Ravi Singh Podcast Transcript

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Ravi Singh: [00:00:00] And I knew our people are very generous. They didn't care if the refugees from Kosovo were Muslim or whatever religion they were. They wanted to help. We collected about twenty, twenty five thousand pounds in cash and coins. Imagine, imagine how many buckets that is. And then when a disaster struck, I'll be leaving my job, me and my rucksack.

Ravi Singh: My mother used to keep saying like, Punjabi... Like, leave it. Are you going to change it all yourself? And I would say, yeah, I'm going to change it myself. In the last 10 years, we had great trustees. We got great volunteers. I mean, that's the key. I always write in my post, our volunteers are our heroes. We've worked in about 50 countries so far.

Ravi Singh: We've been at risk. I wouldn't change anything. It's been a great journey.

Amardeep Parmar: Welcome to the BAE  HQ podcast, where we inspire, connect and guide the next generation of British Asians. If you're watching this on YouTube, make sure you hit the subscribe button. And if you're listening on Apple or Spotify, make sure you give us a five star review. Today we have with us Ravi Singh.

Amardeep Parmar: Who's an [00:01:00] international humanitarian and the CEO and founder of KhalsaAid. How are you doing today? 

Ravi Singh: Yeah, I'm good, man. Thanks for coming over and doing the show. 

Amardeep Parmar: And thank you for letting us come to your offices today as well. It's like been amazing. You can see people watching this and they've seen the previous episodes.

Amardeep Parmar: Dennis, we've got a completely different background today. So, there's a green screen back here, which is hopefully going to be cut out. 

Ravi Singh: But we'll see how it goes. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. 

Ravi Singh:Next one will be a dark green or light green colour, so my head disappears. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. Yeah, originally  you had a green, uh, police one, right?

Ravi Singh: Exactly, just floating.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. Next time we do that, we'll just have a floating head, me and the conversation. 

Ravi Singh: Yeah, probably interesting. But yeah, thanks for coming over. And there's always tea and coffee for 50p each, so, you know, take, take advantage. 

Amardeep Parmar: And you've got to pay on the way out. 

Ravi Singh: Yeah, and you won't leave without paying, trust me.

Ravi Singh: We won't let you leave. No, it's really good to see everyone, so thanks for that, especially, uh, you know, this is so, this sort of podcast really helps to inform the public on many issues, so thanks for doing that. 

Amardeep Parmar: There's  actually like five people in the room today who are semi related to me as well.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. [00:02:00] So this is an episode that everybody wanted to come and watch in person. So we've got a bit of an audience here as well. 

Ravi Singh: Brilliant, brilliant. Yeah, I'm really pleased to meet the audience. It's good to see that my live recording is being so closely monitored right next to me. It's like somebody's sitting with a prodding stick.

Ravi Singh: Don't say that, don't do it. But they didn't.

Amardeep Parmar: So if you rewind back to the story of like where this all started from, like where did KhalsaAid begin or what was the origin story?

Ravi Singh: Yeah, it started in, uh, 1999, during, uh, the 300 year celebration of the Khalsa. As you know, we do Nagar Kirtans throughout the world, and there's so much langar.

Ravi Singh: So we said, look, there's a war going on in Kosovo. There are people fighting, watching the news. I remember watching the news, a little cubbyhole. And the guys inside the room were throwing bread. Like, hundreds of hands were trying to catch one loaf of bread. And I spoke to my friends. I said, look, we've got langar here.

Ravi Singh: That's what langar's about. We should go and do something. And it was a real, like, for us, an eye opener as well. We've never done anything like it. It was, like, amazing. [00:03:00] Especially going outside Slough for us was a big deal. You know, we're not used to leaving our beloved Slough. And then, uh, next day was Nagarkirtan in Slough.

Ravi Singh: I think it's about 4th of April, uh, 1999. And, uh, I was, uh, preparing one of the trucks for the Nagar kirtan on a Saturday evening for the following day. And I was talking to myself, what we're going to do, how we're going to do it. And I remember thinking of the name, and I said, okay, Khalsa, Khalsa 8. And also, there's something I've got to add on to that.

Ravi Singh: That after 1984, anything with the word Khalsa, a name or concept, we became like labeled by the Indian government as terrorists. I knew a lot of people that turned back from European airports with the name Khalsa. So we wanted to bring that concept back, that Khalsa is the ultimate humanitarian. So we called the Khalsa aid, and the next day spoke to our friends.

