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'We're just praying that it will be OK': New, semi-complete Sikh place of worship faces Teddy

The Canadian Press logoThe Canadian Press 2020-09-23

After a week of preparations leading up to hurricane Teddy, the Maritime Sikh Society is hoping that their new, halfway complete place of worship in Halifax remains intact after the storm.

“It is worrisome, but we’re just praying that everything goes well,” said Simardeep Hundal, president of the Maritime Sikh Society. 

According to Hundal, members of the cultural organization “tried to secure everything as much as possible” at their new gurdwara, or place of worship, ahead of Tuesday.

They instructed construction workers to board up the roof as well as any other exposed areas of the gurdwara, located at 10 Parkhill Rd. They also stored remaining construction materials inside the building, so that they would not fly away and possibly hit passersby.  

“We boarded everything up,” said Hundal. “But air will still enter, because it’s not air tight or water tight at all.” 

Hundal said preparations began as soon as they heard about the hurricane heading towards Nova Scotia. Construction workers even worked over the weekend to secure the 20,000-square-foot, two-storey building. 

“We’re just hoping that it will be OK,” said Hundal, adding they are somewhat assured because they have construction insurance for the building. 

The Maritime Sikh Society instructed that construction workers board up the gurdwara to protect it from Hurricane Teddy. - Contributed

The Maritime Sikh Society’s gurdwara has been under construction since December 2019. COVID-19 significantly delayed the building’s completion, with materials coming in late and banks initially unwilling to provide a loan to the Maritime Sikh Society for the project.

Once complete, it will house a prayer room, “langar” hall where visitors — regardless of background or religion — will be served free food, Punjabi language classes, as well as a space to host new Sikh immigrants while they look for a place to live in Nova Scotia. 

The society launched a fundraiser amid the pandemic, pitching the project to Sikhs and others throughout Canada and the U.S., to raise enough money for the construction to go ahead.

So far, Hundal said they’ve collected nearly $450,000 in the last three or four months. They also managed to get a loan from the National Bank of Canada last month and now require another $100,000 to $150,000 to fund the project. 

“We were in pretty bad shape in April, because the loan was not approved … but now we’re doing well there,” said Hundal.

The gurdwara is currently just over 50 per cent complete, Hundal noted. Next steps for the construction include completing the building’s roofing, putting in windows, doors and siding, and filling and decorating the interior. 

Because members of the Maritime Sikh Society do not have their own place to pray at the moment, Hundal said they rented a church and the Zatzman Sportsplex in Dartmouth for their past two events. Even with short notice, she said the events had turnouts of 300 to 400 people. 

A photo of the gurdwara's roof, taken before the onset of Hurricane Teddy. - Contributed

This, Hundal said, has eased her worries because she expects the "big" and "helpful" Sikh community will be able to raise the funds necessary to mostly or fully complete the gurdwara project before winter rolls around — so that it’s protected from future storms.

“We’re kind of in a more positive spirit now that we’ll get the loans and with a little more money, we’ll complete it before Christmas,” she added.  

Hundal said three members of the Maritime Sikh Society visited the gurdwara on Monday night and they plan to visit the building a few more times throughout the storm to survey any damages.   

“At this moment, I will just pray that everybody stays safe and we get through the storm.”  

Noushin Ziafati, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald

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