London, 8 June 2019
‘We do not want to expand or grow. We want to go with the flow.’
And they have flown with this philosophy and enrolled so many others towards selfless sewa and making a difference in life. Randeep co-founded SWAT, Sikh Welfare and Awareness Team, in 2008 from the boot of his car. After working in the corporate field for almost 10 years, the only question he asked himself was, ‘Is this what life is all about?’ Many, like us, are running the race every single day of our lives to free ourselves from the demon called a ‘mortgage’. Most of us do not have the time for our families and neither for ourselves. Randeep realised how there is so much more that we can do to leave a legacy, a legacy that will always be remembered and cherished. It was time for him to lead his life in the service of others, humanity and God. This year NishkamSWAT will complete 10 years of helping its first homeless person. In 2008, he set up the Youth Club, which dealt with the youth grappling with addiction of drugs and alcohol. The Homeless Project, however, totally overshadowed the Youth Club Project.
Upon speaking closely with Randeep he tells us how SWAT got involved with Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) whom he sees as their mentor and guiding light. He has always turned to them for guidance, support and help so he can be on the right path of righteousness. Four years ago, Nishkam brought SWAT under their umbrella giving them a more reliable wing to grow under. Although this comes with more responsibilities and duties, it’s definitely a privilege. Growing up, Randeep was a regular visitor to the Gurudwara (the holy religious place for Sikhs) and that instilled in him the value of serving humanity.
“I am not a good person. My Guru taught me to do good”, said Randeep. Today he has about 1300 people volunteering to help him run the organisation. But he realised that although they were working towards making a difference with the less fortunate, it was also the fortunate who were benefiting with the ‘giving’. In the mad world of today, human beings are very connected with each other. However, they forget about connecting with God. There are many affluent people who feel that by immersing themselves in ‘sewa’, they will forget the issues they have been dealing with at home, family, relationships and even mental health. “We want to establish the connect. For example, if you tell me that you would help us by making food, then all I would ask of you is to pray while cooking so you put in that positivity that the person who eats the food, feels blessed,” said Randeep.
On a typical day at the Strand, people finish work, come to the Headquarters in Hayes, load up the vans with food and amenities, the medics would fill up the ambulance and drive out together to serve the homeless people in Central London. They would serve hot food, drinks which are sponsored by various people and famous restaurants like Pasta Brown, The Punjab and many more. Positivity attracts positivity - that is the law of nature. They now serve over 3000 meals a week in 19 locations across the UK. This concept is inspired by ‘Langar’, which is a community kitchen that serves free meals to anyone who comes through the doors of the Gurudwara irrespective of caste, race or gender. NishkamSWAT is officially now the first organisation to make this mobile. By taking it out on the streets they come across more people who need the help and therefore, reaching out to a wider audience of people.
This caught BBC’s eye who followed the team around for almost 4 months, covering them at every event. By then Randeep and his team had gone from helping many Indians locally and now to helping many others from all walks of life. Many homeless Britons were now turning towards them for help and the whole documentary was filmed showing how secular the organisation is. This was an achievement in itself and it is remarkable how they are adamant to keep working with the issue of homelessness in the UK. The NishkamSWAT team is also looking to expand their work and incorporate India into their projects, which is duly needed.
Almost a year ago, an ex-addict knocked on the doors of NishkamSWAT who needed help with drugs and alcohol. It was with him that they set up their first ‘drug and alcohol’ helpline. Today he has not only helped in rehabilitating himself and others but also helped in setting up a new homeless service in a fresh area. “He had a vision and we helped him make it true. This is what we want”, says Randeep, “It is all about participating and making a difference. We are all here to help each other and it is He who makes us act a certain way. It is not about the religious aspect, it is more about the values.” Even today, for all Sikhs, they like to plant the seed about who the Sikhs are so that individuals are then able to progress on their own spiritual journey. It is beautiful to see when many youngsters come forward and help because the baton of trust, sincere dedication and selfless service can be easily handed over to the next generation.