| Seremban, Malaysia | 30 Nov 2015 | Asia Samachar |
The youth are missing. The gurdwara in Seremban, about two hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, is no longer dotting with Sikh teenagers going about doing seva and having fun.
“Back then, we used to serve two big bathey (iron bowls) of degh when we had naujawan programmes. Today, half a bathay is enough. Mind you, the population has actually increased around here,” mulls a formerly active Sikh sevadar in Seremban.
He grew up in Seremban, the state of capital of Negeri Sembilan. Along with friends, they had spent many beautiful hours working and having fun at the gurdwara in the 1980s and 1990s.
All that life and laughter seems to be missing. What happened? Where are the youth? They decided to find out why the youth no longer come in droves to the gurdwara. Some 300 responded to their online survey.
In a nutshell, the Sikh youth feel that the gurdwara experience is not designed for the them. The do not understand what is being said and the delivery is plain boring. Not surprising for a generation that grew up with gadgets.
“They also find that the programmes are not interactive, they don’t have an opportunity to ask questions. The good thing is that no one selected that Sikhi is no longer relevant today,” one team member shares with Asia Samachar the results of the survey.
This led to the team organising two back-to-back sessions: one for the youth on 28 Nov 2015 and another for the parents the day after. They had some 60 teens from 13-19 years old.
“While working on the youth, we realised we also had to engage the parents,” he said.
There was fun team building activities and other activities at the former. The next step is a naujawan satsang (Sikh youth based programme) on 13 Dec (1-4pm).
The parent session, themed ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, had four objectives, including urging parents to encourage youth who show up at the gurdwara.
Trainer Col (R) Mohan Singh was the key facilitator for the programmes.
In the run-up to the seminars, the team decided that they had to go out and seek the youth instead of waiting for them to come to the gurdwara.
“We went out, different teams going to different regions. Some homes, people told us that it will be a waste of time. We still went ahead. It was a good experience. The people were welcoming, they were happy that Sikhs were coming to visit them,” he said.
The team listened. One boy had not been to the gurdwara for some years because he was denied a party pack at a gurdwara function. No party pack for you because you are not part of the Punjabi class, he was told. He took it badly. There were many more such stories.
“We realised that we need to ensure the granthi and the sewadars encourage the youth when they do come to the gurdwara.
“At the same time, we also needed to make the youth more resilient when they return. Don’t run away just because of some remarks,” he said.
OBJECTIVES OF THE PARENTS SESSION:
a) Share knowledge with parents on how to create a conducive environment to raise youths,
b) Urge parents to encourage youth and when they start showing up in gurdwara and participating in sewa and activities, don’t criticise them. Be patient, encouraging and empower them.
c) Don’t let politics and animosity of your generation to be passed down to the next generation; and,
d) Offer parents to volunteer their energies and efforts in any of the five domains of development.
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