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Edmonton's Sikh Sangat Community marks milestone at Maz

December 17, 2019

Colouring book

Atinder Sran, a volunteer with the Edmonton Sikh Sangat Community celebrates the 550th birth anniversary of the Guru Nanak Dev by sharing gifts and snacks with nurses at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute. Guru Nanak Dev was the founder of the Sikh faith and the inspiration and namesake of the institute’s healing garden.

Guru Nanak Dev, namesake behind popular healing garden, born 550 years ago

Story & photo by Vanessa Gomez

EDMONTON — The healing garden at Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute is every bit as inspiring as its historic namesake.

Nov. 12 marked the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the Sikh faith and the inspiration behind the garden’s name.

To celebrate this milestone, members of Edmonton’s Sikh Sangat Community visited the Guru Nanak Dev Healing Garden and handed out snacks and coffee to all staff to show their appreciation for the hospital and all the work they do for their patients.

“A hospital embodies the idea of Seva which is really important to us,” says Daman Kaur Grewal, a volunteer with the Edmonton Sikh Sangat Community. “It’s selfless help for everyone — putting yourself aside and giving back to the community.”

As well as coffee and snacks for the units, patients also gifted with bamboo plants — a symbol of resiliency and representative of Guru Nanak Dev’s farming background.

The garden is full of symbols representing the teachings of Sikhism: woods (which embody growth), water (life), earth (sustainability), metal (strength) and fire (energy). These five elements of life, dedicated to Guru Nanak Dev, help patients and their families on their journey of healing.

The garden was barely a vision in 2003, with members of the Sikh community hoping to name it after Guru Nanak. Their original goal was to raise $1 million, as a volunteer committee went across the city and abroad to raise money. The initiative grew with telethons, radiothons, galas and even a play based on the life of Guru Nanak Dev. The fundraisers exceeded their goal and raised $2.3 million over five years, from more than 2,000 donors. The campaign proved to be one of the most successful for a faith-based initiative.

“The idea was to provide a space for patients to relax, socialize and reflect,” says Khushwant Singh, a volunteer with the Edmonton Sikh Sangat Community. “It’s nice for them to get away from any stress they may have and heal in a tranquil place with friends and family.”

“It’s great for patients to have a serene space that isn’t a hospital,” adds Lauren Pshyk, a Registered Nurse at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute.

“It was so nice to have the Edmonton Sikh Sangat Community come by to visit our units and share snacks and gifts. We appreciate this kind gesture — it made our day.”