The Central Gurdwara (Khalsa Jatha) of London is the oldest established Sikh place of worship in Europe, tracing its origins back to 1908 when the Khalsa Jatha British Isles was formed in order to promote religious and social activities amongst Sikh’s in the UK. Later that same year, it became affiliated with the Chief Khalsa Diwan, Amritsar.
Over numerous year, funds were raised whilst moving from different locations around London, the Jatha were able to purchase a building known as Norland Castle, Queensdale Road, London in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. In 1969 the Jatha moved into the building, where the Gurdwara currently stands today.
In 2016, an unfortunate event occurred at the Central Gurdwara of London when it was unlawfully broken into and vandalised throughout the premises. Undoubtedly, the event had a negative impact at the place of worship.
In November 2016, Professor Peter Virdee and The Virdee Foundation with the support from family and friends sought the opportunity to take the Sewa of the dilapidated building upon themselves and actively restore the Central Gurdwara of London into a place of worship for all in the state worthy of it’s historic status globally amongst the Sikh community.
The renovation works commenced in January 2017 and continued until December 2017. What was originally planned as a refurbishment led to getting down to the bricks of the building on order to resolve serious issues such as water ingress and damp in a number of places. The Virdee Foundation took the view that the work should be done of a high quality and every problem encountered was dealt with using permanent solutions.
Although the building dates from 1847, it now boasts some of the most modern building control and design features making this one of the most environmentally friendly Gurdwara Sahib’s in the world. The walls all are now insulated along with a new roof, which features a large commercial array of solar panels generating up to 95% of electricity needs.
All the complex systems are controlled through a Crestron control system and the building is now equipped with eco-friendly LED lighting throughout.
Crucial to the project was creating a look and feel inside the Gurdwara Sahib, which would allow one to feel at peace. The use of a careful design system has created an elegant prayer hall where one can experience such beautiful surroundings to feel at peace.
This is one of the largest projects undertaken by The Virdee Foundation and the experience gained and lessons learned have strengthened us to be able to undertake even bigger projects in the future.
Professor Peter Virdee and the Virdee Foundation would like to thank each and every one of our family and friends who contributed and participated towards the accomplishment of the Central Gurdwara of London restoration.
September 28, 2017
Children in Crisis is delighted to announce the inauguration of the Bibangwa School, generously funded through a partnership between the charity The Virdee Foundation. Two hours’ walk from the nearest road, the new school is set on the High Plateau in South Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the school formally opened on 19 August and already filled with 165 children.
Originally completed in April, formally inaugurating the L-shaped school with its six classrooms had to be postponed because rebel groups moving across the Plateau made it too dangerous for visitors to travel for inaugural celebrations. Communities living in this area have suffered decades of neglect by the government as well as a conflict involving many rebel groups. The existing dark and over-crowded school had been built using sticks and mud. Its teachers were untrained and unqualified.
As a result of this, Bibangwa’s children are at the extremes of isolation, where they are receiving no help or investment from the government or other organisations. The former wattle and daub school, built by a resourceful community who are desperate for their children to learn, was unfortunately ruined by the Plateau’s torrential rains.
“We had waited so long for this day. All the children and their parents were there; most of whom had actually helped to build the school. There were speeches from the Headmaster, local chiefs, the School Building Committee, Ebenezer Ministries and the local church and from Children in Crisis as the keys were handed over. Contracts were signed on a table piled high with dictionaries, text books, pencils, paper and footballs. The village choir sang and there was dancing as we opened bright blue doors into light classrooms. I have seen many new schools in my role at Children in Crisis and this is by far the most impressive.” stated Thea Lacey, Programme Manager at Children in Crisis
Thanks to the Virdee Foundation’s support, they have been able to work with Bibangwa’s parents to construct the new, durable, six-classroom school for their children. The new school has been named after The Virdee Foundation and is known as “The Virdee School”. It is a community-owned and community-run school that has been established in a safe and dry place for future generations of the children of Bibangawa to attend, whom now have the opportunity to learn and enhance their growth, knowledge and development in both education and life.Bibangwa’s Old School A leaking roof is unable to protect the children nor the classroom posters from the rainfall. Bibangwa’s previous school was built through a significant effort from the community, using local traditional techniques. It was a bamboo frame construction with white clay walls. Though these techniques can work quite well for domestic dwellings, they did not work well at all for classrooms, providing an unstable and unsettling place for children to learn. The fundamental absence of large, frequently-tended fireplaces in schools, meant that the walls were crumbling and the foundation was deteriorating, as there was no heat or smoke to dry and preserve the clay which is a critical element required to sustain the main structure. Due to this, the Plateau’s heavy rainfalls quickly degraded the corrugated tin roof making the classroom structure an unsafe and unfit habitat for children to learn. As a result of this, the foundations of the classrooms were cold, muddy and often wet – especially when the Plateau’s heavy rainfalls come during wet seasons restricting children to attend class sessions and learn. The untreated and thin corrugated metal roofing sheets rusted through the classroom’s structure much long ago. Space was also an issue – there simply wasn’t enough room for the school’s 165 students in its four small classrooms. Though unstable, the bamboo benches gave some students a place to sit within a minimal capacity, however the real difficulty and challenge they were facing was having no desks to support their books when they were writing, and were therefore having to balance their books and write on their laps. An absence of desks forces children to write in books perched on their laps. The rocks were used as benches when the classroom became too full. The Virdee Foundation’s Mission Statement ‘To relieve the needs of women and children who have or who are in danger of suffering mental, physical or sexual abuse.’ Our report on the condition of Bibangwa’s school, and the conditions in which children are trying to learn, left The Virdee Foundation in no doubt – that their support will bring lasting improvements to the mental and physical wellbeing of Bibangwa’s children. The New School Bibangwa School has 165 children, between 7 and 14 years of age. 85 of these are girls and 80 are boys. They are taught in Swahili, learning to read and write, numeracy, science and French. But their education goes well beyond this. The involvement of Batwa families in building the school meant that many of their children are enrolled in school for the first time; mixing with children from other tribes and establishing an understanding of one another from an early age. Understanding and respect that will play a vital part in promoting inter-ethnic peace in the future. The construction of the new Bibangwa school has been built with durable materials – solid brick walls with deep foundations, galvanized (rust resistant) metal roofing sheets, and cement floors. It has been designed to last and to protect children from the cold weather and the heavy rainfall. The new desks and benches in the school’s six classrooms now provide every child a place to comfortably sit and learn in a stable and fit capacity. They’ll no longer have to stoop over books and write in books perched on their laps, and the windows allow natural light to illuminate the classrooms for children to be able to learn without having the unpleasant distraction of an uncomfortable and unfit environment, with damp and dark surroundings. The following images are from other schools which we’ve built on the Plateau and provide an idea of the new school known as “The Virdee School” of which the children of Bibangwa are now able to attend: Thick, galvanized metal roofing sheets and guttering keep rain out of the classrooms Benches and desks, made by local carpenters, allow the children to sit and write in comfort and stability. Partnership Partnership has been the driving force behind the construction of Bibangwa’s new school – between Children in Crisis, The Virdee Foundation, EMI (our local Congolese partners), and the parents of Bibangwa. Children in Crisis has been working with their local partner, Ebenezer Ministry International (EMI) , to educate and protect children on the Plateau for the past ten years. By building new schools and training teachers, Children in Crisis aims to reach every child and create the opportunity for them to break out of the cycle of poverty, isolation and conflict. The contributions made by the Bibangwa community have been critically important for the successful establishment of The Virdee School. Bibangwa is one of the most remote places in which we have undertaken school construction, therefore we wouldn’t have been able achieve our mission if it wasn’t for the significant help provided by the local community. Trucks have had to offload building materials at the end of one of the few dirt roads which serve the area. One of the many contributions from the community have been to physically carry these materials, including heavy metal roofing materials, by hand or head on a 2-hour walk over hilly terrain to Bibangwa due to the lack of infrastructure and transport availability in the area. Koy Thomson, Chief Executive of Children in Crisis, said “On hearing of our mission to reach the forgotten and most disadvantaged children in remote and often conflict affected environments, Professor Peter Virdee showed no hesitation in reaching out to us to ask how a partnership with The Virdee Foundation might be able to help us improve the lives of more children. From the earliest days, the Virdee Foundation has shown a depth of critical understanding and engagement which has helped work through all obstacles and difficulties; such as when resurgent conflict delayed the school inauguration”. The amazing work has finally been completed through the immense efforts and contributions from both our Partners and Bibangwa’s local community… EMI, our Congolese partners, have worked closely with Bibangwa’s parents to help them successfully complete the construction work of the new school. The following images show the community members carrying stones, which were being gathered for the school’s foundations. The first image below show structures of bamboo cages that were laid out, where each cage represented the foundation stones that were collected by one family – as a result, you can see there were plenty of families involved where women were doing very much of the heavy work. “The location of this school was particularly challenging.” said Thea Lacey, Programme Manager of Children in Crisis. “The Plateau has very few roads, and all of these are dirt tracks, passable only at some times of year. The school itself has no roads leading to it, only footpaths, requiring a demanding trek with building materials, often carried on the heads of the parents of the children. It is a remarkable commitment by local communities, only made possible by the partnership with the Virdee Foundation.” Foundations stones were being gathered by the local community members. Each bamboo basket individually represented a different family’s contribution illustrating the number of families involved in this tremendous project. Women who were gathering foundation stones (more like rocks!) The contract, in which EMI, Children in Crisis and Bibangwa community agreed to our responsibilities in the successful development and construction of the new school which was also signed off. As shown below, the Head of the Women’s Committee, who was helping with the construction of the new school, signed her signature on the school construction contract. The Head of the Women’s Committee signs the school construction contract. Koy Thomson, Chief Executive of Children in Crisis stated “I very much hope that our partnership with The Virdee Foundation will go from strength to strength. Good partnerships are founded on shared values, celebrating what we achieve while also enduring through challenges. These are qualities that have been amply demonstrated in this new school, our first step together”.
