Turbans 4 Australia feeding the vulnerable, isolated in Canberra and across the region during the coronavirus shutdown

 Turbans 4 Australia members Paramdeep Nrain, Gurinderjit Kaur, Amar Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Vishu, Lakhwinder Kaur and Princepal Singh in Queanbeyan on Wednesday. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
Turbans 4 Australia members Paramdeep Nrain, Gurinderjit Kaur, Amar Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Vishu, Lakhwinder Kaur and Princepal Singh in Queanbeyan on Wednesday. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

The elderly isolated from family, the disabled, single parents with vulnerable children who can't go out to shop, international students who have lost their casual jobs - these are all people across Canberra and the surrounding region being fed and, in some cases, literally being kept alive, by charity Turbans 4 Australia, which is manned entirely by volunteers.

The group's Canberra coordinator, Paramdeep Nrain, said 80 to 100 meals were being delivered daily during the coronavirus shutdown, prepared in the kitchen of Florey restaurant Indian Pantry, which has donated the use of its premises and staff.

Sisters Lakhwinder Kaur and Gurinderjit Kaur in the Queanbeyan community hall where the hampers are made up. Picture: Megan Doherty.

Sisters Lakhwinder Kaur and Gurinderjit Kaur in the Queanbeyan community hall where the hampers are made up. Picture: Megan Doherty.

Fifty to 100 hampers of non-perishable staples such as noodles, pasta, jam, tea, coffee, juice and soup are also being delivered daily, not only around Canberra, but the region.

The hampers were being put together at a community hall in Queanbeyan, the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council donating its use, around-the-clock.

Paramdeep, a real estate agent, volunteers with the charity during the day and then works in security at night, because his real estate job has dried up.

"I recently delivered a hamper to a grandmother in Yass whose family was in isolation and who had no other way of getting groceries," Paramdeep said.

"Some people, we are delivering meals to every day. Some, who don't want to eat curry and rice every day, we deliver two or three times a week."

Turbans 4 Australia president and founder Amar Singh owns a transport company in Sydney, providing transport for the meals and supplies.

He is in his third week of leave to coordinate the work of the charity, delivering a delivery van to the Queanbeayn headquarters on Wednesday.

Up until now, volunteers had been using their own cars to deliver the food. They take heart knowing they are making a difference.

Turbans 4 Australia members Gurinderjit Kaur, Amar Singh and Paramdeep Nrain packing hampers in Queanbeyan on Wednesday. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Turbans 4 Australia members Gurinderjit Kaur, Amar Singh and Paramdeep Nrain packing hampers in Queanbeyan on Wednesday. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

"We get people who say, 'You have saved our life'," he said. "It's just a simple gesture but it means a lot. We can all support each other, as a community, as neighbours."

Turbans4Australia started in 2015 to encourage the Sikh community of Australia to "help anyone in need in Australia regardless of religion, race or ethnicity".

Amar Singh founded the charity because he wanted to "educate my fellow Australians about the Sikh community". The name refers to the turbans worn by baptised Sikhs.

Turbans4Australia president and founder Amar Singh in the van he brought from Sydney to make hamper deliveries in the Canberra region. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Turbans4Australia president and founder Amar Singh in the van he brought from Sydney to make hamper deliveries in the Canberra region. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Paramdeep said he wanted people to know there was always someone to offer assistance, saying he was distressed to learn of the suicide of two international students in isolation.

"There is always help available," he said.

Paramdeep's wife Gurinderijit Kaur, an aged care nursing assistant, started the Canberra effort, cooking meals in her own kitchen in Queanbeyan for the needy.

When the demand continued to rise, the restaurant and hall came into play.

"There's lots of people in distress," she said.

Turbans 4 Australia also cooked meals for people affected by last summer's bushfires.

Amar Singh said the need had deepened during the coronavirus pandemic.

He has appealed to governments to support the charity to help cover costs such as petrol and supplies that were not donated.

"At least the economy was still going during the bushfires. This is affecting people across the board," he said.

This story Turbans 4 Australia feeding the vulnerable first appeared on The Canberra Times.