The UK Bal-Balika Mandal’s multi-event Kidz Ultimate Challenge (KUC), launched in January 2012, culminated on the last weekend of September with the final Memory Challenge (purna mukhpath) and Skills Challenge (talent contest). Both events took place at the BAPS Swaminarayan mandirs in London and Leicester on 29 and 30 September, respectively.
More than 800 children aged 3 to 14, divided into four age groups, participated in a variety of competitions over the weekend.
The event began with a vibrant opening ceremony including a procession of children playing the dhol and waving flags. Younger children on tricycles also joined in the festivities with their own welcoming procession. This climaxed with the video blessings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
The Memory Challenge, more than just a test of recollection, was an opportunity for the children to learn and recite passages from Hindu texts, while also learning the traditional styles of reading and intonation.
Many children had learned far beyond the basic entry requirements. One 13-year-old boy in London was able to recite any of 273 Vachanamruts in the correct style, read any of the 164 chapters from the Bhaktachintamani, and also sing several devotional songs, verses and sections from a number of religious texts. Even the youngest category of participants (3- to 5-year-olds) performed exceptionally well.
The Skills Challenge provided an opportunity for the children to develop their talents in a variety of disciplines, including storytelling, speechmaking, essay writing, mono-acting, art, dance, singing, and instrument playing. Again, the outstanding talent displayed by the children far exceeded expectations.
Indeed, seeing the conviction and clarity of some of the presentations, the overriding consensus among the judges, volunteers and parents was that the KUC had been extremely productive in helping the children develop key qualities, skills and the confidence to go on to excel in their studies and beyond.
One of the many volunteers who had worked hard to train and mentor the children over the nine months shared, “It’s always very rewarding working with children but the KUC has really brought home to us just how much ability and enthusiasm our children have. It is up to us and the parents to tap into this potential and give them the best possible start in life.”
An enthused mother also remarked: “I would say that the KUC has been a blessing for us parents too. We have learnt so much ourselves and, most importantly, it has brought us closer to our children through all those evenings of reading and practicing together. We hope to continue this in our own way.”
In all, the Kidz Ultimate Challenge has helped more than 1,000 children across the UK and parts of Europe work towards Swamishri’s vision to ‘Be the Best’.