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As the 21st century advances, families struggle to find happiness together with so many issues to contend with. One look in society tells us that there is a shortage of happy families with many challenges at home and with youngsters.

The theme of this year’s Parivar Sammelan was ‘Nurturing Happy Families’. As part of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha’s ‘International Family Year’, every member of the family from young to old was encouraged to attend. The Sammelan kicked off with Yogvivek Swami and children performing the Deep Pragatya. Thereafter Yogvivek Swami explained the purpose of the Sammelan and read Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s blessings for the Sammelan.

“From the Swamini Vato and the life of Shastriji Maharaj and Yogiji Maharaj, one can learn how to practise Satsang and perform one’s duties so that one can experience peace continually. Therefore, the more we engage in reading these books and strengthen our Satsang and also contemplate on the way in which the gurus lived their lives, then when we face challenges in our lives, we will also experience happiness and be able to lead a successful life; our children will also become happy through this same inspiration.”

The Sammelan educated families through speeches, presentations, interviews, videos and interactive sessions based upon the Sammelan theme – ‘The family that sits together, plays together, works together and prays together is the family that stays together.’  The Sammelan started with a ‘Family Time – Ghar Sabha’ speech which focused on misconceptions of Ghar Sabha and managing time. The first session ‘Sitting Together’ talked about overcoming communication barriers among family members. For the two sessions ‘Working Together’ and ‘Praying Together’, each mandal had their own sessions to present according to their age group. For two sessions, the families sat together. One of the sessions ‘Playing Together’ was a challenging team building project.

The project involved the family making a bridge from newspapers and sellotape, with prizes awarded for the best three. The other was a ‘Family Workshop’ where the family together performed arti and ashtak and also spent some time in discussion to develop a family action plan.

The Sammelan ended with the last session ‘Staying Together’ with a concluding speech by Yogvivek Swami. The families left with a strong commitment to do Ghar Sabha (Family Evening Time) initially twice a week.

For several months, sadhus and volunteers had planned the Sammelan in detail. The event lasted from 10.00am to 7.00pm with refreshments and meals provided. The Sammelan was held in four venues with a total of 428 families (1694 people) attending:
           
            a) Leicester – Saturday 7 March 2009 (126 families)
            b) Ashton – Sunday 8 March 2009 (84 families)
            c) London – Saturday 21 March 2009 (96 families)
            d) London – Sunday 22 March 2009 (122 families)

The event was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Some of the comments by the participants were:

“Need every six months boost up! Superb!” – Bhaskarbhai Patel (Leicester)

“Fantastic opportunity and one that can bring benefit to the family as a whole.” – Mike Foster (Leicester)

“Well done! A well planned seminar reflecting the real need of families.” – Nirali Mehta (London)

“Excellent, had fun!” – Kevalben (Birmingham)

“Chance to learn how to bring the family closer together.” – John Birkenhead (Preston)

“We should have these sammelans more than once a year.” – Karishma Desai (London)

“Excellent start, good humour, valuable insights and teachings.” – Peter Hill (Ashton-U-Lyne)

“Brilliant, will come again next year.” – Jasmin Patel (London)

“This seminar gave us more ideas on how to make our ghar sabha more interesting and also how to include children more in religious activities.”

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