Geoff Smith standing in front of the Nishkam Centre, a Sikh faith-led organisation working for the benefit of all communities.
The Nishkam Centre, Birmingham

 

In response to the growing awareness of the need for character education in the UK, the Jubilee Centre for Character & Values have produced a ‘Charter for Character Education’ which you can read here.

Earlier in the summer I was privileged to attend the consultation on this charter at Windsor Castle. I was delighted to note the emphasis on virtue and character and its importance to both personal and civic functioning. Whilst at the conference I was lucky enough to engage in a conversation with Ranjit Dhanda MBE – one of the founders of the Nishkam Sikh ethos faith schools now currently establishing themselves in several locations in the UK. Ranjit asked me to explain the 5 strategies of the Virtues Project and their application in the classroom over dinner; we got on well and promised to stay in touch.

Whilst walking in Wales with friends I received a call from Ranjit asking if I could talk at the Nishkam staff training at the start of September, so, late on a Sunday evening we arrived at Nishkam High School to be greeted by Sikh volunteers still working on the brand new High School slowly taking shape. Next morning Ranjit took us to breakfast at the Gurdwara, where we were served delicious food by volunteers who insisted we ate until we were at bursting point. Michaela and I reflected on the many evidences of service in the Sikh community – the Nishkam pharmacy across the road is staffed by Sikh doctors who volunteer extra time to supplement the NHS services; adjoining the Gurdwara are workshops providing employment to those who need it; you can also eat at the temple at any time day or night, and the retired ladies and gentlemen who serve take real joy in their service to the community.

I know that there are many examples of service in the UK but I have sometimes found that service can be confused in Britain with the idea of being a servant, perhaps triggering painful echoes of class and rank. Sometimes in UK shops one gets the feeling that the staff are not always comfortable in ‘serving’ customers – an experience may visitors to our shores are shocked by. But things are changing – does your community allow your retired folk and elderly to serve their community? I hope so. Tell me where you live, when I retire I’ll come and help out.

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