Project Ghar Baahar aims to provide resources and sangat for those who are being held in immigration facilities due to their status in the United States. During what is an incredibly isolating and degrading process, our sevadaars hope to provide gutkey, dastaars, and other kakaars to the detainees while also organizing keertans at the detention facilities. We also collect clothing to be held at local gurdwaarey for the detainees to receive upon their release. Through this seva, we are inspired by the gurbaani of Guru Arjan Sahib Ji: Ghar Baahar Tera Bharavaasa Too Jan Kai Hai Sang. "At home and beyond, You, O Divine, are with your servants."
Statistics show that one of the fastest-growing populations of undocumented people in the United States is of Indians [1, 2]. Of this group, Punjabi men make up a significant amount of those leaving from India. Those aware of the various crises affecting East Punjab know that Punjabi men are leaving their homes by the thousands due to economic disenfranchisement and threats of opposing political parties. As of now, there is little to no formal research on this 'Punjab to ICE' pipeline. One of the goals of this project is to shed more light on systemic reasons that create the conditions due to which these Punjabi-Sikh men are left with no other option than to risk their lives as begin dangerous journeys along human trafficking routes from Punjab to United States. If or when the migrants reach the Mexico-California border, their journey typically includes several other stops through the Middle East, Central America, and South America.  Project Ghar Baahar implores the diasporic Sikh community to consider how this little-known reality of 'the Sikh experience' is part and parcel of the overall narrative on Sikh American settlement patterns and history.
This project's sevadars visited a detention center in November 2017 in Calexico, California and learned that than one-half of the detainees there were Punjabi men from India. That particular detention center houses over 700 individuals. As of January 2018, 355 detainees there are Punjabi men. These are statistics from only one detention center; there are hundreds of detention centers across the country . Our purpose is to serve by providing basic material items [see below] for detainees. Due to the strict environment at detention centers, Sikh detainees are not permitted to wear their karaas and seldom have means of acquiring dastaar (turban) cloth and reading materials.
From our initial group visit to a detention center in Southern California, we learned that detainees spend 20 hours of the day indoors in large, hostel-style dormitories that they are locked in. The detainees have the option of doing housekeeping and cooking work at the detention facility, for which they are compensated $1 per day. Those wishing to get in touch with their loved ones living outside of the U.S. spend $0.33 per minute of their $1 daily wage to call home. Some detainees are also being held in isolation. Activists and journalists have reported on the conditions under which detainees are kept, finding mass complaints of neglect of mental and physical health of detainees. There are also many reports of [attempted] suicide committed by detainees  , as well as cases of miscarriage among female detainees .
This project takes inspiration from the lives of the Sikh Gurus, as many of them were detained as political prisoners (such as Guru Nanak Dev Ji under Babur, Guru Arjan Dev Ji under Jahangir, and Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib Ji under Aurangzeb). How does one continue to feel a spirit of Charhdi Kalaa and willful acceptance of detention as the Divine's hukam?
Project Ghar Baahar sevadars organize quarterly visits to detention centers all over California. A group of us who went to a Southern California detention center in November 2017 learned that the Sikh detainees there do not have many of the items they need for daily use, items such as dastaar (turban) cloth, gutkaas (prayer books), history and literature books, basic items of clothing toiletries they need if/when they are released from detention. The goal of this project is to provide these types of resources for those in detention and for those who are released. Due to legal constraints, funds from this project cannot be used for social work, and legal aid and representation for the detainees.
Our goal is to expand our volunteer network to mobilize and support more groups of sevadars to organize kirtan darbars, collect donations, and coordinate drop-off visits at detention centers elsewhere in the United States. We encourage people interested in carrying out this seva elsewhere in the United States to get in touch with detention centers in their locales. Funds from Project Ghar Baahar will be used to provide material and Sikhi support for detainees everywhere, not just in California.
Our initial group visit was in November 2017. Our next visits in the Southern California area will be in Spring and Summer 2018. We also have individual sevadars who visit detention centers in their locales on a weekly basis. Our goal is to have quarterly visits at various detention centers in California.
- Donor List
2021 so far
There haven't been many requests from facilities for supplies so far this year. We just received two requests; one from Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Deigo for 100 Dastars and one from Eloy Detention Center in Eloy, AZ for 50 Sukhmani Sahib and 50 Nitnem Gutkey along with 50 prayer beads.
The chaplains do mention seeing an uptick in the number of detainees coming in and expect to need additional supplies over the Summer.
