For Benti Kaur, volunteering and making a positive impact in her community is about sevā. The concept, which means “selfless service,” is rooted in Kaur’s Sikh faith.
“I’m excited to build a new family at USC and study with like-minded people who want to come together and help create,” said Kaur, who will join USC Annenberg this Fall as a public relations major.
For the past five years, the Moorpark, Calif., native has taught Sikh history, theology and the Punjabi alphabet to children at her temple. She is looking forward to getting involved with USC’s cultural clubs, like the Sikh Student Association, and promoting awareness on campus.
“Sharing my culture and faith is really important to me because I think Sikhism is not a super well-known religion,” Kaur explained. “I am monotheistic, and I believe in equality for all people regardless of gender, race, class — any of that. I'm really interested in sharing what I know and learning more from other Sikh students at USC.”
Can you tell us a little about your nonprofit and why you started it?
I created my own nonprofit called Khalsa Kits because one thing that I noticed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was the rise of unhoused people on Skid Row. I researched by calling local homeless shelters and found out the most important things that they needed so I could create hygiene kits. My hope is that people would be able to clean up, join back into the workforce, and possibly give them more opportunities. I created over a thousand kits and we partnered with another organization called Good Karma LA, which distributes hot meals once a week, which was really amazing.
Creating a nonprofit is daunting but watching how things come to fruition really motivates me. Seeing pictures of my kits being distributed at Skid Row, and literally serving 900 families a week at the food pantry was also incredibly gratifying. Knowing that I played even just a small minuscule part in it is what really drives me to keep going. My goal is to do two more projects. There's a teen homeless shelter here in Southern California and they are trying to make backpack kits this summer. Hopefully, I can make about a hundred of them. The second goal is to make a kit for women's hygiene filled with things like pads and tampons because I learned that it was something that was missing in my last Khalsa Kits. Hopefully being at USC, I'll actually be able to gather more volunteers and really form a community that will be willing to help create these kits with me and distribute them as well.
Why do you want to study public relations at USC Annenberg?
About a year or so ago, I started doing a lot of the PR work as a volunteer at a food pantry in Southern California. While creating content for their Instagram and Twitter accounts, I became very interested in understanding how social media plays a bigger part in PR. Now that I have my own nonprofit, I am even more fascinated with how social media and public relations can make a direct impact. I am hoping to take classes that go more into the analytical side so I can learn the details and ways that social media can truly improve a brand.
When you aren’t volunteering or working in the community, what do you like to do for fun?
I definitely love hanging out with my family. I have a lot of cousins and we spend a lot of time together. In July, I am going to Mexico because one of them is getting married. Otherwise, my family is huge on movies. We spend almost every single weekend at our local theatre. I also have a self-diagnosed online shopping addiction but I recently got into thrift shopping, too. I think I'm just a goofy person and I love being with friends and making new ones.