplary work within our community. The dedication of the teachers and volunteers, week–in and week–out, is nothing less than extraordinary. Jakara Juniors attempts to supplement their work by touching upon topics that are often not discussed in the usual curriculum. The camps are organized by Sikh youth for Sikh youth. Camps create a much needed environment for both volunteers and participants. Camps give volunteers the opportunity to explore Sikhi by becoming experts on particular subjects and teaching younger

children. They also get to play a role as a mentor for younger Sikh children, an important exchange since both are able to relate to the experiences of one another. Finally, the camp provides them real leadership opportunities in how to become activists in the community. They learn to delegate roles and responsibilities, develop marketing strategies, negotiate with Gurdwara committees and volunteers, and create support networks in their local community to create sustainable momentum for a movement. No classroom experience can take the place of this leadership development process to create the next wave of Sikh activists. Camps provide the participants, children ages 5–15, an opportunity to explore Sikhi by being mentored by youth who have gone through the same experiences of living in their host countries with many of the same parental and social pressures. From topics such as internet safety to anger management, the classes are designed by leading teachers to use state–of–the–

art pedagogy techniques. The result is a memorable experience for all the children, and a unique way to create mentors, memories, and a relationship with their Guru. Since the launch of the program, Jakara Juniors has touched the lives of nearly 7,500 children across North America, and over 300 volunteers. It is one of our most important projects in terms of reach and building lasting connections.

BHUJANGI YOUTH ACADEMY Bhujangi Youth Academy is aimed towards young Punjabi Sikh males ages 12–17. The 10–day outdoor camp challenges the young men through discipline and teamwork. The Academy connects participants with Gurbani, Sikh History, Gurmukhi, emotional and physical wellness and life skills. Activities include horseback riding, paintball, hiking, and water activities. Bhujangi counselors include: social workers, counselors, teachers, former marines, and health professionals. Bhujangi Youth Academy has seen phenomenal growth, doubling in size each year since its inception; it now plays host to some 25 boys annually. However most important to the program is that mentors form ongoing relationships with the young men. The events do not end at the conclusion of the camp, but special reunions, events, and opportunities keep relationships fresh and committed. With new areas, such as the Bay Area, planning to host Bhujangi in the future, the outlook for this programming is extremely bright.


Harjot Singh is from Fresno, CA and is currently a sophomore year at Clovis North High School.

Bhujangi was a great experience for me, I have done a lot of camps such as bhangra camp but this camp is the best. I met a lot of new people who were from different places and be came strangers to brothers now. Throughout the 10 days we were there, we learned a lot about Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Martial skills, life skills, Gurumukhi and more.

We did Japji Sahib every morning and did Rehras at night. We also played a lot of sports outside and learned about new games that are really fun. We did a lot of activities paintballing, which was really fun; we went hiking for a total of 12 miles, also went kayaking for the first time, and did a lot more amazing activities. Overall this camp was a great experience for me first time and I really learned and enjoyed this Bhujangi youth academy camp a lot and am looking forward it for next year.

BHUJANGAN KAUR LEADERSHIP RETREAT and excited. Nervous about the unknown and excited about all the activities we had planned and the content we were going to present. While reading through the content I thought to myself, “Wow, if only I had known these things as a teenager, life would have been much easier.” I was looking forward to the girls doing these lessons and really learning more about themselves so they can make better and sound decisions.

has low self–esteem.” I always wondered, what does that mean, or how can I “love myself.” I believe this camp really answered these questions, by not just repeating the phrase but really delving into what these terms are, why they are important and how to apply them. I know all the girls can answer these questions too which makes me very happy. I am happy that the girls are learning all of this now and not 10 years from now.

Jaskiranjot (Joti) Kaur is a former Marine and is currently a student at UC Berkeley.

The workshops we did included, redefining what leadership is and identifying our own leadership styles, identifying values and what it means to have integrity with our values, defining a Sikh’s definition of beauty and lastly and most importantly self–love and being true to yourself.

