Meet Shyam Singh – Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust’s Sikh Chaplain, who is keen to help all staff, patients and visitors.
Shyam (pronounced Sham) started at Walsall Manor Hospital in October and is available to be contacted for five hours each Thursday.
“I want to provide patients, staff and visitors with pastoral support and especially to share my knowledge,” said Shyam, 50. “Walsall is a very good place – I feel very welcome and very settled here.
“I am happy to meet and visit anyone, listen to their thoughts, concerns, fears and worries and try to make them happy or to try to pull them out of a difficult situation. I will encourage them to harness their strong beliefs in whoever they believe in.”
Shyam, a father of daughters aged 18 and 21 who are both studying at university and a 13-year-old son, is a devoted Sikh, who in accordance with the values of his religion, gives away 10 per cent of his earnings to those less fortunate than himself.
“Everything is a gift from God – nothing is your own and everything is to be shared,” he said.
Having started his religious work as a volunteer, Shyam has been in full-time chaplaincy work since 2009 – but is convinced his destiny was determined by his ancestry.
His uncle, Saint Ran Jodh, was acknowledged as a Sikh saint in their home town of Kalka, a small town in the Panchkula district of Haryana in the foothills of the Himalayas in the northern most tip of India.
The name of the town is derived from the Hindu goddess Kali and Saint Ran Jodh was well known for his ability to read ancient scripture, a talent his young nephew also inherited.
Shyam’s whole family were religious, so it was little surprise that at the age of 12, he volunteered to help his uncle.
“I found I could read holy scripture which isn’t easy to do because it’s all hand written together in old language, so not many people can do it, but it is very highly regarded in the Sikh religion,” explained Shyam.
After completing the Indian equivalent of A levels in Hindi – the language spoken mostly in northern India – Shyam moved to Delhi where he studied to become a reverend, spending 12 years there.
With his reputation for reading scripture established, Shyam accepted the offer of a sponsored trip to go to Birmingham to continue reading scripture in the late 1990s, before gaining a work permit to spread his gospel at Penn Fields Gurdwara in Wolverhampton as head priest.
A further posting in the same role, this time in the Gurdwara in Wolverhampton city centre, followed and Shyam spent the next 12 years there as his chaplaincy commitments increased.
Having spent the majority of the last two decades in the West Midlands, Shyam is a well-known figure in the Gurdwaras of Walsall and Wolverhampton.
As well as his time at the Manor, Shyam spends three hours each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in the Chaplaincy at Walsall’s collaborative partner The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust based at New Cross Hospital and three and a half hours each Friday at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.