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Raising funds for relief efforts after Fiona; Hundreds of meals served at a Hindu Temple in Canada

On Saturday, volunteers at the St. John’s Hindu Temple prepared and served meals to a large number of Newfoundlanders. At 5 a.m., several volunteers started their day in the kitchen. The busy day was made more than enjoyable by the knowledge that all of the earnings from their meals would be used to aid the residents of Port aux Basques. The temple’s chairman, Aruna Ralhan, cried as she added, ‘It makes me emotional.  The response we received from the public is great, and it makes me really pleased and also emotional’.

To raise money for a Fiona relief initiative run by the Canadian Red Cross, the temple held an Indian take-out fundraiser. Ralhan stated her intention to sell 500 tickets, each of which represented a $20 six-item lunch, prior to the event. Ralhan reported that they more than met their target, selling about 580 tickets, and raised more than $11,000 in total, part of which would be used to pay for the ingredients.

The client demand, according to her, would have allowed them to sell at least 900 tickets, but they were forced to set a sales limit since it would be too difficult for the volunteers to serve that many freshly made meals in one day. Despite not being trained chefs, the temple’s cooks can produce some delectable home-style dishes, according to Ralhan. Each meal for the event was to be prepared by one head chef with assistance from up to five volunteers. The volunteers also made turnip curry and naan bread, two vegetarian Indian dishes, in addition to chana masala and samosas.

Tony Roberts was tasked with transporting the takeaway containers from the temple’s basement, where the meals were being made, to the entryway, where they were being distributed to patrons. Currently residing in St. John’s, Roberts was born in Port aux Basques. He expressed his desire to assist in any manner he could since he found it heartbreaking to witness the destruction inflicted by post-tropical storm Fiona to his community. ‘They are doing this fantastic fundraiser, so I thought that I could help out and play a little role in supporting their efforts, said Roberts. It truly is incredible’.

Food brings people together
This wasn’t the first time the Hindu Temple has fed the neighbourhood. To earn money for its operations and charitable efforts, the temple has hosted an Indian cuisine fundraiser during the Royal St. John’s Regatta for many years. Although the goal of this fundraiser was different, Mini Nair, a volunteer with the temple, said providing food is always an excellent way to assist those in need in the neighbourhood.

Since moving to the province 13 years ago, Nair has volunteered with the temple. ‘Newfoundland is our family today,’ she added. ‘ We must thus assist others. There’s no denying it’. Nair claims that in addition to collecting money, serving traditional Indian food to Newfoundlanders fosters ties between the temple and the local population. One thing, she noted, is that we are successfully generating funds. The fact that people adore our food, which makes us feel included and proud of our culture and food, is the second thing.

Chris Clancy, a native of St. John’s, said he felt he had to lend his support after learning about the fundraising and eating some of the temple’s offerings on Regatta Day with his wife. Clancy explained that Newfoundlanders work together to support their neighbours, which is what they are doing right now. ‘Major things happen when lots of people come together for little things to accomplish them’. After weeks of planning and exhausting days in the kitchen, Ralhan expressed her thanks for the volunteers and attendees who helped make the event a success. She stated that at this point, her sole want is for the funds they gathered to be used wisely.

‘Since we depend on the Red Cross’, she added, ‘We hope that every single penny contributed is used to its fullest potential. We have given it everything we have, giving it our all. So, all we can do is pray that the money will be distributed to those who really require it’.


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