September 19, 2017
7 days a week, 365 days a year, The Midland Langar Seva Society (MLSS) organise a ‘Soup Kitchen’ which consists of a variety of hot food and beverages that is distributed to the less fortunate, which therefore embodies the charitable side of the Sikh Religion. The charity is based on the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, who initiated the concept of “langar” over 500 years ago. Langar means ‘free kitchen’ for all, irrespective of gender, class, religion or social status. The main idea behind the concept of langar is community dining, equality amongst people and the manifestation of unity and sharing. Thus, what MLSS have managed to achieve, is taking the langar out of the local Gurdwara and rolling it out onto the streets for those who are in need of it the most. MLSS take no monetary donations for the food they serve, and all the food is donated by the local congregation and general public.
On Monday, 11th of September, The Midland Langar Seva Society – along with the help of The Virdee Foundation, and volunteers including, Ex-Premier League and England footballer, Emile Heskey – conducted a charitable offering of food and drinks to the homeless in the heart of Birmingham City Centre. Between the hours of 6-8pm, hundreds lined up not only awaiting their daily bread, but to witness one of their country’s greatest sportsmen distributing food and drinks to them which brightened up their lives and brought them in high spirits on a very gloomy Monday evening. Emile Heskey personally greeted the locals and took photos with them, which most definitely was a very special day for all involved.
Professor Peter Virdee established The Virdee Foundation to better the needs of abused women and children, and is also involved in numerous forms of charitable giving; with his most recent projects being a children’s school that was built in Congo and the entire refurbishment of the local Gurdwara in Shephards Bush, London.
MLSS was established about 4 years ago by 2 friends, Randhir & Pramjit, who wanted to help the homeless by doing some “Langar Seva” (selfless food service). They started in Walsall, just feeding 15 people and this number magnified rapidly over the course of the years, eventually spreading across the whole of the UK with the generous help of numerous volunteers.
MLSS have not only surpassed the boundaries of providing food within the UK, they astoundingly provide food giving in 16 other different cities across the world; including India and the USA, which serves up to 11,000 meals per week – equating to an incredible total of 44,000 meals every month! MLSS have remarkably expanded their global footprint, operating with over 100 core volunteers enabling them to successfully achieve their global mission. Their principle street feed is in Birmingham which operates 7 days a week, 365 days a year and is continuously growing.
Professor Peter Virdee, MLSS and the volunteers stand firmly behind the importance of charitable giving and strongly value the significance of it. The feed that took place yesterday was just the start of an alliance between MLSS and The Virdee Foundation, as both organisations anticipate in collaborating on other feeds in the near future.
More people, more power – how partnerships can multiply the impact of your international giving
David Stead, Executive Director of Philanthropy and Development, Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)
What makes the perfect partnership? And what role does this play in helping achieve greater social impact with your charitable giving overseas?
Philanthropists living in the UK with cultural roots around the world are increasingly looking to explore the effect of these questions. This audience is often highly engaged with a deep-rooted sense of empathy towards the challenges facing people in need in the countries where their parents or grandparents grew up. Here at CAF, we have seen a rise in international giving. Last year,CAF Private Clients – many of whom are members of ‘diaspora’ communities in the UK – donated £156 million worldwide to good causes in 2015, an increase of 33%.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to explore this further at a recent breakfast event that CAF hosted in partnership with Spear’s Magazine, where we brought together a panel of experts in international giving to discuss how partnering with the right people or organisations can maximise the impact of philanthropy overseas.
