For Surinder Sharma, the Victoria Hindu Temple is more than just a place of worship — it’s a place to build connection and community.
“We always try to give back because a lot of newcomers come nowadays, a lot of new people are coming, university students and this is a good meeting place for that,” the Victoria Hindu Temple president says.
“My dad has taught me the importance of community, the importance of connecting people, the importance of helping,” adds Surinder’s son, Rishi Sharma.
Surinder’s been the president of the temple — the only one on Southern Vancouver Island — for the last 15 years.
“We normally have presidents come in for one year or maybe maximum two years because it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of time it takes, but since I came, I guess no one wants to replace me,” Surinder laughs.
Surinder may downplay his role, but his hard work and dedication have helped build the temple into what it is today,
“He’s made great contributions and I know he’s very humble,” says acting temple priest Sudhakar Ganti. “Nothing is going to happen magically and if you need that magic to happen, you need some connecting power and that’s what Surinder is all about.”
“It’s all about love and his contributions have created that love in our community and in the mainstream community and so I’m very very proud of that,” Rishi adds.
Surinder received an award last month from Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes and Canadian defence minister Anita Anand, recognizing his efforts.
“We used to be a very small number before, in people’s basements and halls, and now this temple is not big enough for us so we feel very proud of that,” Surinder says.
They’re currently fundraising for a new temple and trying to find land to build it on — no easy task. But those who know him best, say Surinder has a way of making things happen.
“My father’s legacy will probably be the longest president of the Hindu temple and building a new temple for the community,” Rishi says. “Those from the past and those in the future will know he’s had a very integral part in building this space of love, of empathy, of contentedness.”
For Surinder, who came to Canada for a better life five decades ago, it’s all about giving back.
“When we were growing up in childhood, I was raised in India and I came her when I was 21 years old, and it’s our belief that we do the good things and good things happen to you,” he says.
The Victoria Hindu Temple is having an open house on Saturday, July 2 and everyone is welcome.
The free event will include food, dance performances and much more.
It runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1934 Cultra Ave. in Central Saanich.