Hastings Sikh Society community volunteers

A community drive by the region’s Hastings Sikh and Ravidassia community has delivered more than 10,000 meals to people left hungry, displaced and evacuated in the wake of the cyclone. 

Hard-working members of the Hastings Sikh Society and Shri Guru Ravidass Temple in Havelock North have cooked and delivered hot meals continually since the cyclone struck – to the huge relief of recipients who are often without power, cold and have few food supplies. 

A team of volunteers have done an incredible job to reach hundreds of people every day, says Sikh community member Sukhdeep Singh, who has been instrumental in organising volunteers for cooking, sourcing ingredients and containers and liaising with emergency organisations to get meals to where they are needed. “It’s not a one-man job, it’s a team effort and I’m really proud,” he says. 

Shri Guru Ravidass Temple volunteers

Immediately after the cyclone hit, Singh gathered a team from the temples to start cooking. “My focus was to support those people most impacted by the cyclone.” The Sikh community typically cooks for more than 100 members every weekend, so producing meals on mass was nothing new, says Singh. Although they didn’t have power, volunteers were able to cook on gas cylinders and already had plenty of ingredients in stock including onions, rice and lentils. That first day, they cooked over 400 meals. 

Ingredients have been funded by the Sikh temples and community, and then meals are made by a team of volunteers. Initially, they were only cooking from the Hastings premises, but quickly expanded to also include the Havelock North site as demand was so high. Since then, volunteers have cooked hundreds of meals every day including, vegetarian curries, pizzas, fried rice, and roti. Harpal Singh from Napier also started cooking meals at his home and with his trucks helped emergency services to evacuate elderly people.

Working with Civil Defence, their first focus was to deliver the ready-to-eat meals to emergency workers and evacuation centres in the most affected areas. Then they expanded to all parts of the region. 

Hastings Sikh Society volunteers

When the meals are delivered, it’s often an emotional moment, says Singh. Arriving at their first delivery to the evacuation building at Hastings Sport Centre, everyone clapped. “One lady put her hand on my shoulder and cried, saying ‘thank you’. I can’t explain that feeling of appreciation and that face of sadness,” says Singh. “I just went to Eskdale a couple of days ago and saw the impact and can share so many stories of people and how they were so grateful for the hot meal. I cried myself 5-6 times during some interactions on the ground.” 

What the Sikh community has achieved, represents the power we have to make a difference, says Singh. “It is so important to show togetherness and compassion and genuine aroha to support the whole Hawke’s Bay community in this changing time.” 

Singh is already well known for his community efforts in the region. In 2020 he received the Hastings District Council Civic Honours Award. The award recognised a decade of community work and volunteer fundraising, which has seen him help raise over $400,000 for six different nonprofit groups.

Singh says the Hastings Sikh Society and Ravidassia community will continue to distribute meals to Hawke’s Bay as long as there are people in need. 

To request meals, contact:

Harry Kumar from Ravidass Temple, Hastings : +64 21 282 0200

For Hastings Sikh Society: people can contact via Facebook or contact president Jarnail Singh Hazara: jarnail.singh@tremains.co.nz. 


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