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The BAPS Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in Cherry Hill, NJ hosted the Northeast Region Bal-Balika Summer Shibir. Balaks and balikas from all over the Northeast attended the shibir, which was held in the presence of Pujya santos. The theme of the shibir was “Swami Bapa na Bal Mandal ma.” Its goal was to help balaks and balikas understand the importance of bal mandal and to show them the basics of what it takes to become ãdarsh in bal mandal.

The shibir consisted of eight workshops that combined both presentations and activities in order to help balaks and balikas better understand the theme. “Love for Balaks” showed how much P.P. Pramukh Swami Maharaj cares for balaks and what he has done and sacrificed for them. “Satsang Benefits” explained how balaks and balikas have benefited in their spiritual and moral lives through bal mandal. In “Personal Benefits”, balaks and balikas learned how bal mandal has taught them many other valuable skills, such as communication and leadership skills, and music. “Seva” taught the importance of seva and the types of seva balaks and balikas can do in the mandir. “Mandir Discipline” explained proper discipline in the mandir. “Concentration and Discipline” showed the importance of concentration in all of a balak’s activities at school, home, and mandir. “Putting into Practice” taught, what balaks and balikas gain in bal mandal is essential to life, and so everyone should put into practice what they learn. Finally, “Karyakar for an Hour” simulated what it’s like to be a bal or balika karyakar by having attendees role play being a karyakar for one hour, during which participants brainstormed ideas for next year’s Regional Bal Din with Swãmishri.

Each night shibir attendees were treated to an exciting evening program. The first night balaks played a modified version of musical chairs in which the losers of each round had to endure entertaining consequences. The second night attendees got to see their fellow balaks and karyakars participate in an eating contest. The highlight was during the jalapeño pepper eating contest. Saturday, August 9 was carnival and sports day. Balaks and balikas played various indoor and outdoor games such as water slide, races, gladiator joust, and dodge ball. Through samuh puja on Sunday, August 10, balaks and balikas gained knowledge of the proper way to do daily puja. At the shibir’s conclusion, all balaks and balikas received a large poster commemorating next year’s 50th anniversary of the founding of the BAPS Bal Mandal, taking home with them memories of the shibir as well as lessons to put into their lives.

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