Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Fundraising for HIV patients in Punjab

Here is a message from fellow-blogger Preeti Kaur. Please contribute to this very worthy cause in whatever way you can.

Hello All

I've been in Amritsar for the past 6 weeks and I've met many HIV patients through my work here. Management of HIV is a costly affair the world over, and this is also true for the people living with HIV/AIDS in Punjab. Most patients cannot afford basic HIV medication or are barely getting by. With little hope of treatment, some are left to deal with the death sentence of an HIV diagnosis.

In an effort to help some of the people living with HIV/AIDS in the Amritsar area, the AIDS Awareness Group Amritsar is coordinating a fundraiser. You can buy a beautiful punjabi salvar-kameez handmade by a HIV positive woman from the Amritsar area. Your funds will be used to support the medication of needy HIV positive patients, especially widows and children. AIDS Awareness Group Amritsar is a registered NGO dedicated to advocating for the health and rights of people living with HIV/AIDS in the Amritsar area. Checks can be made directly to the AAG.

Photos of a sample Punjabi salvar-kameez and other details can be found at the following address:

For general donations, please refer to the following:

I am coordinating this fundraiser outside of India, so if you are interested in buying a suit for a loved one, please consider supporting this important charity and contact me at

In a few weeks we should have some kurtis available. (You can wear them with jeans!) Contact me if you are interested in one of these so that I can make sure to bring one back in your size or specifications.

Please share this important announcement with your contacts, especially those concerned about the HIV epidemic in Punjab.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Program Highlights: Sikh Giving & Aapna Punjab

The following are two organizations dedicated to alleviating the burden of substance abuse in Punjab, (in addition to other issues such as poverty and social injustice that are impacting the region). Please take a look and support the cause.

Sikh Giving :

The SikhGiving will be taking up the project of tackling the drug menace in Punjab. The Sikh Giving sewadars noticed the huge problem of drugs on their recent visit to the villages in Amritsar district. The youth could be seen moving about fully drugged and out of their senses. A young boy, well dressed, was riding a motorcycle and hitting it against a brick wall time and again, while another was walking unstable in the middle of the road. A person from the village told that this is a common sight in almost every village. It was a painful experience to be on the land of the Gurus and look at the youth spoiling their own life and that of their families. So, it was decided that a project against drugs should be taken up in Amritsar and its surrounding villages. First week, SikhGiving team will investigate/survey specific areas of Punjab regarding the use of drugs by the youth. By the end of the first week, we will have the plan and asrea to target before we launch the official Drug Awareness booth campaign. For global Sangat, We will submit the report and the current situation of Drug abuse in Punjab.


Aapna Punjab:

Aapna Punjab, a non-governmental organization (NGO), is committed to the socio-economic development of rural backward areas of Punjab via the following initiatives:

English-medium schools
Welfare centers for women
Fight against Drugs & AIDS
Charity Hospitals
Computer courses/training
Human-Rights/Social Justice

Monday, July 10, 2006

Profile: Sikh Girl awarded with Giving Back Award

Benita Singh, an Indian American, has been honoured by Newsweek for helping disadvantaged women. In 2003 Benita Singh visited Guatemala to research her Yale University senior year thesis. The Long Island, New York-born Singh wanted to study how women, especially in rural communities, were recovering from the traumas of war.

Singh had earlier worked with street children in New Delhi and in Mexico City. In those cities she encountered what she describes as a certain moral position by the poor — “I don’t have money; you do have money; so could you give just a little bit of it to me.”

But in the village of San Alfonso in Guatemala, Singh was amazed that people did not ask her for money. “The only thing they asked for, was for us to buy their bags and their jewellery,” Singh, 23, says. “I realised these women may be victims of trauma, but more importantly they are actually entrepreneurs,” adds Singh, youngest daughter of India-born Sikh parents.

Last week Singh and her Yale colleague Ruth Degolia, 24, were honoured by Newsweek magazine with its first Giving Back Awards — in recognition of people who “devote themselves to helping others”.

The two were singled out in the under-25 category for starting a non-profit organisation, Mercado Global. Launched in 2004, Mercado has organised 18 co-operatives in remote rural areas of Guatemala. The products from the co-operatives, shawls, bags and jewellery, are sold at marked up prices to high-end stores in the US and through e-commerce.

Profits generated are rolled back to the communities in Guatemala to build schools and educate young girls. And this year Mercado is sending computers to each community for the women to manage their record keeping.


The Economics of AIDS

Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab, India - Dr. S.K. Goyal, Principal, RIMT-IET introduced Dr. N.M. Sharma, Project Director, Punjab State AIDS Control Society. He told the group that the focus was on galvanizing awareness and securing support from the youth towards fighting the pandemic of HIV/AIDS.

Dr. N.M Sharma said that educating the masses was the only solution to prevent the rapid increase of the HIV/AIDS cases. From his industrial and economic viewpoint, Sharma said this was important because the maximum number of new infections was occurring in the most productive 15 to 24 year old age group. And he added that the industrial sector was equally vulnerable because the HIV virus would debilitate a workforce that is in its economic prime, 15 to 49 year olds.

Business, he went on to say, had a big role to play in the prevention of HIV/AIDS. Expressing his concern about the gravity of the situation, Sharma said that the latest estimate of HIV infected population is 5.206 million and it is the working population that the country is losing.

In addition to HIV/AIDS awareness and education, Sharma said there was also a need to fight HIV/AIDS prejudice. Speaking on the initiatives to combat AIDS, Sharma informed that the Voluntary Counseling and Testing Centre (VCTC) is a one-stop-shop for counseling, testing and treatment for opportunistic.

The CII Punjab State Council has taken on the mandate to catalyze industries’ involvement in India’s social development agenda regarding HIV/AIDS. CII has framed an HIV/AIDS policy for the Indian industry, which has been accepted and is being signed by the CII membership. Earlier, Irrenpreet Singh, Head Department of Business Administration, RIMT Institute of Engineering and Technology, appealed the youth to lead a responsible adulthood and to be a role model. Lauding CII’s efforts and initiatives in the crusade against AIDS, he urged one and all to join hands to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS while emphasizing fighting the stigma and discrimination against AIDS victims.

Report by Gurpreet Singh, SikhNN, Fatehgarh