July 30, 2019 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Washington, D.C: In commemoration of the United Nations Youth Skills Day observed during the month of July, United Sikhs announced the graduation for the Class of 2019 students of the annual Advocacy and Humanitarian Aid Academy (AHAA). Ten young Sikh Americans from across the nation traveled to Washington, D.C to partake in the annual academy, a week-long engaging experience to learn more about how they can become advocates within their own communities.
Beginning on Sunday, July 7, participants had the opportunity to meet one another and United Sikhs leadership at AHAA orientation including a visit and prayer at Gurdwara Sabha in Fairfax, Virginia and The Sikh Gurdwara, DC. This educational start to the week was especially momentous as United Sikhs youth volunteers sang a shabad.
Through the remainder of the week, AHAA students discussed issues affecting the global Sikh community, including bullying, school curriculum and census inclusion, racial profiling, equal pay, gun violence, and sexual harassment. One of the goals of the annual academy is for participants to feel connected to their Sikhi and have a better understanding of how to appropriately use advocacy and seva to help better their communities as humanity. Beginning the week-long training with ardaas and diwan was a perfect initiation before the students engaged with one another and political leaders.
As part of training, United Sikhs leadership also taught humanitarian-related subjects, such as seva in the field, disaster relief best practices, Advocacy 101, and social engineering. Upon graduation from AHAA, participants designed presentations on their own topics, which exposed them to public speaking and encouraged them to create their own passion projects for social change.
“The annual advocacy and humanitarian aid academy is a great opportunity to discuss the most pressing issues affecting Sikhs,” said Jagdeep Singh, United Sikhs CEO. “Through interactive learning experiences, our participants are able to learn from each other, their communities, and local issues affecting their own neighborhoods.”
“With such a great and bright start in their education, our team is excited to witness how the future progresses for these young Sikh Americans,” said Hardayal Singh, United Sikhs Founder. “We are excited to help them foster relationships with political leaders, engage in meaningful discussions, and grow as advocates for the Sikh community.”
The 2019 Class for the Academy ended on June 12, with participants advocating for issues affecting the global Sikh Community with members of Congress, including U.S. Reps. Don Beyer, Gregory Meeks, Kathleen Rice, Thomas Suozzi, Josh Gottheimer, Gerry Connolly and Stephanie Murphy, as well as the Dept. of Justice, U.S. Census Bureau, and other federal officials and agencies.
As a bolster to the International Civil & Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA) branch of United Sikhs, advocates will continue to work with AHAA participants post-graduation to ensure they receive a response to letters they hand delivered to U.S. Representatives during their training. United Sikhs volunteers will also work with students long-term to achieve their community-based empowerment projects.
This year, past AHAA graduates Karandeep Singh and Manpreet Sodhi played integral roles in the overall training program, embodying the continued relationship many AHAA participants choose to carry on with UNITED SIKHS and the organization’s community empowerment programs after training.
“It was uplifting to see the youth involved in civic engagement,” said Karandeep SIngh, United Sikhs Volunteer. “They met with professionals from various backgrounds, which provided an insight into the governmental and non-governmental agencies.”
“It is important for our youth to be involved in advocacy programs, such as the United Sikhs AHAA, so that they may learn more on how they are able to make a difference in our country and how their efforts can make changes,” said Manpreet Sodhi, United Sikhs Volunteer.
Enrollment for the 2020 Class of AHAA will begin in December for Canada and the United States. College students from around the world are encouraged to apply, said United Sikhs CEO.