To make the most of the summer break this year, the UK Bal-Balika Mandal organised a fun and educational summer camp for over forty selected children. The National Bal-Balika Summer Training Camp 2009 began on Friday 24 July 2009 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, and ran for ten days; seven days at the Mandir and the remaining three days at Belchamps Scout Activity Centre in Hawkwell for the balikas and at Downe Activity Centre in Orpington for the balaks.
Throughout the seven days at the Mandir, the children enjoyed morning discourses focusing on various values from the life of Pramukh Swami Maharaj that are particularly relevant to them in their lives at this stage.
A number of other morning sessions helped them advance their knowledge of Hinduism and the Swaminarayan tradition. Yogvivek Swami, for example, provided an enlightening presentation on the Akshar-Purushottam Upasana.
Many of the sessions also relied on audience participation. Lively debates and panel discussions on topical subjects were organised where experienced panellists expressed different viewpoints to carefully challenge and enhance the understanding of the children.
Manoharmurti Swami conducted very useful classes on communication skills and public speaking. This boosted the children’s confidence and ability to speak in front of others. These skills were also applied practically when they were given opportunities to guide visitors around the Mandir complex.
Daily group projects required teams to prepare presentations on selected topics. Balaks and balikas researched the topics, applied their creativity, and used teamwork and a variety of presenting skills to fulfil the specifications.
The children also participated in other interesting group activities which tested their intelligence, dexterity and creativity, such as building parachutes with basic materials found around the home. The treasure hunt around the Mandir complex was especially fun and memorable, and also mixed fun with Satsang knowledge.
One evening session was dedicated to education. Paramtattva Swami emphasised the value of a solid, broad foundation in one’s education and the need to excel at a higher level. He also provided further guidance in an insightful Q&A session. Thereafter, the karyakars met the balaks and balikas individually, offering personalised advice for their further studies and future aspirations.
The children were also fortunate to have a session with Pujya Doctor Swami who had just arrived from India. He spoke to them of serving others and becoming an ideal citizen.
The attendees also practised daily Hindu rituals and enjoyed participating in various types of supervised seva. And of course, there were plenty of sports and games; basketball, volleyball, badminton, table tennis, dodge ball, and even carom all provided useful exercise and recreation.
The final part of the Summer Camp for the balikas was a three-day camping trip at Belchamps Scout Activity Centre in Hawkwell, Essex. Here they enjoyed tackling an assault course, climbing the Jacob’s Ladder, and other challenging activities. The balaks similarly enjoyed three days at Downe Activity Centre where they too engaged in many challenging activities, including rock climbing, crate stacking, and braving an aerial runway.
The ten-day Summer Training Camp provided a fun and valuable way for the children to use their summer holidays productively, learning key skills, enhancing important values, and gaining inspiration and guidance for their studies.