Ravi Singh: And they all agreed, let's go and do something, and you know, rest is history, where we are today, 23 years later. [00:04:00] 

Amardeep Parmar: Did you ever think that would be, like, your life's work, from that first day? 

Ravi Singh: I knew from the response we had, that in one day alone, at Nagar kirtan in Southall, we collected about 20, 25 thousand pounds in cash and coins.

Ravi Singh: Imagine how many buckets that is. And I knew our people are very generous, they didn't care if the refugees from Kosovo were Muslim, or whatever religion they were to help. I was asked the same question, actually, by a, a journalist. Do you see Khalsa Aid as, like, the Red Cross? And I remember at the time I said it'd probably be beyond that.

Ravi Singh: And in the, in the trust of people, you know, being a very, uh, organization they can donate to, we've become very, very, I think, above many organizations, larger organizations. So, yeah, we did have a vision that eventually we will be global and that other people will join in. So, yeah, we are where we thought we'd be.

Ravi Singh: But didn't think it would be this much love, though, from the sangat. 

Amardeep Parmar: And, like, did you straight away go into it full time, or how did that work? Because you must have been doing something [00:05:00] before  that. 

Ravi Singh:Yeah, yeah, it was, uh, those were the tough years that nobody wants to talk about. We'll see a mission, you know, I'll be working, I was working around, I think, Edgeway Road for, um, an Arabic guy, a real nice guy helping out, and then when a disaster struck, I'll be leaving my job, me and my rucksack, then one or two would join in, mostly, like, Somalia, and some of the missions, I went on my own, and Congo, we had somebody else in 2003, uh, Amrik Singh,  who's a Sikh chaplain at the Heathrow Airport, and then other people joined in.

Ravi Singh: And, uh, in those days, there was no health and safety, no risk assessments. You just get on a plane and see what you can do. I remember my mother used to keep saying, like, uh, in Punjabi, Ran de, tu karlene, sarkoch karlena. Like, leave it. Are you going to change it all yourself? And I would say, yeah, I'm going to change it myself.

Ravi Singh: I think one of the trips was 2003 Somalia. I didn't tell her I was going, because if I told her I was going, she wouldn't [00:06:00] stop calling me, telling me for the last four or five days, don't go, it's too dangerous, you know, don't go alone. So I went to Somalia, and that was a journey, that was a very difficult journey in a strange way.

Ravi Singh: And I remember using the only phone in that little village to say in Punjabi, I'm in Somalia, I'll call you back soon when I can get another phone. Somalia, where's that? I said, it's a country. He goes, oh, you gone already. I told you before, don't go. And the phone cut off. And, uh, so there, from there onward, I would tell her when I landed.

Ravi Singh: Even now, for me, I don't see anything dangerous because it's just the way I am. But we got staff, we got volunteers. You can't do the same thing now. You can't put someone in a rucksack and say, go into, in a war zone or go into a disaster area where, you know, you don't know anyone. For me, I'm still 23, it's like the same thing.

Ravi Singh: Soon as I'm away, doctors give me a go ahead after my transplant, I can travel, I'll be setting up new operations, that's what I love doing. 

Amardeep Parmar:Did, were  you ever scared at all, like, when you're going to Somalia, for example? Because I guess most [00:07:00] people listening have only heard about it from, like, the news or from, like, films.

Amardeep Parmar: And obviously, it's not really a tourist destination.

Ravi Singh: No, you have to be a bit crazy, I mean, there was a movie out, which I didn't see before I went, I saw it afterwards. It was exactly like the movie in Norway. Uh, you, you have to, I remember one of our trustees brother lives in Nairobi, and there's a place in Nairobi you buy your, you don't buy the ticket, you just pay someone.

Ravi Singh: Like the local mafia, you could say they have these like, uh, bags of big bag of drugs, the green called chart or mirror, which is illegal here and I think legally in some of the countries, which is grown in Kenya, sold in Somalia, and, uh, that's the plane that takes them. So the only way you can go there was jump on that in that small plane, which isn't very bigger than the house, and then you just sit on top of the top of the bags off this

Ravi Singh: weed or whatever you want to call it and it's only you and the pilot maybe one other right tucked in the back, that's it. And I [00:08:00] wasn't really scared, but the guy, his brother said Nam Singh in Kenya, all night before I traveled, first said don't go to this area in Nairobi to buy the ticket. It's like real maze.

