Usually, in the Western world – Christmas is a time to be jolly, drink and to not really care much about anything. In the London Mandir, this period was a time of preparation for the future. The future of the sanstha, and the future of the Bal – Mandal. From 23rd to 27th December 2006, the National Bal-Balika Winter Training Camp entitled “Apni Parampara…Walking In Their Footsteps”.
The title of the shibir was designed to make the Bal-Balikas realise that this spiritual hierarchy of Gurus was theirs, that BAPS is theirs, and that Hinduism is theirs. To look after what is ours, we must follow in the path of those who have established it, hence walking in their footsteps.
The camp lasted for 5 days. It was hosted at London Mandir, and was attended by 56 Bal-Balikas from across UK.
The Winter Training Camp (WTC) was a very successful event that addressed many issues. The 5 days had 5 recurrent themes:
- Footprints - This session was based on the recent book publication. The Bal-Balikas were taught the skill of prasang manan, and with examples such as Atmananad Swami and Lakshmichand Sheth, the amount of dedication of the santos and haribhaktos of Maharaj’s time was understood. The Balikas also held their own sessions of the female haribhakto of Maharaj’s time.
- Contemporaray Issues - Quite possibly the most eye-opening session to ever be held in a camp, this was one that all the Bal-Balikas and Karyakars thoroughly enjoyed. The sessions covered issues such as dating, drinking, drugs, peer pressure and through a series of interactive exercises illustrated the dangers of such vices. With the help of P. Manoharmurti Swami and powerful speeches, these sessions became hard hitting and very enlightening.
- The History of Hinduism - A very interesting topic that was covered over 3 days. Each day, it looked at the history of Hinduism in how it was formed, the main denominations and their beliefs, how Hinduism is not a mythical religion but a very scientific faith, and how it is the best religion for one to practice. Questions that the Bal-Balikas had were also answered in an easy and understandable manner.
- Hindu Rites and Rituals - Hindu Rites and Rituals was a hands-on session, which taught the children how to perform daily rituals in the correct manner. Amongst the rituals covered were arti, thaal, and seva in the ghar mandir. Each session was very interesting, and the children learned a great deal of new things.
- Satsang Basics - A very light hearted session, which taught a lot of the basics in satsang through games and puzzles. The sessions also included a treasure hunt in the mandir, which exercised the children’s creativity and challenged their ability to think on the spot.
Along with these amazing topics, there children were also given chances to perform rituals which are not possible in normal activities. Every evening a thaal was offered by the Bal-Balikas to Thakorji and a traditional Hindu aarti was performed with the aid of the nagaru and bells. All the groups work also given seva to do for at least half an hour.
One of the highlights of the camp was the treasure hunt which involved all the groups searching for clues and also successfully accomplishing team building activities to win the game. Ultimately everybody learnt the need and importance of unity.
Another edutaining feature of the camp was the outing to a team building activity called ‘Quaser’ which all the camp members enjoyed very much.
Time was set aside every morning for a Katha by santos and every evening for a goshthi with the group leaders so that the children could spend some quality time learning and discussing things.
One of the Balaks told his parents, “If I had missed this camp, then I would have missed out on a very important event, which has helped me change my life”. At the end of the camp, a parents meeting was also arranged to inform them on what was taught and what they how need to do to keep up the progress. Many of the parents said, “You have looked after our children and trained them to nurture all-round development, all at a very nominal cost. You have done in 5 days what we have been trying to achieve for years… Thank you very much.”
In conclusion, the Winter Training Camp of 2006 was a huge success and a lot of time and preparation went into the welfare of the children. We would like to thank all the children and the volunteers that took part and hope to have more like this.