Due to the restrictions put in place by Covid-19 we are no longer able to hold Diwans at the California facilities or do weekly visitations at the local ICE facility here in Bakersfield, CA. During this time we have received supply requests from several facilities across the country and have been fulfilling them as they come in. Since the start of this project some of the facilities/organizations that we have sent supplies to are:
Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center
Adelanto ICE Processing Center
Imperial Regional Detention Facility
Coastal Bend Detention Center
Montgomery Processing Center
LaSalle ICE Processing Center
Florence Detention Center
Port Isabel Detention Center
Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants
Otay Mesa Detention Center
Eloy Detention Center
Aurora Detention Center
Farmville Detention Center
Allen Parish Correctional Complex
Winn Correctional Facility
Sat Nam Project
Jackson Parish Correctional Center
Westville Correctional Center
Moshannon Valley Correctional Facility
Prairieland Detention Center
We hope to resume in person Diwans and visitations once it becomes safe to do so and facilities start allowing it.
Summer 2019 Seva Update
In the past 6 weeks, we've sent:
- 100 Nitnem Gutkey and 200 Kare to a non profit that works with youth facilities in Chicago area
- 500 Dastars and 400 Mala to Calexico, CA
- 100 Dastars, 40 Nitnem Gutkey, and 100 Mala to San Diego, CA
- 20 Dastars, 20 Nitnem Gutkey, and 25 Mala to Los Fresnos, TX
- 50 Dastars, 50 Mala, and 5 hardcover Sukhmani Sahib Gutkey to Conroe, TX
- 15 Mala and Chaar Sahibzade DVDs (part 1 and 2) to Jena, LA
- 500 Kare to Adelanto, CA
- 100 Mala to Florence, AZ
We also held a Diwan in Bakersfield on June 8th and are working on holding Diwans at Adelanto, San Diego, and Calexico facilities later this year.
2019 Seva Update
Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
As of January 2019, Project Ghar Baahar sevadars have visited detention facilities in Adelanto, Bakersfield, and Calexico, California. Our most recent trip was in October 2018 to Calexico. The detention facility there has one of the largest groups of Punjabi Sikhs in detention that we know of. During this visit, a group of ten volunteers from Project Ghar Baahar met with more than 300 detained individuals (Sikh and non-Sikh alike) and held a total of three kirtan divans.
As per requests of the detained individuals, we took with us the following donations to Calexico in October:
250 Nitnem Gutkay
700 dastaars (we thank the Buena Park Gurdwara sangat for this donation!)
480 pairs of socks
750+ sweatshirts (our thanks to the sevadars who ordered the socks, sweatshirts, and sweatpants for this trip, and thanks also to the person who personally delivered these items to Calexico!)
270 malas (prayer rosaries; sent later via mail)
We always specify to detention facility admin that the supplies we donate are for everyone to use. So, while some items (such as gutkay and dastaars) are esoteric and are of use to Sikh detained individuals, clothing items are for anyone who needs them.
In August, 2018, ten of us also went to a detention facility in Adelanto, California. We held a kirtan darbar and discussion with detained individuals there, from whom, some even led various parts of the darbar. It is always very humbling and heartwarming to see detained individuals volunteer to partake in divan activities.
As people from across the country hear about Project Ghar Baahar, they get in touch with us to help provide material support for detained individuals in their respective locales. We were able to help send close to 170 dastaars, around 50 karaas, and 100 Nitnem gutkay to facilities in Texas and elsewhere in California.
We had a very successful #DasvandhWeek, during which, this project raised close to $5,500. We want to thank our donors, and the DVN team and platform for financially enabling us to do this seva. Thank you! We have future divans planned for various California detention centers, and we are already working on supplying a tabla and vaja (both as per request) to a youth immigration facility.
Since its beginnings in November 2016 as a one-person army, Project Ghar Baahar now has ten committed sevadars (and many others who help out as their schedules permit). All in all, as of this very moment, through the help of items donated by individuals and time commitments by volunteers, Project Ghar Baahar has provided and met over:
1,000 detained individuals
2,000+ clothing items (sweatshirts, sweatpants, socks)
100+ seva trips
Once again, thank you to everyone who has supported Project Ghar Baahar, whether through donations, emotional support, or time. We hope to continue this seva for as long as it is needed. Lastly, if you would like to look into doing similar seva at detention facilities near you, please get in touch with the Chaplain there and find out what kind of seva is needed. We will be more than happy to support your efforts as best as we can.
Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
Original Donation Goal Reached
Thanks to generous donors from around the country, we reached our original funding goal of $5000. In order to prepare for the increasing visits we are making to numerous detention center locations in the coming months, as well as increasing demands as we are connected to more locations, we are increasing our goal to $12,000. As ever, this money goes towards buying dastaars, reading materials, clothing, and more essential items for detainees.
Three Visits & Counting...
The sevadaars have been working to create a network to support detained individuals across the state, connecting ICE facilities with local sangat members to distribute donations and funds. Until now, the following visits have been made:
Calexico: being scheduled for Oct 2018
Please continue to donate and spread the word!
|No donations yet! Be first to donate.|
No photos to display at this time. Please check again soon!