Ravi Singh: I remember these ways to get the ticket and then to uh, he goes, oh don't go, they'll murder you, they'll get butchered. And then it was a journey and a half. I mean, I wasn't scared. I was still, this day, I have faith in people. You're gonna, someone's gonna shoot you, they're gonna shoot you. But not every person's bad.

Ravi Singh: Not every person's good. But if you think, you know, if the perception likes, for instance, in the Middle East would be, for the Middle East would be, Oh, Iraq, oh my god, they're gonna kill you. Somalia, oh my god. No, they're normal people. Yeah, they're elements. They may want to harm you, but you can't lose faith in humanity.

Ravi Singh: As soon as you lose faith in humanity, you will get scared, you'll get frightened, and you can't go anywhere. 

Amardeep Parmar: Because we interviewed Navdeep Singh a couple of days ago, and he talks about how, in the early stages, where it took a long time to kind of really get going, and like you were sharing tables and things.

Amardeep Parmar: Can you talk [00:09:00] about those times as well, of trying to get more people involved in the community? 

Ravi Singh: Yeah, I mean, that was a real struggle. Uh, I remember going 5. 30 in the morning to Birmingham, to Coventry, wherever there was another kitchen, to set up a stall. You're trying to beg and borrow a table from a gurdwara or something, and you probably won't be forthcoming.

Ravi Singh: People didn't know really who we were. Important thing to know, there was no social media for the first eight years. Eight, nine years, we done it just word of mouth. So it was built real, like, raw grit. So, even now, you get that. Because politics in Punjab, they take politics in some of the gurdwaras here. If politicians don't like you back home they won't let you speak on stages here.

Ravi Singh: It's happening all the time here. So yeah, it was a difficult time It was like a real hands on, you know. Put some posters the night before in the morning. A4 Stick it on some piece of paper somewhere or on a board saying this is what we do and trying to get a bucket to collect funds and you know, you're doing your jobs at the same time-. Like I talked about before, you know, you're running around you're giving [00:10:00] up your time and then you're doing this.So ten years, it was like balancing it 

Amardeep Parmar: And when did you take it full time where you gave up your job and this is your full time gig

Ravi Singh: Um, 2000, late 2008, and I remember we took a office in big, big yellow offices in Slough, and our IT guy, still the same guy from my, he said, we need to write a website. I said to my wife, I said, I'm going to live, I'm going to use all my savings, and then I'll see if I take a salary. So after 10 years, in early 2009, I took a huge cut from what I was doing.

Ravi Singh: I used all my savings for three months. And then I had no money left. I started taking a very low salary. I think it was about 19 or 20, 000. Then started writing the website, what we're doing, what we're not doing. There's somebody checking it. And yeah, so from that day, we've really not looked back, because this, being full time, I could do more.

Ravi Singh: Uh, but again, you need a team around you. You need somebody to book your tickets. We had some people helping us. We have my wife, who was instrumental in a lot of the support. [00:11:00] Even today, I can't go online with anything. I can't even buy anything online. I'm so useless. So people were helping from 2005 onwards.

Ravi Singh: My friend Jitinder Singh, Jindy, who's in, who's now the Canada director. It was instrumental. There's so many individuals that really helped in the beginning. And then after 2010, Haiti earthquake, it just, organisation just became well known. 

Amardeep Parmar: So it's obviously must have been quite a big decision to take it full time.

Amardeep Parmar: Because you're doing it on the side for a long time, you're doing all these crazy trips all over the world. What made you think that this is now the right time? 

Ravi Singh: Uh, we have a choice, we had a choice. Uh, we had a lot of support from the community to do the project. We buy them, we've done several projects, big ones.

Ravi Singh: Like Pakistan earthquake, the tsunami, and people started supporting Khalsa Aid. So, decision was made, I said, how about we take it full time now and grow it, or keep it where it is and just do what we're doing. So I said, no, we're going to grow the organization, so, yeah, had to take a huge pay cut. User savings and next thing you know, we're on full time and [00:12:00] here we are today.

Ravi Singh: It's just amazing journey. 

Amardeep Parmar: And how did you start organizing it and scaling it then, right? Because it's different when you had the freedom's, like you're just gonna jump on a plane. But like you said, now you've got volunteers and people like that. You can't just tell 'em to like jump on a plane to a war zone and you've got to help and safety.

Amardeep Parmar: How did that kind of thing start working?

Ravi Singh: Well now, like now 23 years later, I mean, or the last 10 years, we have to make sure there's a risk assessment. And most of the staff who are active in the field, and active key volunteers, about five or ten of them, they all have to attend a three day hostile training course, which is given to journalists working in war zones.

