It is that time of year again! Where SSNM gathers the youths of the Indo-Caribbean community for a fun-filled week learning about Sanatan Dharma. Beginning with orientation on Sunday, the Camp Director, Pt. Dr. Anand Hardowar, explains the rules and regulations. The mothers enforce the dress code, and the assistant camp directors review the daily schedule and break down of the days’ activities. Each day camp begins at 8 am and ends at 6 pm. Every morning the campers line up and offer Dhar, chant prayers, sing Dhoons, and perform brief Surya Namaskar to Surya Bhagwan. After assembling into columns, attendance is taken and campers have the opportunity to perform Sandhya each morning. Following Aarti, campers ate breakfast and interacted with fellow campers. Each day, a senior camper does a presentation based on the theme of camp. This year was a double theme of the Glories of Surya Bhagwan, along with learning the Background of Shrimad Bhagwat Maha Puran. These representations are designed to be a fun and interactive learning experience. Yoga is performed daily before campers have an hour break for lunch and games.
Another goal of SSNM’s Youth Camp is to demonstrate that there are other Hindus that have been raised in the United States, went through the school system, received higher education and are currently professionals within our community. For example, we started this year’s camp with the NYPD officers, who shut down the street and brought us a rock climbing wall! They spoke to us about the importance of safety and being aware of our surroundings. The FDNY came to speak to us about fire safety and brought their fire truck! We had an electro-physiologist cardiologist, Dr. Sanjay Ramkissoon, who he himself had attended camp for about 10 years and now he has his own two campers in this year’s camp. He taught us the signs of a stroke and how to act quickly. We also had two attorneys as guest speakers, in addition to a psychologist who taught the campers the significance of mental health.
After hearing from the guest speakers, campers are encouraged to ask questions and have discussions with the professional. The campers have a quick snack and then they are broken up into their respective workshops of Dance, Drama, Music, Debate, Yoga, Seva, & Arts and Crafts for the younger campers. As the day is winding down, campers reassemble for a Family Feud-like game, called Surya Spardha. Campers compete against other columns to be the best row at the end of camp! The veil is brought down each evening with closing prayers. As the week progressed, the eagerness of campers grew and the friendships become stronger. Each camper was filled with excitement to begin each camp day with the desire to have fun and engage in the teachings of Sanatan Dharma. 25 years later, the feeling of SSNM’s annual youth camp never fails to bring out the joy and unity from the youths of our Hindu community.\
Written by Hema Devi Hansraj