While it all began with a passion for technology from a young age, it was an unlikely internship that since has sparked a life-long ambition to bring people together through shared knowledge and community empowerment.
“I started in the insurance industry back in 2009,” says Harpreet. “I had a love for technology and after an internship, I was offered a role in the Digital Marketing team. My role involved liaising with the IT teams and before I could realise, I was actually performing the role of an IT Business Analyst. Since then, I have been in the insurance industry in India, South Africa, Malawi and New Zealand as a Business Analyst.”
As a Business Analyst, Harpreet provides key insights to many areas of the business but finds the relationships he makes with his peers the most rewarding part of his role.
“What I value most at Suncorp is the wonderful relationships I have developed with my colleagues—both within and outside of IT,” Harpreet says. “The work environment is the best I have come across in the many countries I have worked in, with the work-life balance it provides me, I have opportunity to focus on giving back to the community.”
It is this passion to support his local community which led to Harpreet co-founding Sikh Aware; a New Zealand-based charity providing support to local Sikh communities around the country.
“What I value most at Suncorp is the wonderful relationships I have developed with my colleagues—both within and outside of IT. The work environment is the best I have come across in the many countries I have worked in, with the work-life balance it provides me, I have opportunity to focus on giving back to the community.
Providing a supportive network for Sikhs across New Zealand, Sikh Aware also promotes awareness and education about Sikhism through community-led events. Harpreet and a team of volunteers regularly engage with communities right across the country, running a range of interfaith dialogue events and activities in local schools.
“Today, our volunteers are not just from the Sikh Community but come from a vast cross-section of society including people from all races and religions. It is this philosophy of knowledge sharing and kindness to all that has helped Sikh Aware bring communities closer,” said Harpreet of the charity’s core values. “Only when we know why each of us is different do we learn to appreciate and respect the cultures and traditions of others.”
While Harpreet has always shown a passion for bringing people together, Sikh Aware was born from an incident at his daughter’s school, where young students were teasing her for wearing a turban, as is traditional for a practicing Sikh to wear.
“I enquired with other Sikh parents and was informed that their sons were also being teased for having long hair. Speaking with her teachers at the school they mentioned that the children ‘teasing’ her are often the most inquisitive,” Harpreet said. “That’s when I realised that this is an opportunity to satiate the curiosity of young learners, and requested the schools allow us to have a session and answer these questions for the young learners. That’s why Sikh Aware was born.”
Providing educational sessions to local schools is a vital part of the charity’s mission to bring people together through education, particularly enabling young learners to better understand the religion.
Awareness of Sikhism helps different communities co-exist in peace and harmony while understanding the reason for the different beliefs and cultures. Awareness leads to love and respect and promotes social harmony. We all want to co-exist without fear of any kind of discrimination and bullying and this goes a long way in achieving this goal.
“Sikhism is one of the most misunderstood religions,” states Harpreet. “Sikhs are easily identifiable and subject to a lot of questions, discrimination and bias across the world. Awareness of Sikhism helps different communities co-exist in peace and harmony while understanding the reason for the different beliefs and cultures.”
In addition to interfaith education and awareness, a crucial arm of Sikh Aware provides a number of services for vulnerable individuals in the Sikh community, including legal and financial advice.
“No two days are the same. Currently, our focus is on helping those affected by the pandemic. Typically, our day starts by analysing requests from the various people who need assistance. We allocate these requests to our volunteers across the country depending on the location of the affected person. Finally, in the evening we try to reach out and ensure that assistance has reached those who need it.”
Sikh Aware’s message of love and respect has catapulted its community-led support of victims of COVID-19, providing deliveries of essential goods to vulnerable members of the community. “Currently, we are providing Free Grocery Delivery to those who are in isolation. We are also distributing free grocery to those who need it the most,” Harpreet said.
What started as a way of supporting families and individuals in isolation after returning from overseas, this has now gathered momentum and support from the general public, with Sikh Aware offering deliveries right across New Zealand to those who need help.
For Harpreet, Sikh Aware and the message it ultimately shares with the community, is why splitting his time between work, charity endeavours, and his young family, makes it all worth it.
“Awareness leads to love and respect and promotes social harmony. We all want to co-exist without fear of any kind of discrimination and bullying and awareness goes a long way in achieving this goal.”