The Sikh community has been a rapidly growing demographic in Estevan the last two years, and its soaring numbers resulted in the formation of the Sikh Society of Estevan, which is bringing the community together.
Society president Ravinder Sandhu, accountant Navjyod Sidhu and board member Manpreet Sangha are all from the northern India province of Punjab. They didn’t know each other before they came to Estevan, but thanks to the society, they have been able to connect, interact, pray and meet other Sikhs.
The Sikh Society of Estevan was formed during a meeting in early May, when about 60 people gathered at the Leisure Centre's multi-purpose room. Since that time, they have already gained non-profit status, and they have started to look for a building that can house their temple.
"More Sikh people were moving here, so we decided that we should have a place where we can go, come together and worship," said the society's accountant, Navjyod Sidhu.
Prior to the society's formation, if Sikhs wanted to gather and pray, they would have to go to a temple in Regina or Saskatoon, Sangha said.
"If they want to stay here in Estevan, and if they want to raise their families, or bring their families from India, it's a good idea that they should have a Sikh temple where they can meet one another on a regular basis," said Sangha.
Most of the Sikhs are happy to be in the Estevan area, because they have good jobs, but they want a way to come together and worship.
Since the society's formation, they have been holding prayer sessions at the homes of Sikh families in the community.
"We try to have at least one prayer a month at one of the residents in the community," said Sangha.
There are about 150 to 200 people of the Sikh faith currently residing in Estevan, said Sangha. As recently as 2010 and 2011, there were only a couple families in the city. Sidhu noted that in 2007, there was one family in the city, but they moved out after a brief stay.
They admit that they didn't realize how many people of their religion there were in Estevan until they came to the city. Sikhs who have flocked to Estevan for work have told their friends about the opportunities that exist in the Energy City. Some have brought their families from India to Estevan.
Thanks to Estevan's burgeoning Sikh population, they are now in the process of trying to find a temple. In the short-term, they want to rent a building.
"We don't have that much money in donations at this moment, because we are fairly new," said Sangha. "We will be going out to the community for donations, but we haven't started that campaign yet."
But the long-term plan would be to find a plot of land, likely in the RM of Estevan, where they can construct a temple of their own. Sangha said the RM is the better option for a site, because they need to acquire a lot of land – about 10 acres.
"In our culture, people like to go to the temple," said Sandhu. "If we have a temple here, it's easy to bring the Sikh people into the city."
A temple would also be a place where they could celebrate festivals and birthdays, Sangha said.
Other communities have seen a rise in the Sikh population, and that has left the Sikhs looking for places to meet. In Weyburn, for example, Sangha said Sikhs have been meeting in one of the halls.
They have not started fundraising for the temple, they said. But they expect that the land will be at least $90,000, and then there will be costs for construction.
Members of the local Sikh community are thrilled that the society has been formed.
"They said they were definitely looking for something like this," said Sandhu. "They appreciate it, and now they are with us."
For those who don't speak much English, it allows them to interact with others using their primary language, Sidhu said.
"I know that last year, a new family moved from B.C. to Estevan, but they moved to either Regina or Saskatoon because there was nothing to do here for their prayers," said Sidhu. "They were sitting there in their houses all day."
The society has also been active in promoting itself to the community. Local members were joined by Sikhs from Regina to perform lively dances during the Collage Cultural Festival in late September.
A large crowd packed the multi-purpose room to watch the performance, and they frequently cheered loudly.
"It's very important (to dance at events) so that others can know us," said Sidhu. "Most of the people just know that we are from India. But they don't know our culture."
Sangha said that Collage was a great event, and they received the type of exposure that they were expecting. The response from the community encourages the society to perform at other future events.
The first one will be the United Way Estevan's annual telethon. The society will be dancing during the evening of October 18.
They hope that there will be a large crowd wherever they perform.
The society is also trying to educate people about their faith, their culture, their beliefs and their need for a temple.
"We just want to promote our community, and at events like Collage and the United Way, we tell a little bit about the Sikh community, and we can share a little bit more every time," Sangha said.