Ravi Singh: It's basically things like, you know, you're in a war zone, you're in a hostile territory, you had a flat tire, how are you going to deal with it? You come under fire, or you've been shot, or, you know, something terrible has happened. How are you going to deal with it? It's a three day, very intense training.

Ravi Singh: We do that, we have to have special insurance, and we have to have a tracking, how to track the person, where they are every two hours, in case we don't hear from them, we know roughly [00:13:00] where they are the last time we spoke to them. So it's a lot of work in what people see the end, somebody delivering aid, but then when we get to the country, we have to negotiate.

Ravi Singh: With the contractors, with the suppliers, you know, different language, different, uh, culture. So it's a, it's a lot of logistics involved. 

Amardeep Parmar: And,  like, for people who don't know, what's the kind of scale of Khalsa right now? Like, how many volunteers have you got? How many people go on these different missions? 

Ravi Singh: Put it this way, we've, I think we've worked in about 50 countries so far.

Ravi Singh: Live missions, which is a clean water campaign in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Gambia. And we're expanding that project. We've got stuff going on in Ukraine still, and in Poland for the Ukrainian IDPs. We've got a massive Langar team in the UK, which is in Coventry, run by Inderjeet Singh and Avtar Kaur, where they provide hot meals every evening to about 150 people, no questions asked, like for hot meals.

Ravi Singh: And it provides breakfast for the kids who can't afford breakfast at home. And they also help the vulnerable and the homeless. [00:14:00] Around the world, yeah, Ukraine, India's huge projects. We continue to expand that project in Punjab and the rest of India. So, and, you know, there are, there's so many more that we're planning ahead.

Ravi Singh: And this is always something in 24 hours a day. It's always something we're doing. There's not the day that we're not doing anything. 

Amardeep Parmar: And what's been the hardest thing about trying to manage all of those different projects?

Ravi Singh: We've got a great team. We've got an absolutely wonderful team. In the last 10 years, we have great trustees.

Ravi Singh: We've got great volunteers. I mean, that's the key. I always write in my post, our volunteers are heroes. And like Indy Hothy, like, you know, he was, he was a, he remembers he was a boy Indy Horthy. When we went to Kosovo, he remembers the trucks going, we couldn't understand what it was. And then he became my trustee.

Ravi Singh: Then he became somebody who consults us on, on, on a lot of stuff. So yeah, I mean, volunteers, I mean, amazing. So the team, the team speaks for itself. If we didn't have a good team, we wouldn't do anything. We've got an absolutely wonderful team. 

Amardeep Parmar: Is there anything you've started doing today that you wish you did earlier on?

Amardeep Parmar: Because you mentioned earlier on how [00:15:00] the website came about eight years into, like, Khalsa Aid’s life, to really expand the reach and the impact you did.

Ravi Singh: Maybe I should have coloured my beard a bit earlier, but it's a bit late now. No, I mean, It's been a journey where you're building, you're always moving forward.

Ravi Singh: There's always things you can improve on. There's nothing that you can't improve on. I mean, I wish we had social media earlier, which we didn't. I wish, you know, some people have a lot of big media teams following them around. Hundreds of pictures a day, they keep publishing. You know, I, I am the social media guy.

Ravi Singh: That's it, that's me. I do all the social with help from,  Aman helps us post some stuff. We kept it very minimal on the media side but something different. I don't know. I think I would do the same thing again, even the countries where we, you know, we've been at risk, we nearly got killed or hurt. Don't think anything, I wouldn't change anything, it's been a great journey.

Amardeep Parmar: And what are the challenges you have now?

Ravi Singh: Identity. When we work in places like Iraq Syria borders, in 2014 when ISIS were on the rise, the Yazidi community and the Assyrian Christians [00:16:00] were struggling and being attacked by ISIS. We went to help. I remember I was there on my own first time with the locals.

Ravi Singh: In, uh, northern Iraq. And the people were just, there was nothing there. Like, you could say ten football grounds. Absolutely deserted. Next thing you know, it's fifty degrees temperature. And you're watching waves of heatwave and people suddenly appearing. Thousands of people become refugees. Identity was, they thought, the elders of the Yazidi people said, we don't want to talk to this guy because he represents ISIS.

Ravi Singh: The Beirutian Turban. So I was wearing very colorful turbans from that day onwards. I never wore a black to, or white turban to Iraq then. Always this sort of turquoise or something like. And that day I was wearing royal blue. And the elders found me. And luckily I had a local guy with me. He's still a friend of mine, Allah.

