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Sikh Meet officials at the White House to discuss the Faith Based Initiative

Bush Administration Invites Sikh Delegation to White House

June 20, 2005, Washington DC - 20 Sikhs from all across America met with Senior officials at the White House to explore the possibility of receiving federal funding to support programs run by various Sikh organizations. The Sikh group led by Dr. Rajwant Singh, Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) met with Jim Towey, Director, of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and Jennifer Sullivan, Deputy Associate Director working at the same Office. Accompanying Dr. Rajwant Singh were Sikh community leaders, businesspeople, and professionals, from all over the United States including as far away as Los Angeles, Yuba City, Sacramento, and Dallas, Texas.

Sikhs being welcomed at the White House by Jim Towey, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiative

Discussions focused on the ways that the Sikh community can access Federal grants to support the various programs to fulfill the needs of the Sikh community and the wider American population. These programs can range from Youth Development and mentoring programs, after-school care, family and child services, vocational training programs, and health and legal clinics for new immigrants.

Jim Towey, a key person in the Bush Administration, welcomed the Sikhs representatives and informed them that in 2004 the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives helped disburse over $2 billion to various community groups and plans to do more in 2005. The Office has wide representation at over ten key government agencies including the Department of Labor, Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Health and Human Services. He emphasized that his office welcomes the Sikhs and said, “You are already doing great work in your localities and it is our sincere desire that you participate in this program and strengthens your own work.” He gave guidance on key initiatives of President Bush such as providing vouchers to encourage individual choice and, secondly, to level the playing field for smaller, but prominent, communities like the Sikhs. President Bush made this Initiative a very prominent policy of his Administration.

Picture from left to right: Bhajan Singh Aujla, Baldev Singh Grewal, Mandhir Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Amrit Kaur, Dr. Rajwant Singh, Satinder Singh Dhanjal, Inderjit Singh, Manjit Singh Dasuha, Jim Towey, Gurtej Singh Cheema, Bhupinder Singh Boparai, Chattar Singh Saini, Gurbaksh Singh Bhasin, Guru Amrit Singh, Surjit Mann, Dr. Harpal Mangat, Navneet Singh Chugh, Pallavi Kaur Ahluwalia, Satjiv S. Chahil

Jennifer Sullivan, Deputy Associate Director, provided the group with critical information on how to source federal aid, prepare a request for proposal, and detail for the attendees the process of disbursement of funds.

The meeting ended with a firm commitment from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to help the Sikh Community source federal funding for several of the programs discussed. Jennifer Sullivan indicated that it would make it easier to receive federal funding since the Sikh Community was already providing many important services at various community centers and Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship).

Sikhs with Jennifer Sullivan at the White House

Dr. Rajwant Singh said that “The needs of the Sikh community like youth development, education, and health services are similar to the needs of the broader American community and this is critical that we form broader networks to avail the opportunities to strengthen the assistance programs.”

Among the group were some well know personalities like Bibiji Inderjit Kaur of the Sikh Dharma from New Mexico and Satjiv S. Chahil, Board Member of Palmsource, Inc from San Francisco. Also present were Navneet Singh Chugh, Founder and former President of the North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA) from Los Angeles, Mandhir Singh, Manager at a large hedge fund based in New Jersey, Baldev Singh Grewal, Editor, Sher-e-Panjab Newspaper and Bhupinder Singh Boparai, President of Sikh Cultural Society and Manjit Singh Dasuha, President of the Makhan Shah Lubhana Sikh Society, the two large New York Sikh Gurdwaras (Sikh place of worship).

Satjiv Singh Chahil thanked the White House for the meeting and said, “It is about time that we keep ourselves informed and get involved in the process and help others. Sikh ethos emphasizes that we all help the underprivileged among us.”

"The Sikhs pay their fair share of taxes, and also believe in selfless service for the good of humanity, and it would be great if the White House would extend its hand and assist the Sikhs in helping the community even further," said Navneet Singh Chugh.

After the meeting with the White House, Sikh participants met among themselves to discuss the ways and means to spread the information about this initiative within the Sikh community across the nation and to stimulate more Sikh participation in seeking federal and state grants. Several Sikh participants detailed the work done by Sikh organizations to help the needy in their own communities with the White House officials. Inderjit Kaur detailed the role of the American Sikh community in providing help to the First Respondents in the police and fire departments, veterans of the Iraq war, and various security agencies.

Other Sikh participants included Gurbaksh Singh Bhasin, Sewa International from Los Angeles and Board member of SCORE, Gurpreet Singh from New Jersey, Amrit Kaur, Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, Maryland, Sarabjit Singh, Sikh Study Circle Vermont Gurdwara, Los Angeles, Sartaj Singh Dhammi, Guru Gobind Singh Foundation, Maryland, Dr. Gurtej Singh Cheema, Sikh Temple West Sacramento/ Sacramento Sikh Society, Satinder Singh Dhanjal from NJ, Dr. Harpal Mangat from MD, Guru Amrit Singh Khalsa, Raj Khalsa Gurdwara, VA, Bhajan Singh Aujla, Punjab American Heritage Society, Yuba City, CA, Chattar Singh Saini, National Sikh Center, MD, Surjit Singh Mann, VA, Attorney Pallavi Kaur Ahluwalia, Sikh Center, Dallas, TX

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