This was my second year volunteering at the Bhujangan Kaur Leadership Camp. Before the retreat started I was both nervous

Many times phrases are thrown out such as “love yourself,” “self–respect,” “you’re a good leader,” “what are your values” and “she

The theme shabad really drove all these concepts home. “Man tun jot sarup hai apna mul pachhan.” Getting to know yourself, your values, your worth, and recognizing the jot (infinite light of your own being) that is within you and within everyone else will always be the most beautiful thing that I will witness. This Bhujangan Camp was a beautiful experience for me.

The Bhujangan Kaur Leadership Retreat was inaugurated in the summer of 2012 in Fresno, CA. Designed to encourage leadership building and development for the next generation of Mai Bhagos, fifteen young Kaur high school students spent a weekend in the outdoors hiking, horseback riding, and learning about Sikh sheroes of the past. Workshops emphasized building internal strength (sehaj), self–esteem and self–worth, and building sisterhood. Programs such as Bhujangan provide open, inclusive and inspirational forums for participants and volunteers alike. The Kaur Retreat lit a fire and over the past year alone, we have added three more of these camps in Southern California, the Bay Area, and Fresno in 2013 alone.


MISLS [CHAPTERS] Since the eighteenth century, the misl has been an instrumental Sikh institution. It is a term associated in Sikh history with the twelve Sikh bands and groupings that came to control various territories throughout Punjab. However, the etymology provides even richer descriptions: according to Steingass’ Persian–English Dictionary, the word means “similitude, alike or equal,” as in a confederation of equals; Wilson described it as “a voluntary association of the Sikhs.” The Misl was a voluntary grouping of Sikhs that came together for a common cause. The Misls were involved with the social and political concerns of the time, including: 1. Administration of the local region 2. Recruitment from the local community 3. Protection of local communities (whether it be the Gurdwara, but also the livelihood of all inhabitants) 4. Attending to the social needs of the people (justice, conflict resolution, poverty, hunger, etc.).

The Misls from different regions would gather together as an assembly twice a year at Darbar Sahib in Amritsar for the occasions of Vaisakhi and Bandi Chodh Divas (Divali). The purpose of the misl is to work outside the Gurdwara, but with it as well. It is to bring Sikhs together in a mobile way to fulfill the needs of that local community, especially those that could most benefit. Rattan Singh Bhangu, the most important 19th century historian, writing about Sikh history wrote in verse about the purpose of the Misls: dXI cIj chY gRIb kau ikauN Aiq dXo AKwie [ Xih dXwvwn Gr gurU ko Ar gRIb invwj AKvwie [ The needy alone deserve to be endowed with rare gifts, What is the use of empowering those who are already powerful? The House of the Guru is known for its compassion and generosity, And known as the savior and protector of the poor.

It is in this spirit that Jakara seeks to bring alive an ingenious structure from our history in a way that will empower our youth and our communities. Misls are formed with local councils that oversee projects within their particular localities. They recruit high school, college students, and other community members together to put on a variety of projects, including Jakara Juniors camps, Sikhi Seva Cinema, art programs, garden workshops, and anything else that their local community needs.


Yuba City Sacramento

New York Phoenix

Central Valley Bay Area

New Jersey

Fresno Minnesota Bakersfield LA

Orange County San Diego




Sikhiya is an application counseling service. Originally aimed at graduate and professional school applicants, the program has expanded to include even those applying to collegiate programs. The initiatives provides support, mentoring, and application counseling in order to continue Sikh achievement in higher education. Utilizing a network of Sikhs who are successfully pursuing masters degrees, JDs, MBAs, MDs, and doctoral degrees in most every field, the goal of the program is to increase the overall quality of our applicants’ profiles to promote Sikh representation in higher education. In the inaugural year of launch, students received admissions into Yale Law School, UCSB’s history department, Stanford Medical School, and many others.

The Sikh Honor and Service Society is a national program aimed at promoting and honoring service, leadership, and academic excellence amongst high school students. It is open to all students, irrespective of national origin, religion, belief, disability, or sexual orientation. Commenced in 2013, over 7 high schools are participating in this extraordinary program. High school students participating in the program have access to special scholarships, SAT classes, volunteer opportunities for ‘servicelearning’. SHSS seek to provide students with resources and skills of leadership and service, mentorship opportunities, assistance with college applications, and recognition at the end of the school year for either excellence or merit tracks.

