The Bakersfield Sikh Women’s Association has launched a new community resource phone line aimed at helping Punjabi people in need.
The resource line went live Wednesday night and consists of a confidential voicemail system that is available in both English and Punjabi. Calls are returned by volunteers with the association and will help callers dealing with issues such as domestic violence and drug abuse connect with local agencies and resources that can help them.
The phone line was created in partnership with several local organizations, including the Bakersfield Police Department, Kern County Behavioral Health and Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault.
Raji Brar, co-founder of the association, said she felt the need to start a hotline intended for Punjabi residents after the Sikh community was rocked by two homicides this year: one involving an infant and the other a 37-year-old woman. See those stories in our related posts feature.
“We’ve had a really tragic year,” Brar said. “This year has been a big wake-up call to our community that we need to address topics that are considered taboo that we are just not talking about.”
Brar said maintaining privacy is a major part of the Sikh culture and that, because of this, many people in the community don’t feel comfortable about issues such as domestic violence or abuse.
While she said there are other hotlines available to connect residents to local resources, she’s hoping this one will encourage members of the Sikh community to use because they will be able to speak to volunteers who speak their language, which isn’t often the case with other phone lines.
“I think it would increase their comfort level and reduce the cultural and language barriers that often come with other resource lines,” she said. “We don’t want any more tragedies occurring and people suffering in silence. We need to do something to help take the stigma out of talking about these issues. Sometimes it can just be a simple piece of advice that makes a difference in a person’s life.”
The new resource line is available at 1-888-712-4143.