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“Learning never exhausts the mind” said Leonardo da Vinci. This feeling was evident in the enthusiasm of over a thousand children that attended the Beginners’ Challenge – the first of many competitions in the UK Bal-Balika Mandal’s national Kidz Ultimate Challenge (KUC).

The KUC Beginners’ Challenge was carried out locally at over 25 centres around the UK and Europe between Saturday 21 April and Sunday 29 April 2012. From Edinburgh in the north to Havant in the south of the UK, and from Ireland through to Switzerland, all the centres welcomed the KUC participants for their testing. After several weeks of studying and revising, all the children were eager to take part in the Challenge and thereby become eligible to qualify for the latter stages of the KUC.

The Beginners’ Challenge involved the children learning and memorising various Satsang basics, such as dhun, prarthana, shlokas, arti, and extracts from the Vachanamrut and Swamini Vato. Children aged 3 to 14 were split into four age groups. Each group was required to learn varying amounts from the specially designed Beginners’ Challenge booklet. To gain the top level award, the children had to achieve more than 80% in their test. Many judges volunteered their time to come and orally assess the children.

The results were staggering! Over 50% of the children taking part achieved a Gold award and 15% of the Gold award-winners got a full 100%. It was pleasantly surprising to see young shishus (children aged 3 to 8) confidently reciting elaborate passages from the Swamini Vato and the older children eloquently singing Sanskrit verses. Many children had learned even more than the required amount.

Many of the centres performed exceptionally well. 17 out the 20 children participating from Loughborough achieved the Gold Award while only 2 children missed out on the Gold Award in Coventry and Reading. Over 350 children were tested by over 40 judges within 2 hours during the testing in London.

But the Beginners’ Challenge was not only about getting the highest marks. All the centres also participated in local samuh pujas. Many children learned how to do daily puja for the first time and the majority of the children were able to learn something new to make an improvement to their existing puja.

It is heart-warming to see the spiritual power and positive change that the Beginners’ Challenge has developed in the lives of children and their families. It is with this feeling that we all pray for the children to continue learning throughout the different challenges that the KUC will bring and fulfil Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s vision to ‘Be the Best’.

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