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The UK Bal-Balika Mandal celebrated the start of the Kidz Ultimate Challenge – a year-long, multifaceted child development programme – with a grand inauguration event at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Sunday 21 February 2016.

The ‘Kidz Ultimate Challenge’ (KUC) is a composite set of child development initiatives that will pan out over the year of 2016 at BAPS centres throughout the UK and in Europe. Through a multitude of exercises and competitions, each tailored to participants of various age groups, it aims to fulfil and advance the potential of every young boy and girl. Key outcomes of the programme include awareness and appreciation of cultural heritage as well as developing individual abilities in oration, music, art and sports. Children will also be equipped with essential life-skills such as responsibility, teamwork and self-belief.

For the launch, more than 2,000 parents and children were greeted upon arrival at the Mandir by colourful themed flags and their favourite animation characters. The participants were presented with their information packs and a collection of souvenirs before embarking upon various fun activities designed also to challenge their capacities in multiple intelligences.

A captivating programme followed thereafter which began with an innovative video about a journey of toys coming together through a chain reaction, culminating with a special bunch of balloons that were earlier released by Pramukh Swami Maharaj as part of a special launch in Sarangpur, India. The balloons then ‘flew’ across from India to London and were brought into the assembly hall with Thakorji by two eager children and an entourage.

The children were then enlightened on the immense ability and power of the human mind and body through innovative displays and interactive examples.

An ‘Oscar’s style’ presentation, highlighting success stories of the previous Challenge held in 2012, demonstrated the benefits to be reaped from such a programme. Previous stars also shared practical guidance and inspirational pointers for this year’s participants.

Swamishri had sent his written blessings for the KUC in which he expressed his wishes for every participant to strive to ‘Be the Best’. A video of him sanctifying the KUC pack was subsequently shown.

Satyavrat Swami explained the importance of pleasing Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Swamishri through the KUC and how to understand the essence of ‘Rajipo’ – the underlying theme of the initiative. He also strongly encouraged parents to become role models for their children.

Kirit Wadia, National Coordinator for the Bal-Balika Mandal, introduced the audience to the young volunteers overseeing all aspects of the project. Manoharmurti Swami conducted an interactive and energetic presentation providing essential background as well as inspirational insights.

Yogesh Patel, 11, from Manchester, then elegantly led the audience of children through a pledge to try their best in the KUC. The programme concluded with a spectacular sequence of a kirtan, lead by young Akash Limbachia, a finale dance, video and colourful confetti filling the air. The vibrant decorations and audio-visual effects contributed to a memorable and inspiring finale.

Parents and children from as far as Manchester, Liverpool, Leicester and Birmingham had eagerly arrived to attend the event. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the programme and were inspired to proceed forward in their journey to ultimately attain the ‘Rajipo’ of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

One parent from South East London shared, “It was truly inspirational. I really appreciate all that the volunteers do here to prepare our children for the challenges that lie ahead,” while a young participant from Leicester enthused, “I can’t wait for the challenges to start! I have opened my pack and already started learning items for the first exercise!”

Hemchandra Dodhia, one of the lead volunteers overseeing the year-long programme, added: “Today we saw a very energetic performance but this is really just the beginning. We have a wonderfully talented and knowledgeable team of volunteers throughout the country dedicated to the welfare and holistic development of the children in all our centres. We want to ensure we reach out to every child and see that we can provide them with lasting, long-term benefits to help create and sustain a brighter future for themselves, their families, the community, and our country. We’re all really excited about the year ahead now!”

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