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Tour the Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar in New West and enjoy a free meal

Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar looking to “break down barriers” and highlight its efforts in New Westminster
Free food was on offer for those who turned out for the Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar's 2023 Nagar Kirtan celebration. Photo: Jennifer Gauthier

The Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar is opening its doors to the community – but it’s a place where residents are always welcome.

Coun. Ruby Campbell and Jag Sall, volunteer vice- secretary of the Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar, are teaming up to offer community members a chance to tour the gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Queensborough and to celebrate Vaisakhi. The event is on Thursday, April 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the gurdwara at 347 Wood St.

At this family-friendly event, they’ll share why the Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar has been an integral part of New Westminster since 1919 – providing a place for Sikhs to worship, community members to gather, and members of the public to enjoy a free nourishing meal.

Despite its decades of operation in Queensborough, many community members haven’t had an opportunity to go inside and learn more about the gurdwara’s programs, services and history.

At April 11’s free event, everyone is invited to join Sall and Campbell for a special tour, to share langar (a vegetarian meal) and to celebrate Vaisakhi (which is on April 13).

“The Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar was the first place of worship for many Sikh residents who were raised in the Lower Mainland and has a rich history of community service and engagement. It continues to be a central place for families, youth and seniors to gather and participate in programs and shared experiences," said a press release about the tour. “You will learn more about programs and how the gurdwara continues to serve the Sikh and broader community.”

Campbell said the inspiration for the tour arose out of questions from many people who asked her what happens at the gurdwara. In discussions with Sall, he told her he wanted to ensure people know they are always welcome at the gurdwara. 

“What we are looking to do is break down barriers,” Sall told the Record. “People drive by or walk by the gurdwara daily, weekly, monthly, and they are curious about what goes on. The doors are always open to everybody.”

Sall said visitors will be welcomed with open arms and will be free to ask any questions they have. They’ll tour the gurdwara, learn about its history, hear how the building has changed since 1919 and enjoy a free vegetarian dinner.

Free meals are offered daily at the Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar, which is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“It’s an open house every day, but this is just a structured open house,” Sall said. “People can feel comfortable that others in the same shoes, who have not come to the gurdwara, will be there so they don’t feel like they are alone or asking silly questions. They’ll be in a comfortable group to ask questions – no question is ever silly. But it’s really to break down barriers to really realize that we have more in common than not.”

Although she grew up in Vancouver, Campbell said the gurdwara was quite special to her family. Her family spent many weekends there, attending various functions, including weddings, special prayers or and other events.

“It really was a gathering place for our family as there wasn’t a huge Sikh community at that time, so my parents would take us there and we would meet up with my cousins and others. We would all help to prepare food for special occasions or for regular prayers,” she said. “As a child, I remember peeling a whack of potatoes there every weekend to help prepare meals or helping to make sweets for weddings. All the kids were put to work – washing dishes, sweeping or whatever needed to be done.” 

Campbell said her uncle (her dad’s older brother) and a few other senior family members were presidents of the gurdwara at various times in the 1970s, so it was a very important place to her family.

“As I reflect back, it was also a place where I really learned about the value of providing service or called ‘seva,’” she said. “From helping to make and service meals, washing dishes or just being part of a small community that helped each other when needed.”

Helping community is something the gurdwara continues to do, whether it’s serving its daily free meals, assisting folks stranded in traffic during a snow storm, or supporting community members during power outages.

To participate in the tour, it’s requested that people register so the organizers have a sense of how many people are attending and can plan accordingly. It’s expected the tour will last for about an hour and will be followed by dinner.

The upcoming tour builds on some of the initiatives  that have occurred in the past decade that have highlighted the gurdwara to the general public, including the Nagar Kirtan that’s held each June. The Nagar Kirtan includes a procession from the gurdwara to the Queensborough Middle School, where activities take place and free food is served to about thousands of people.

“It’s one of the biggest events in the city. We have about 25,000 people that come to Queensborough. There is people from outside the faith that are coming as well,” Sall said. “And the outreach that we have been doing in the recent number of years has really helped people to see this is what the gurdwara is about, what the congregation is about.”

Cooking class returns

The City of New Westminster and the Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar are once again teaming up on a free cooking class – on the same day as the upcoming tour.

Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar members Gurjit Singh and Harveer Kaur will be teaching the all-ages Heritage Cooking: Vaisakhin in the Langar Hall. It’s taking place at the gurdwara on Thursday, April 11 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

“Explore Punjabi heritage through food, and cook around the seasonal festival and celebration, Vaisakhi,” said a notice about the class. “Visit the gurdwara, learn, participate, and taste the recipe!”

Sall said the tour has been coordinated to coincide with the cooking class. Folks wanting to participate in the cooking class register with New Westminster Parks and Recreation.

“We have been doing that for a number of years. This is our fifth session since COVID, since we started virtually in 2020. And now we are doing it at the gurdwara in the langar hall or kitchen as we call it,” he said of the tour. “That’s free for everybody to attend.”