Ravi Singh: And the elders started pointing fingers at Allah. And I said, something's upset them. I said, what's happened? He goes, no, don't worry. They don't understand. I said, no, tell me. I don't want to hurt their sentiment. He goes, the color you're wearing is the color, [00:17:00] is the banners that attacked our people a few hundred years ago.

Ravi Singh: And this is the 74th Genocide, by the way, these people, because they were carrying those colors. That's why they find it offensive. I said, that's fine. I won't wear it again. I have no idea. I'll tell them I apologize. And then next thing, I wouldn't wear that royal blue again. So these sort of things, I mean, you know, I can list so many more.

Amardeep Parmar: How do you build trust with these people as well?

Ravi Singh: You've got to do the work. A lot of people turn up and just take a few pictures, drop a couple of bags of food and they never come back in. We promised them. Uh, there was an old man in Iraq, could have got a picture, since 2015 I've known him. Every time I go back, Susan Fahmy is our young inspirational lady in Iraq, she's a Kurdish young lady, been helping us since she was 19, now she's our director there.

Ravi Singh: This old man grabbed me by the hands, he was very elderly. He had like a big beard, like a turban. He said, please, please don't leave my people. Don't leave us. That was 2015. I said, I promise you, we'll never leave you. There was a [00:18:00] lot of pictures with me every time I go, videos. Sadly, he passed away last year.

Ravi Singh: But we never let go of him, his family, or his people in those camps. We're still there for them. And I'm so glad that we kept our promise. So we don't just say, we'll, we'll do it, and then walk away. We then follow it through. That's how you build a trust. There was women, Azidi women, the world's forgotten.

Ravi Singh: Thousands were captured and taken slaves by ISIS. They were kept as sex slaves. They were sold, raped, abused. And, um, they trust most of the organization called  Khalsa aid. They said, you never stopped helping us. So when, if any of you guys go on a mission with us, especially young ladies. They want to open up, they want to tell the world, because people's forgotten, the world's forgotten.

Ravi Singh: So the trust being built through work, through support, through, uh, continuous intervention. May somebody's hungry, somebody's, uh, needs, whatever they need, a tent's blown away, or caught fire, we'll replace it straight away. 

Amardeep Parmar: When you've seen so much pain like that, because obviously in this country, we, we see pain from [00:19:00] different people.

Amardeep Parmar: We don't see that level where people have been taken as slaves and that kind of thing on, in our daily lives. How do you keep your positive mindset? You said you've got so much faith in humanity. How do you maintain that when you've seen some of these tragedies? 

Ravi Singh: In 2015, the BBC made a documentary called The Selfless Sikh.

Ravi Singh: Face on the front line. We were recording with the, uh, the camera person and director, which is, uh, Sharon. Susan was translating, there's a lady we're interviewing. She escaped from ISIS and she had three kids. She's talking, they were like, I think, five, six, or then maybe a 40 year old baby. And the guy who captured her killed all three of them.

Ravi Singh: And she, the way he did it, she's explained it on the film. He gave something to them, could be poison. They came shaking from somewhere outside. Even a baby was shaking. The next day, never woke up. What really hit us was when she showed a picture of dead babies, we thought, oh my god, you'll never get over it.

Ravi Singh: You see it again and again. But the mind, your brain is so strong, it's unbelievable. I talk about it, it comes back to me, but it locks it up. Your mind protects you. [00:20:00] You've seen so many bad stuff, you've seen in Pakistan, earthquake, people trapped in buildings, it's been raining. You try to rescue them, well, they pull the limbs, come off, it's like...

Ravi Singh: It's just, you know, this is real life. There's no, you can't gloss it over. You can't suddenly make it into some sort of romantic Bollywood movie because this is, this is life. In Orissa, 1999 cyclone. We went in January 2020. Yeah, January 2000. Our millennium was on the field. And the next day walking in the field, these whole families were tied to each other.

Ravi Singh: Men, women, children, and they're dead, face down or face up, and I'm thinking, so I asked the guy, how come, he goes, when the cyclone came, there was nothing here, the water just suddenly came like 13, 14, 15 foot, they were drowning, so they tied themselves to each other and the tree, but the tree got rooted, it all drowned, and the bodies were still lying in the field.

Ravi Singh: So, but, you know, you get motivated to do more. These are the things that drive you. They might have passed away. You can still do more, so, but, you do, when you think about it, [00:21:00] reflect on it. Some of the things you've seen, you do get shaken, you do get upset. But then, honestly, the mind, it just locks it away until you talk about it, which is very strange.

