I quietly sat on the side of the room as I watched the BPSHI at UCLA members animatedly talk amongst themselves while the president, Hanita Dhillon, began setting up the room. The male members, who were originally standing in the back of the room talking amongst themselves, quickly jumped into action when they saw Hanita rearranging the tables. Once the members saw that the room was set, they slowly took their seats and Hanita began the meeting. Sitting in on this meeting allowed me not only to learn about BPSHI, but to see firsthand the passion and dedication these students have to serving others.
BPSHI aims to serve any and all underserved and underrepresented communities in the state of California through local volunteerism, basic health screenings, bone marrow drives, and local campus events. The clinic visits where BPSHI members perform simple health check ups are unanimously the favorite part of the BPSHI by its members. Before being able to attend these clinics, members were required to attend training sessions so they understood how to use the tools correctly and the significance of each test. The UCLA students appreciate the hands-on-experience of working with patients and allow them to give back to their community in a way that is very important – promoting health and wellness and taking care of yourself.
Harmeet Mann, a second year UCLA student, recalled an interaction she had at a clinic visit at a local gurdwara with an elderly woman mentioned that she had not visited a doctor in over 20 years and that she was proud of it. This woman’s testimony made Harmeet realize that oftentimes the Sikh community does not realize how important it is to go to the doctor regularly and make sure they are maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This sentiment was felt by many other members who grew up spending a lot of time at the gurdwara and saw firsthand how this way of life mixed with the language and cultural barriers of being in the United States have left many members of the Sikh community unaware of their resources and lacking the information to understand the basic changes they can make to live a healthier life.
While many of UCLA’s BPSHI members are pre-med or are majoring in some science field, that has not been the sole purpose of their involvement with BPSHI. Many members said that their Sikh values are a major influence on their involvement with BPSHI, stating that Sikhism is about serving the community and being a member of BPSHI has helped them realize what they can do for their community. As young members of the Sikh community, these UCLA students have learned the power their actions have on their communities and how they can initiative positive change within their own communities. Jasneet believes that once the youth take the first step in becoming more health conscious, other members of the Sikh community will follow and will have a more direct role in their own health. The cultural norms and ingrained beliefs that have played a significant role in shaping the lifestyle habits of the Sikh community can be challenging to overcome, but these UCLA students as well as the entire BPSHI organization hopes to educate all underserved communities and help them reach a better lifestyle.
The UCLA BPSHI members have one goal: to provide underrepresented communities with the resources to make better lifestyle choices and to take care of themselves. They do so through the selfless acts that is a significant part of their Sikh identity. These students don’t just want to give back to their community but are trying to better it by leading by example and bringing the resources to their communities. These students are trying to make their world a better place.