Initiated in 2010, the Sikholars Conference was meant to provide a forum for young researchers to present their work on Sikh– related topics to the wider public. The success of the conference can be seen in the number of countries presenters have traveled from, and the growing attendance by the local community. With topics ranging from Khalistani nationalism to Unix Coding for Gurmukhi, from the history of Nihangs in the court of Ranjit Singh to the North American bhangra circuit, from Sikh sculpture and architecture to representations of masculinity in Punjabi films, we encourage the widest possible range of those pursuing graduate studies on Sikh and Punjab Studies. Additions to the conference have been the inauguration of a the Ajeet Singh Matharu Prize for Excellence, which was named in honor of our beloved partner and a unique sevadar, and is awarded to the most outstanding research. New in 2013 included the first annual Amitesh Kaur Alag Memorial Lecture and an entrepreneurial panel.


MATA DHARAT MAHAT GARDEN After months of hard, back–breaking work Misl LA in 2013 developed a first ever community garden. Within Los Angeles’ “concrete jungle,” this unique space is housed at Khalsa Care Foundation (KCF) and is an effort to teach young children about sustainable and ecological living. The project was also an example of how a few helping hands can come together in their free time to make a significant positive change in the community. Since the aim of the garden is to teach children, a camp was held to teach them about gardening. Over sixty youth between the ages of four and sixteen showed up eager to participate. The camp introduction consisted of a presentation by the sevadaars on the concepts of urban transformation, localized agricultural techniques such as tilling, crop selection, environmentally efficient irrigation, the role of the community in nature, and a series of Sakhis and Gurbani selections on one’s connection and commitment to the environment.

Counselors taught lessons ranging from the fundamentals of installing sustainable drip irrigation systems for the hot So–Cal climate, to ground preparation in an urban environment, to to even seed selection, planting procedures, and maintenance for various crops such as corn, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, and carrots. The last station was an interactive painting project that transformed a previously lackluster cinder block wall running the length of the garden into a colorful mural. The older participants took the initiative in painting various nature scenes, and the younger children enjoying leaving their mark by using their hand prints for leaves and flower petals. The Mata Dharat Mahat garden project has been an amazing success in the Southern California community, and is already serving as a model for other localized seva efforts, including a second community garden in Kerman, CA.



Held at UCLA in 2012 and at UC Berkeley in March 2013, members of the sangat came to support Kaur Voices. Kaur Voices is a forum for Kaurs of all ages to share stories and experiences, to discuss the issues that attendees are passionate about, and to give Kaurs a space to speak their minds and open their hearts as Sikh women. By combining both spoken and visual arts to create an environment for this expression and empowerment, it was an evening to remember for all. Kaur Voices is a night of sisterhood and community, of expression and emotion, of sharing and giving.


The Jakara Family Health Day, an annual affair in Fresno is held each year in partnership with Punjabi Cultural Association of Central Valley. Working with their Punjabi mela that attracts some thousands of people each year to Woodward Park, our nursing student volunteers take a leadership role in helping to promote healthy living and health education in the community. Local doctors, volunteers, and other well–wishers come and lend their help and support in this event. With a focus on health justice, such initiatives will continue to expand in the future.


Misl Fresno organized a day of fun and sports, aimed at kids, ages 6–15. Local coaches and sports enthusiasts help coordinate instruction and coaching of fundamentals in basketball, football, softball, volleyball, soccer, and even desi games. A professional nutritionist came and shared her insights about healthy eating and healthy living. Participants not only learned the fundamentals of each sport, but more critically they modeled sportsmanship, confidence, and team–work. A number of other Misls are enthusiastically planning to implement the same model in 2014.



In conjunction with our partners at the 5 Rivers Foundation, 2013 saw the launch of SAT classes in Fresno and Yuba City. Over 40 students participated in this weekly instruction and mentoring program, in hopes of increasing educational opportunities in our community. Because we provide more hours of instruction than commercial programs free of charge to participants, many students have taken advantage of this unique opportunity. The results and score jumps were astronomical! We are planning to implement the same model throughout the Misls in the future.


