The UK Bal-Balika Mandal organised a fun and educational Summer Training Camp at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London from 26 July to 4 August 2013.
Throughout the ten days, 67 children enjoyed interactive, informative and inspiring sessions presented by sadhus and senior volunteers using a variety of methods, including videos, presentations, interviews, debates, and open question-answer forums. Daily spiritual practices were strengthened through collective prayers and rituals, such as arti, thal and abhishek.
The morning sessions helped children ‘discover’ the qualities and lives ofthe gurus, while also advancing their knowledge and usage of Gujarati and their understanding of the history and foundations of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.
Senior volunteers provided a series of sessions on different value-based principles (sanskars) that helped inform the attendees to ‘follow’ the right path and make the right decisions in life. Topics included ‘Recognising and Making Friends’, ‘You are What You Eat’, ‘Watch What You Say’, and ‘Anger Management’. Sessions on ‘Contemporary Issues’ incorporated interactive presentations to help the children tackle modern day challenges, including learning how to use the internet, social media and technology productively. Understanding how to tread the correct path themselves was the first step in being able to ‘lead’ others.
The outing to Thorpe Park enabled the children to further strengthen relationships with their peers. Participation in challenging group activities – such as building parachutes and towers with basic materials found around the home – tested intelligence, dexterity and creativity. The treasure hunt in and around the Mandir complex was particularly fun and memorable, as it creatively tested Satsang knowledge.
Lively debates and panel discussions on topical subjects were organised where experienced panellists offered varying viewpoints to carefully educate and enhance the understanding of the children.
Ghanshyamcharan Swami (Head Sadhu of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Surat, India) was present and urged the participants to please Pramukh Swami Maharaj by studying hard and serving their parents. Yoganand Swami, also visiting from India, presented several sessions, one of which was held in the serene setting of the gardens where he spoke about the divine attributes of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and what one should do to return his selfless compassion and service.
The children offered their devotion to the murti of Harikrishna Maharaj through the evening arti, thal and bhajans. A course on flower arrangement helped the girls to prepare garlands that were offered to the murtis. They also offered their devotion through a traditional dance programme.
Education and career development was also on offer. Senior volunteers emphasised the value of a solid, broad foundation in one’s education and the need to excel at a higher level. Previous attendees of these campsheld interactive workshops where the children were able to gain valuable insight into future career fields of their interest.
On the penultimate day, the children enjoyed a treasure hunt in the City of London. They were given several tasks to complete within a certain time limit. This challenge assisted the children with their planning, leadership and teamwork skills.
The ten-day Summer Training Camp provided a fun and valuable way for the children to utilise their summer holidays productively, learning key skills, embracing important spiritual practices and moral values, and gaining motivation and guidance for their studies.
Below are a few of the experiences of the camp attendees:
“It has been a unique experience for me. I made new friends, developed some new skills, learnt so much about our rich heritage and gained a lot of guidance from many experienced people. The education session and contemporary issues really helped me as they gave me clear guidance for my future.”
“I’m glad I got the chance to attend this summer camp. I’ve broken out of my shell and am now much clearer about things I should and shouldn’t do in life. I’ve realised that making the right choices, decisions and friends will play a huge role in my life. I will definitely share what I have learnt here with my friends back home.”
“The overall content of the camp was well planned as it covered almost every aspect of my life from Satsang, school and socialising to habits, heritage and character-building. I really enjoyed the treasure hunt in the City. For the last 10 days the Mandir has been my home, and I feel it will be an even more important home to me for the rest of my life.”
“The question-answer sessions were very useful. The presenters understood what we are going through and guided us with practical tips and real-life scenarios. I would like to thank everyone for the inspiring sessions and the caring volunteers who sacrificed their time to look after us. It has made all the difference in my life.”