Need info about COVID-19 in Punjabi? This med student has you covered

Surrey, home to a large Sikh community and Sukhmeet Singh Sachal wanted to make sure they knew how serious the pandemic was and what they should be doing to take care.
By: Alison Larabie Chase
November 10, 2020
Sukhmeet Singh Sachal. Photo: Karnbir Randhawa/CBC
Sukhmeet Singh Sachal. Photo: Karnbir Randhawa/CBC

Second-year med student Sukhmeet Singh Sachal lives in Surrey and studies at UBC. This past summer, while attending gurdwara (a Sikh place of worship), he noticed that many people there were not wearing masks or taking other precautions to guard against the spread of COVID-19. He realized that cultural and language barriers were preventing them from understanding the true risks of the disease, and decided to do something about it.

He was able to access grant money from Canada Service Corps and the Clinton Foundation to support the COVID-19 Sikh Gurdwara Initiative, which now has approximately 100 volunteers. They have set up at the entrance to Sukhmeet’s gurdwara, where they greet those arriving, bring them to a sink to wash their hands (with instruction in English, Punjabi, or Hindi, as needed), and provide a mask if they don’t already have one. Many Sikhs wear turbans, making ear-loop masks impossible to wear, so volunteers offer ones that tie around the back of the turban.

They also use the traditional headwear as a reminder for people to physically distance “x number of turbans” from others. Sukhmeet says providing culturally relevant, language-specific information is essential. The group’s Punjabi-language posters include images of people with beards, wearing turbans and traditional metal bracelets, so people understand the message is about and for them.

Sukhmeet and his group have so far reached about 2,500 people but want to expand their messaging to other gurdwaras and further into the community, which has been hard-hit by COVID-19.

Source: CBC News

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