Washington : Guru Gobind Singh Foundation honored the Sikh Human Development Foundation and gave Sewa Award 2009 to SHDF “for Its Outstanding work in Outreach, Helping the needy Students in India & Empowering them to fulfill their dreams”. Dedicated to poverty alleviation, human development and gender equity, SHDF is perhaps the only Sikh organization in USA which grants scholarships to needy students for higher education in Punjab . Founded in 1999, SHDF has been assisting students in Punjab and other Northern states in India and has given scholarships in medicine, engineering, agriculture, nursing, information technology, business administration, and architecture. Starting with 24 scholarships in 2000-01, SHDF has continuously improved upon its previous year’s record. By now it has awarded a total of 1100 scholarships of which many recipients have already graduated and found jobs to lift their own households from dire poverty. Amar Jit Singh Sodhi, Chairman, Sikh Human Development Foundation accompanied by Gajinder Singh Ahuja (Secretary General), Surinder Singh (Treasurer) received the Plaque from the President and other office bearers of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation. According to Dr. Rajwant Singh, Executive Director of GGSF, “This Sewa award is given annually by GGSF to an individual or an organization which shows an exemplary work for the betterment of the Sikh community and society in general. This year’s choice is an excellent one and we hope that many others will come forward to hold the hands of our youth in Punjab by supporting initiatives like SHDF.” Mr. Sodhi thanked the GGSF for this honor. He said that the GGSF had honored not any specific individual or individuals of the SHDF; in fact it has honored the vision and mission of the SHDF, which is to lift young people out of the vicious circle of poverty through education. This is the only way to help our youth from low income families reach their full potential and be in the center stage of rising India , instead of their just following in the shadows. This is the only way to stem the drift of youth towards drugs and crime. Poverty is a curse, which in turn breeds inter-generational poverty and poses serious threat to peace and progress in every society. Mr. Sodhi applauded the work of the Guru Gobind Sigh Foundation, which in the past 20 plus years has provided strong cultural and spiritual support to the Sikh and the Indian communities in the District, Maryland and Virginia through its multi-faceted programs. In particular, he appreciated the leading role of GGSF in promoting interfaith dialogues on behalf of Sikhs. Amrit Kaur, Secretary of Guru Gobind Singh Foundation said, “The best way to empower any community is to educate its youth and enable them to realize their dreams. SHDF is only organization in USA which has taken this task of great magnitude and is helping hundreds of financially disadvantaged Sikh youth back home in India to achieve their goal in life. We salute this organization for its worthy cause and their tireless efforts in making possible for bright kids who are bereft of financial means to realize their full potential.” Sarbjit Singh Sidhu, Chairman of GGSF, said, “This year’s recipient has truly implemented the Sikh concept of Sewa and we feel proud to honor SHDF. This organization is building strong roots for future generations and we feel strongly that education should be our community’s top priority.” Another Sewa award was posthumously given to Dr. Surjit Kaur who has written several books and most importantly worked hard to uplift status of South Asian women while working for Fairfax County ’s Multi cultural center. She also served as secretary and chairperson of GGSF in the past. An internal sewa award was given to S. Harbhajan Singh, a member of the congregation for his selfless service, dedication and commitment. Last year this award was given to Delhi based Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council for social welfare work and Dr. Balwant Singh of Pennsylvania for his service in starting Sikh youth camps in America . Former Akal Takhat Jathedar, Prof. Darshan Singh was given this honor in 2007. In 2006, GGSF honored Smithsonian Institution and Sikh Heritage Foundation for the Sikh exhibit in Washington, DC and Bibi Inderjit Kaur of Sikh Dharma International, wife of Late Harbhajan Singh Yogi. In 2004, GGSF honored Baba Sewa Singh of Khadur Sahib for his environmental initiatives to bring greenery in Punjab . He has been planting trees in Punjab and in central India . In 2003, this award was given to Manjit Singh of Ottawa , Canada , who has lobbied tirelessly the Canadian government and political establishment to ease many restrictions on Sikhs so that they can enjoy religious freedom while earning their livelihood in Canada . Darshan Singh Dhaliwal was honored in 2005 for his assistance in tsunami disaster. In 2002, GGSF had honored Sikh Media and Research Task Force (SMART and now SALDEF) and Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE), both based in Washington, for their work in the post 9/11 era in America to deter attacks on Sikhs and lobbying the U. S. government for assistance to Sikhs. In addition, it honored Giani Harbans Singh of Patiala for doing a monumental work on the translation and the grammar of Guru Granth Sahib, a valuable contribution for the propagation of Sikhism. In 2001, GGSF honored Raghbir Singh Bains for creating the CD ROM version of the encyclopedia of Sikhism and his work in the field of education for Sikh youth. In the past, GGSF has also honored Dr. I. J. Singh of New York and Martin Palmer of United Kingdom . GGSF, founded in 1985, is an active Sikh organization in America and has provided the representation to the Sikh community in various platforms in myriad ways. It has consistently worked to create awareness among Americans at large regarding Sikhs and Sikhism. It has been invited to the White House and other governmental agencies, regarding the issues concerning the Sikhs in America. It has represented Sikhs in the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan area since 1987.