Amardeep Parmar: And people listening now, right, they might want to do something to help, but they're not sure how to do it. What would you advise them? Because like you said, there's always more that can be done, there's always different people in this world who are being overlooked, what can they do?

Ravi Singh: I think start at home first.

Ravi Singh: You know, start in the community. You could be living in any town in the UK or a city or anywhere in the world. Start looking at who's suffering in your town. The elderly, like now we've got a very cold spell. Your neighbors. Join in the homeless support centers. Volunteer your time. Khalsa Aid is just one organization.

Ravi Singh: There's loads to do locally. Sometimes we want to reach out for the stars when we don't miss, we don't see what's next door to us. There's so much. And one thing I, I'm proud to say that since 1999, the biggest achievement has been that we have a whole generation who grew up with Khalsa Aid and grew up as humanitarians watching it.

Ravi Singh: And that's what we need to be, we need to be more tolerant [00:22:00] in a world where we judge people, there's so much hate, you know, judging someone by their face, even on refugees, there's, there's hate, you know, we welcome certain refugees. They can stay longer. You want other refugees, we don't want them here. And yet we say, no, no, refugees are welcome as long as they're this color, or as long as they fit into our society.

Ravi Singh: A refugee is a refugee. A refugee is someone who's going through absolute heartache, hardship, leaving everything behind. They need help. And then if you imagine if I start judging people saying, I don't need to, you know, support you, you're this and you're that. So my message... to the young, especially the younger generation, is always be tolerant.

Ravi Singh: Remember our fathers, forefathers came here, they suffered the same abuse, the same BS that, you know, these people are next, might be next door, maybe refugee family next door, maybe refugee family on your road, maybe somebody getting abused for their gender, whatever, you got to speak up. We got social media, I don't see why people don't.

Ravi Singh: You got, you got no excuse now. In the old days, we had to excuse, we don't know who to talk to. Now you put a post up, it goes viral. So, if [00:23:00] you want to build a better world for yourself and your kids, you've got to start being tolerant, you've got to be that change, otherwise it's not going to happen. 

Amardeep Parmar: And I guess on the other side, so we've talked about some of the tragedies you've seen, but you must have seen such amazing generosity as well.

Amardeep Parmar: When you've been to some of these places where people are struggling, but they're still helping each other out and still looking after each other, have you got any great stories about that?

Ravi Singh: It's everywhere, everywhere you go. People like in, I remember I go in Lebanon, Iraq, all the refugee camps. And, you know, we're passing a camp or a tent or something, and the family say, No, no, no, police.

Ravi Singh: You have to have tea with us. And you know, they got nothing. And they don't want to share tea and biscuits with you. And, uh, the Yazidi family in Iraq, I remember giving water, we're distributing water in a very hot summer, clean water, and the guy says, Is that water clean, brother? Because I don't think it's clean.

Ravi Singh: So I put the pot in my mouth, started drinking the water. It's like covered in water. I said, What do you think? He said, Oh my God. He goes, Come, please, you have to eat with us. They made some bread and stuff and tea. People are very generous. People are very generous, even when they got nothing. I think people who got [00:24:00] least are the most generous.

Ravi Singh: Sometimes you have more, you're less generous, because you want to keep building more. Generosity, you know, I always say people are good. Generally, people are good. But unfortunately, we judge it by a few, a few idiots, basically. So, yeah, there's, you know, we escape death. And we're saved by certain people.

Ravi Singh: We're here because somebody stood for us. And we didn't ask for their color or, you know, it's the same in life. If somebody saves you from getting mugged or beaten in the street or whatever, what are you going to say? You say, oh no, you're a Christian, you're a Muslim, you're a Hindu, you can't save me, I don't like you guys.

Ravi Singh: No, you're going to take the help. And then you'll realize life is a bit short to be living in hate. So if you can accept the help, you can also give it. We're very quick to judge, you know. We'll take something from you, but later on to give, No, no, no, I don't like that guy. Hang on. You weren't very quick saying that when you needed something.

Ravi Singh: So this is the world we live in. You've got to make it a better 

Amardeep Parmar: place. It's like what we see a lot in the UK, right? Where there's so many doctors from immigrant backgrounds. 

Ravi Singh:  Yeah of course. And they get abused. 

Amardeep Parmar:  And they get abused and it's like, well, they're saving your life. [00:25:00] But sometimes people don't see that and it's just a shame that there's so many people out there doing great stuff.

