Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
Jakara Misl LA held a youth event Sunday on July 27th in the form of the kids’ gardening day camp – Mata Dharat Mahat. This was an opportunity for the Sangat to connect with nature in the unlikely venue of LA’s “concrete jungle” in order to instill Sikh teachings with environmental responsibility, and connect with the Guru through nature and seva. The months leading up to the event were filled with the hard work of Jakara sevadaars who toiled on the weekends to transform a previously decaying urban lot adjacent to the Khalsa Care Foundation (KCF) into a sustainable and environmentally friendly garden. The project rapidly emerged as an enduring symbol of our Panth’s commitment to bettering our surroundings for all creatures and experiencing the loving spirit of Waheguru in all things. It has also quickly become an example of how a few helping hands can come together in their free time to make a significant positive change in the community.
We initially were not expecting a large turnout of participants for the camp, but were pleasantly surprised when more than sixty youth between the ages of four and sixteen showed up on Sunday morning eager to participate (along with many curious parents too). All participants were provided with a water bottle, gardening apron, and trowel at the registration table. The kids were definitely thrilled to receive these useful mementos. 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.
The participants were divided into small groups based on their age, and sent to various workshops in the garden area to get classes from the sevadaars. The aunties enjoying watching their kids from the shady comfort of a manjah placed underneath a large tree. Preet Singh taught the fundamentals of installing sustainable drip irrigation systems for the hot So-Cal climate. The kids were excited to get their hands on the various pumps and high-tech equipment required for the systems.
They then moved to Manmeet Singh’s and Ikjot Singh’s soil station to learn the fundamentals of ground preparation in an urban environment. They got hands-on with a multitude of tools to literally get down-and-dirty on the basics of tilling and sifting. Our “kheti master” Sukhvir Singh and misl Co-Director Preeti Kaur taught detailed classes on seed selection, planting procedures, and maintenance for various crops such as corn, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, and carrots. The kids were all provided with soil markers with their names to be placed next to the seeds they planted in order to see the progress of their work. Next was Prateek Singh’s and Anjali Kaur’s workshop on composting. The participants received classes on sustainability by taking organic waste and transforming it back into nutrition for further crops.
Misl Co-Director Manbeer Singh then taught the basic of weeding to ensure that vital nutrition was not going to be robbed from the future crops. The kids took great care in identifying the differences between the real plants and the weeds and meticulously went forth removing the unwanted vegetation. The last station, headed up by Dev Singh, Sandeep Singh, and Satwant Kaur, 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 weather held up all perfectly despite the threat of rain, and the day camp concluded with ice cream and cupcakes provided by the KCF Sangat.
The Mata Dharat Mahat garden project was a great success for the community, and will serve as a model for localized seva efforts. It was great to see many members of the Sangat stop by to ask questions, take pictures, and observe the transformation taking place in the formerly run-down section of the KCF property. We are eager to see the camp participants return on the weekends to check on their plants and spread the word to those that missed out to come and help with the ongoing efforts in future months. If you’re ever in the Los Angeles area please stop by to check out the garden, and feel free to take home a challi or two – the tamaatar should be ready by then too!