Partnering with the Sacramento Tree Foundation at the Cosumnes River Preserve in Elk Grove volunteers came together for planting hedges, grasses and other types of plants to create habitat for the Swainson’s Hawkand other wildlife—a lot of such habitat was lost in local development. This part of the preserve is not normally open to the public, and so it was an honor for us to participate in supporting this area that not many others will see. By the end of that day, 30 volunteers planted over 200 seedlings in three hours.


Soojh is an experience in service, advocacy, learning and spiritual reflection for collegiate students along the San Diego/ Mexico border. Billed as an “alternative winter break” the event brings Sikh students together with our partner – Border Angels, to focus on human rights and immigration reform. Meeting border patrol officers, activists working for reform, and the people affected, the experience is spiritual, inspirational, and critical in the development of young Sikh activists on some key issues here in the US.



Misl Sacramento helped arrange this first– ever town–hall discussion on domestic and sexual violence in our community at West Sacramento Gurdwara Sahib. Local events helped spark this critical conversation, but this unfortunate cancer in our community, due to male privilege, patriarchy, and misogyny, is hardly limited to one city alone. Community members left inspired by the challenge and continuing conversations and partnerships with local women’s shelters have been formed.


A popular annual project held every winter in honor of the Shaheedi of the two chotay sahibzadas, the two young sons of Guru Gobind Singh, this event brings together education through cinema and seva for the homeless. Aimed at children, ages 8–14, the kids learn about the sacrifice of Zorawar and Fateh Singh, have a discussion after watching the Vismaad–produced animated film, and then make sandwiches and “care” bags for those less fortunate in their communities. The event culminates the following day with the distribution of these “care” packages.


Although simple and easy, one of the most popular activities our Misls do is the act of cleaning the Gurdwara. With this seva, children begin forming a deeper relationship with their Gurdwara and the importance of its maintenance and upkeep as THEIR responsibility. Too often children that go to the Gurdwara struggle to find their place within it. Cleaning it is one way to take responsibility. The Gurdwara will always be the center of the Sikh world and this project helps maintain the next generation of Sikhs’ attachment to it.

BEHIND THE SCENES The Jakara Movement, in its attempt to be inclusive, grassroots, and democratic has a unique board structure. With four different levels of involvement, those that choose to take leadership responsibilities increase their roles as they develop within the organization.

Currently, we have four Jhandar Bardar/nis (“Flag–Bearers”) that oversee the day–to– day operations of the organization. Each have been with the organization for over a decade. These include: Amandeep Kaur, Gurjit Singh, Harroop Kaur and Naindeep Singh.

Central to the mission of the Jakara Movement are our two current staff members.

In, addition there are 16 hisaydar/nis (“Partners”) that make the major decisions in terms of direction and vision of the organization. Each have been with the organization for over 5 years as a critical volunteer, and has significant leadership experience in various programs and projects. They are: Aneeta Singh, Anitika Kaur, Birpal Kaur, Harpreet Kaur, Ikagar Singh, Iqbal Singh, Jasdeep Singh, Jaskiranjot Kaur, Jasmine Kaur, Manbeer Singh, Navneet Kaur, Ramandeep Kaur, Ramnit Kaur, Sarina Kaur, Simranjit Singh, and Taranamol Kaur.

Ravneet “Robby” Kaur is the Director of Programs and had been a volunteer with the organization for a over a decade before joining the staff. She oversees the strategic vision and volunteer development. Palvinder Kaur is the Community Organizer in Northern California. She was a volunteer for over 5 years before joining staff and is seeing expansion and development of the local misls in Northern California.


Service through:

• Organize camps for young Sikhs • Homeless feedings • Be a mentor and have a mentor • and much more!


Develop your inner-self • Leadership development • Service-learning • Be part of a team • and much more!


Reflect on the Guru:

• Sikhi-based camps • Sikhi-based conferences • Sikhi-based retreats • and much more!


Join or start a misl:

• Explore Sikhi • Make a difference in your city • Form community partnerships • and much more!










* Projected 2013 Figures, published in early December

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