Guelph Punjabi Cultural Group: Giving back to the community
December 23, 2015
Dolly Kambo, Indu Arora, and Seema Kambo are still glowing after their wildly successful, sold-out event, Royal Ladies Bollywood Fundraising Evening, raised over $10,000 in support of the Guelph General Hospital on September 27, 2015.
The three vibrant, warm, and generous women sitting across from me at the Red Brick seem to have been friends for a lifetime. But it turns out that they’ve only become closer since the Guelph Punjabi Cultural Group (GPCG) was created in February 2014 (Jolly Bedi and Bobbie Dhanoa were not able to meet with us). The group was formed because at the time there was no organization representing the Punjabi culture in Guelph. But the other primary purpose was to “give back to the community,” says Indu.
They’re indeed giving back in a big way. The Royal Ladies Bollywood event, attended by hundreds of women dressed in gorgeous, colorful outfits, was the third fundraiser organized by the GPCG. The first, held in 2014, was in support of the Guelph Sikh Society, which is planning to build a new and larger Sikh temple (also known as a gurudwara) on Clair Road. The second, also in 2014, raised thousands of dollars for the Guelph Food Bank. They also organized blood donation clinics in early 2015.
Punjabi people began migrating to Guelph from the Punjab region of northern India in the early 1970s, drawn by a bustling manufacturing sector and a better life. But there were plenty of challenges. “They had a lot to overcome, more than what we had to,” says Indu, who was born in Guelph to immigrant parents who arrived in that first migration. “This was the first time turbans were being noticed here, they had a different skin color, and their food was different,” she says. The first Punjabis in Guelph had to commute to Toronto for religious services and groceries.
“They had hard times,” says Dolly, who arrived in Guelph almost twenty years ago from India, as did Seema and Jolly. “When we first came here, we had to start from scratch, and this community has given us so much. Now we’re all well-established,” she continues. There are now approximately 400 Punjabi families and around 2500 individuals in Guelph, Dolly and Seema estimate.
Like many cultural associations, the Guelph Punjabi Cultural Group also functions as an informal networking and settlement resource for newcomer Punjabis. “When I came here as an immigrant, I did not have the help that I needed at that time, so I struggled my way up,” Dolly says. “Mind you, I learned a lot on my way, but I feel that if we can help immigrants coming now, why should they struggle the way we did? That is one purpose of this group. When we do these functions, everybody comes and they get to meet different people. People get together and we can see how we can help,” she says.
“We don’t want to segregate our community. We want them to integrate into Guelph. We want them to know that there are all these lovely services out there,” says Indu.
For more information about the group and to find out about upcoming events, go to their Facebook page: Guelph Punjabi Cultural Group. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org