Over 250 guests joined Dr. Sawhney and EcoSikh at EcoSikh’s benefit dinner, an annual fundraiser to support the environmental organization’s international programs. Consistently, EcoSikh’s fundraiser is the “largest gathering of Sikhs for environmental action in the United States,” according to event organizers. The event featured musical entertainment from Devender Pal Singh, an international Punjabi pop star and former contestant on Indian Idol. Twenty-one-year-old Devender Pal charmed the audience with his humor and encouraged event-goers to sing along to his covers of popular songs.
Special celebrity guest and NBA athlete Gursimran “Sim” Bhullar also gave a speech at the event. Bhullar is the NBA’s first player of Indian descent and recently played for the Sacramento Kings. Standing at 7 feet 5 inches, Bhullar drew the attention of the crowd as he spoke about his recent visit to Punjab. Bhullar recalled the excitement of children he met on his trip, but was saddened by the state of the environment in which they lived. While endorsing the environmental campaign of EcoSikh, Bhullar said, "We all have the responsibility to make sure that we leave this earth for future generations. We all must pitch in and save it. It the younger people and children who are going to suffer with the worsening weather and its effect worldwide."
Dr. Rajwant Singh, President of EcoSikh, presented the water issues in India, such as groundwater depletion and pollution. He said, "The environmental crisis facing Punjab is a survival issue and it is a Panthic issue." He also made the audience aware of pollution traversing Punjab and entering New Delhi’s atmosphere due to farmland scorching and coal burning.
Dr. Singh said, "It is our desire to make sure that Sikhs are present in every conversation and dialogue on environment and climate change at all levels internationally. The Sikh perspective pertaining to environment given by the Gurus needs to be propagated." He added, "EcoSikh is grateful for the support from all over the world and especially the Washington community. If there was no EcoSikh, there would be no Sikh Environment Day or other Sikh green actions. EcoSikh would not be able to survive without all of your support." Gavinder Billing, a volunteer for EcoSikh, recited a poem for the environment, and was followed by an outpour of support and donations from the audience. The EcoSikh team appealed for support of three major projects: creating an environmental plan at Sikh sites in Pakistan for Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, rolling out a Green Gurdwara Initiative, and beginning a water campaign in Punjab and in India. “EcoSikh plans on working with Pakistani officials to bring environmental projects to the locations around Nankana Sahib and Kartarpur Sahib, both sacred locations for Sikhs,” said program manager Sumeet Kaur. Plans include installing solar panels, creating organic farmland for langar, creating land reservations for forest areas, and generating an ethos of care for the environment among local stakeholders.The evening also highlighted EcoSikh’s efforts to greenify gurdwaras and start water dialogues in Punjab, where groundwater is rapidly depleting. Through a powerful video showcasing their projects in the last year, EcoSikh displayed the environmental problems the Sikh community and India is facing, and the organization’s efforts to fix those problems. The night came to an end with a performance by Devender Pal Singh, who engaged the crowd directly by dancing with guests on the dance floor and photo opportunities with Sim Bhullar. The event and EcoSikh is largely supported by volunteers: Amar Trivedi, Arvinder Singh, Bhavdeep Bajaj, Dimple Kaur Sandhu, Gavinder Billing, Gita Pabla, Guransh Singh, Harmeet Singh, Harjot Singh, Imneetpal Singh, Jagdeep Obhrai, Kanwal Kaur, Manpreet Singh, Manranjan Singh Chowdhary, Meenu Nandra, Meeta Broca, Sarika Bakshi, Ramandeep Singh, Sehejneet Kaur, and Tanvir Kaur. Pictures by Flora Pictures and Video Productions. The event was videotaped by Sirmukh Singh Manku