Professor Peter Virdee of The Virdee Foundation talked about the importance of their work with charity partners in the field to help transform lives around the world. In order to improve the lives of vulnerable women and children in India – one of their chosen causes – The Virdee Foundation works with local charities and follows a diligent verification procedure before selecting new organisations to partner with.
Professor Virdee feels strongly that, before entering into a partnership with an NGO, it is imperative to know their aims and motivations inside out and discuss what would happen in the event that the partnership breaks down – just like what one might do in a marriage. By using this model to partner with local community organisations, The Virdee Foundation has supported hundreds of women and children in need across India in the most effective – and impactful – way.
We also heard from Paul Kidner, General Manager of The People’s Trust, an organisation which aims to tackle unemployment in Greece through entrepreneurship.
The People’s Trust works with a wide variety of partners from business coaching services and NGOs to banks and microfinance companies in order to offer young Greek entrepreneurs the opportunity, finance and resources required to thrive. This multi-faceted approach to partnering means that The People’s Trust is able to support aspiring entrepreneurs with start-up loans, grants, mentoring and coaching. In turn, these new businesses create employment for those in need and contribute to the recovery of the Greek economy. Paul describes this as a “multiplier effect” – when The People’s Trust supports one new business, it is also supporting the families of people employed there and this has a wider social impact on the Greek community and economy.
It was fascinating and inspiring to hear Professor Virdee and Paul’s first-hand account of their challenges, experiences and the difference they have made. It gave me a clear insight into the amazing things that are being achieved on a global scale, and the role in which my myself and my team here at CAF can play in being a perfect partner to support high net worth donors.
CAF operates in nine different countries across six countries, allowing us to harness local knowledge and expertise on the ground level so that we can support tax-effective giving on a global scale. Our donor advised fund, the CAF Charitable Trust, is an ideal giving vehicle for those seeking to create change around the world and our team of experts will support you at every step. We carefully verify any charities operating overseas to ensure that we minimise risks and to ascertain that your donation is going to where its impact will be the greatest. We have access to the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance which uses an online tool to connect global givers all over the world to enable you to learn from others working in this area of philanthropy. CAF has access to ‘giving circles’ where donors with a shared cultural identity can join together to pool their funds and achieve a greater social impact. If you would like to know more about how we can support your international philanthropy to change lives.
Our donor advised fund, the CAF Charitable Trust, is an ideal giving vehicle for those seeking to create change around the world and our team of experts will support you at every step. We carefully verify any charities operating overseas to ensure that we minimise risks and to ascertain that your donation is going to where its impact will be the greatest. We have access to the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance which uses an online tool to connect global givers all over the world to enable you to learn from others working in this area of philanthropy. CAF has access to ‘giving circles’ where donors with a shared cultural identity can join together to pool their funds and achieve a greater social impact. If you would like to know more about how we can support your international philanthropy to change lives.
We have access to the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance which uses an online tool to connect global givers all over the world to enable you to learn from others working in this area of philanthropy. CAF has access to ‘giving circles’ where donors with a shared cultural identity can join together to pool their funds and achieve a greater social impact. If you would like to know more about how we can support your international philanthropy to change lives.
We are delighted to announce a new partnership with the charity Children in Crisis, in which we are funding the construction of a new school in Bibangwa, DR Congo. Located a three hours’ walk from the nearest road, on the High Plateau of eastern DR Congo, Bibangwa’s children are at the extremes of isolation. They’re receiving no help or investment from the government or other organisations. The current wattle and daub school, built by a resourceful community who are desperate for their children to learn, has unfortunately been ruined by the Plateau’s torrential rains. Thanks to the Virdee Foundation’s support, Children in Crisis can now work with Bibangwa’s parents to construct a new, durable, six-classroom school for their children. The Virdee school will be community-owned and community-run. It will be a safe and dry place in which future generations of children can grasp their chance to learn.
Please visit www.childrenincrisis.org/news/pictures-building-virdee-school for further information.
The Virdee Foundation is actively involved in the Organisation and Co-ordination of “Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth: A Project of The Virdee Foundation”. A Fly a Flag Tribute will take place on Commonwealth day, every year, to celebrate this prominent family of Nations through the flying of Hundreds of Commonwealth Flags across the UK and beyond.
Please visit www.flyaflagforthecommonwealth.co.uk for further information.
Last year, through supporting the Caudwell Charity the Foundation was able to fund a trip for terminally ill children to visit Disneyland.
The Foundation hosted a private dinner early in 2013 raising funds exceeding £150,000.
Recently we have supported The Loomba Foundation through fund-raising activities and donations.
We have also played a role in raising funds for Pratham, a children’s education charity that raised over £2.2m in one single event.