Ravi Singh: Yeah, absolutely, wonderful stuff. It's, you know, for me, especially the NHS, uh, during my transplant and after. I can't be thankful enough for the nurses. We've got some angels in the NHS, amazing surgeons. So, it's not just saying, we're the only ones, we're doing, no. They're absolutely great organizations, doing absolutely wonderful work, all over the world, choose the one you like to work with.

Amardeep Parmar: And you've had some struggles, obviously, in some different countries, and Like with governments and things like that, how do you try to manage that? Because it must be so disheartening to know that you're trying to do something to help and the organization is going there to help people in need. But then politics gets in the way, like how do you try to  manage that?

Ravi Singh: It happens mostly only in India, where we're treated suspiciously, we're treated with, in a way, disdain. Most of the countries I've worked in. They welcome you in. So, I don't, and also, we work, we're trying to work with local organizers, the Rotary Club, Lions Club and, uh, you know, I'd like to give a big shout [00:26:00] out to the Lions Club in the Andaman Islands that helped us and now other Lions Clubs and Rotary Clubs helping us even in Madagascar and all that.

Ravi Singh: So, yeah, it's teamwork. 

Amardeep Parmar: With all the  places you've been to, has there been anywhere that surprised you where you had a certain stereotype or idea of what the people would be like there? And when you actually got there, it's totally different. 

Ravi Singh: I don't really have stereotypes. I mean, that's what I get from my family and some of my friends.

Ravi Singh: I mean, some of my family and friends that they may build something like, for instance, like I said, if you're going to Africa or Middle East, Oh my God, it's so dangerous. No, it's not dangerous. There are parts dangerous and there are people who are, some people are bad. Not everyone's bad. I think generally it's your attitude as well.

Ravi Singh: You actually are, but remember certain things in life, certain things in my journey. Some that really stick out, if you want to say a couple of those things. One was in 1999, when we launched Khalsa Aid. And we were in the Kosovan Albanian border in the town called Koukis, now the mountains. And we had some food [00:27:00] and clothing left over, our personal stuff.

Ravi Singh: So we said, Tony was driving my van. Uh, he passed away, such a nice guy, through cancer unfortunately. So we tied bundles, but you can't distribute slowly because you get mobbed. So what we'll do, I'll go in the back of the van, bundle up some food, Punjabi food, mutton and all this stuff, people know what that means.

Ravi Singh: And then snacks and we'll identify someone and then Tony will pull up and I will run. Drop it to them and run off before you get mobbed. Because that's what happens when people are hungry. I remember doing this one group of people. Pack the bag, uh, the clothing, with extra clothing or some spare clothing.

Ravi Singh: I ran towards these three people sitting on the, on the edge. It's freezing cold, by the way, winter. And as I dropped the, the bag into the lady, I looked up. She's about 80 something, very leathery face, wearing like a black hijab. And next to the guy about 40, shaking. He wasn't well as he was blind. And then a husband, what looks like a husband.

Ravi Singh: And he was really unwell, the [00:28:00] son. She grabbed me like this, in her hands. Like holding me like this and she just looked through me I was just looking through what sounded like seems like alternative like probably 30 40 seconds and she can't either do this and this is a this is a Muslim lady from Albania from Kosovo. They had nothing they were freezing and she was blessing for that Bundle or whatever, she didn't know what was in there, but she wouldn't let go, but honestly it was like, I still remember that face, I still remember it, I still remember the sun shaking, he was blind, he wasn't well, I wouldn't, I hope he was well at the end, and I remember in Somalia, when Landia went to a chief's house in the middle of nowhere, and um, chief's wife was elderly, elderly woman, he was elderly, and it was, I felt, I said wow, she goes to me, she was translating through this guy, she goes, oh you left your mother, in a faraway land to help us here.

Ravi Singh: And then she had a maternal sign, like, she went like this, she goes, I am your mother here, like, and I felt like, wow, I said, I've come all this way, and this [00:29:00] woman's giving me so much love, that I am your mother here, that's the sign they make, like, I'm your mother. And I was like, quite tired, there's so many things that happen, you know, so that, we don't judge anyone.

Ravi Singh: Somalia is a very tough place to live in, any country that's got wars, tough place to live in, so, judging or stereo stereotyping just isn't in me. 

Amardeep Parmar: So like I've loved this conversation. You've always been somebody that I've looked up to as well. So it's quite surreal for me to even sit here and have this conversation.

