Satnam Singh, clockwise from back left, Ravi Bhullar, Kudratjot Singh, Darshan Singh, Ranjeet Singh, Dhyan Singh, Jagtar Singh pose for a photo in the rented space they use for a Sikh temple in Whitehorse on Aug. 20, 2020. The Whitehorse Sikh Society has turned to online fundraising in hopes of building a dedicated worship space for community members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Whitehorse Sikh Society fundraising to build worship space

The society has created a GoFundMe with a $25,000 goal

The Whitehorse Sikh Society has turned to online fundraising in hopes of building a dedicated worship space for community members.

The society set up a page on GoFundMe last month with the aim of raising $25,000 to put towards purchasing land and the construction of a gurdwara, or a place for gatherings and communal worship.

“You’ve probably seen so many people with the turban tied around their heads in town … There was a growing (of the community) and there was a need of a space for the worship,” Dhyan Singh, who sits on the society’s board of directors, said in an interview Aug. 20.

“People are missing it, that one place to go.”

The online campaign had raised $1,420 as of the morning of Aug. 21.

If successful, it would be the first and only gurdwara in the Yukon, and likely the North.

Currently, Sikhs in Whitehorse gather at a rented, partially-renovated warehouse on Copper Road. Singh said that prior to the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions, the space would see about 80 people attend any given gathering (the society is now letting smaller groups of people in throughout the day for 10-to-15-minute periods).

The rented space used for a Sikh temple in Whitehorse on Aug. 20, 2020. The Whitehorse Sikh Society has turned to online fundraising in hopes of building a dedicated worship space for community members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

He estimated that there are about 350 Sikhs in Whitehorse overall, including families, students at Yukon University, and people in the territory on foreign worker visas.

Depending on the success of fundraising efforts — the Whitehorse Sikh Society is also reaching out to other national and international Sikh foundations for support, and applying for a federal grant — Singh said it will likely be two to three years before the project is complete. The society is hoping to find a plot of land either downtown or nearby so that it can be easily reached by public transit but hasn’t picked a specific location yet.

Once constructed, and assuming the further lifting of COVID-19 restrictions by then, Singh said anyone will be welcome at the building, and the society plans on creating signs in English, Punjabi and Yukon First Nations languages like Southern Tutchone to invite the larger community into the space.

“As soon as this thing (COVID-19) goes away, we will be having people, whoever wants to come in, and learn about our culture, sit there and worship,” he said.

“Whitehorse has so many people in it, so it’s good to learn about others, I’m always interested in learning about other cultures and other traditions.”

Until then, the society will be focusing on maintaining the rented space, and raising the $25,000 goal to get the project off the ground.

“We’re trying hard,” Singh said. “We’ll see where are we in six months.”

The GoFundMe campaign can be found online here.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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