Amardeep Parmar: And I'm sure many people listening have forgot the same attitude as well. They've heard about your work, but we've got move on to the quick fire questions for the So the first quick fire question is, who are three British Asians that you think are doing great work that you think people listening right now should be following and learning from?

Amardeep Parmar: And I know this is a hard question for you. 

Ravi Singh:These  are tough, very tough question.

Amardeep Parmar: And also we're forcing him to say three people, so nobody get annoyed at him.

Ravi Singh: Yeah, don't get annoyed at me because I'm trying to think, there's so many good people out there, that's the problem. And if I miss somebody out, they're going to get really annoyed. 

Amardeep Parmar: So I said three most recent people, let's say, something like that.[00:30:00] 

Amardeep Parmar: Or you've talked in the last week, maybe.

Ravi Singh: My wife's ringing my ears, she rings me all the time, so I don't hear her, no. Oh my god, can we come back to that? 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah, we can come back to that  afterwards, so we'll do that to you first, right?

Ravi Singh: That's a very difficult question, you know that. Put me on the hot seat.

Ravi Singh: Send me to Syria or Iraq, don't ask this question. 

Amardeep Parmar: So...The other one is, if people are listening right now, they want to reach out to you, and reach out to Khalsa Aid, what can they reach out to you about? What should they get in contact with you about? 

Ravi Singh: They can talk to me about anything. When I'm shopping, even last night I was shopping in the local Sainsbury's, people approach, people ask questions, I welcome it.

Ravi Singh: We are here because of the Sangat, because of the public. I'm not shy about talking, I share my number if there's any emergency. They can approach about anything, you know. If there's anything we can do, we'll do. If we can't, we can't. I'm always up for a coffee. And a chat, always open, approachable, no issues about anything.

Amardeep Parmar: And then on the other side, what's something you need help with at the moment? What could somebody. 

Ravi Singh: We're always looking for good volunteers, qualified volunteers, people who can help keep the charity going, moving forward, and volunteer their [00:31:00] time in either helping in the office, organizing events, or, or, or traveling abroad eventually, once they've spent six months helping us in the office.

Ravi Singh: So we're always looking for volunteers. 

Amardeep Parmar: So we're going to have to come back to the first question again now. Are you ready? 

Ravi Singh: That's the hardest question ever, man. I can talk like a machine gun all day about that question. I'm trying to think now. All right, well, we'll name them. That's your fault. Okay, so the three people, one of the organizations, which I quite like in Scotland, the Sikh Food Bank.

Ravi Singh: They're doing absolutely wonderful in Scotland. People, those people should be supported. And, uh, you've got, uh, uh, I'll be a bit biased, our Langar aid guys in Coventry. So if you follow Langar aid, especially with the cost of living crisis, they're doing amazing work in Coventry, especially feeding the vulnerable and the homeless.

Ravi Singh: Uh, amazing work. Top of that, you've got, oh, my brother Randhir from, uh, Middle Langar Seva. [00:32:00] They're doing good stuff as well. So, yeah. So, the Sikh Food Bank in Scotland, the Middle Langar Seva guys, and the Langar team in Coventry. So inspiring because they're doing so much work day and night. 

Amardeep Parmar: Perfect. So, been great to chat to you.

Amardeep Parmar: And the final question is, have you got any final words for the audience?

Ravi Singh: My, my message remains always the same. You know, honestly, there's, it's not even about money, it's not even about any riches or power, uh, and I strongly believe it, I've said it before, especially in our community, we got a lot of domestic violence issues, we got drink problems, we got problems that people don't want to talk about, they want to hide it under the, sweep under the carpet, talk about those problems, talk about mental illness, mental, mental health, mental health is very important, my brother's been sectioned, and I remember people trying to suppress that, so talk about mental health, Talk about domestic abuse, and if you're suffering from domestic abuse, speak up, speak up loud, you know, especially like also alcohol problems.

Ravi Singh: [00:33:00] We, we want to bury it like we're whiter than white, we're not, we got issues as a community and we need to speak them, speak about them. For me, mental health would be the top of that. If you're a young person, girl, boy, whatever, just talk, talk to anybody, don't keep it inside. And whatever you do, don't take any steps that will hurt your family or yourself.

Ravi Singh: Always talk.

Amardeep Parmar: Thank you for listening to the BAE HQ podcast today. In our mission to inspire, connect, and guide the next generation of British Asian entrepreneurs, it would mean so much to us if you could subscribe to our channel, leave a review, and share this with your friends.