July 22, 2011
Ashadh Krushna Saptami, Kaliyug Varsha 5113
By Rupak Gandhi & Sarang Patel
HOUSTON: I will never forget my first high school chemistry exam. Knowing that I wasn’t a big fan of science and fearful that I wouldn’t be successful, I spent the entire week leading up to the exam creating flashcards to memorize every concept I could and spent all night before the test writing pneumonic devices for various formulas. On the day of my exam, I arrived to my class feeling as confident and prepared as any other student, only to learn that the test was a practical application exam- and boy, did I struggle! While I spent so much time to memorize the content of the exam, I never dedicated any time to learn how the information can be applied in practice. Fortunately, not only was I allowed to retake the test later and learn the material the proper way, but am now able to use that experience to better educate the Hindu youth I work with at the annual Hindu Heritage Youth Camp.
This year marks the 27th year of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America’s Hindu Heritage Youth Camp. Like most summer camps, the Hindu Heritage Youth Camp provides a wider array of activities, an opportunity to make life-long friends, and a summer experience that kids can never forget. However, to me, the camp offers much more. The camp for me has always been about the education. The attendees of this camp have unique opportunity to not only learn about Hindu Dharma, but also identify how these practices apply in a day to day life. With counselors in college that have shared the same experiences as most campers, each education takes principles of Hindu dharma and applies it to our society today.
Growing up, I attended a wide variety of summer camps. While I always respected the information provided to me by elders, I always struggled to identify how in-depth Hindu concepts could be applied to me in today’s society. I felt many of the practices taught to me were no longer relevant issues and didn’t affect how I lived my day-to-day life. Over time, I learned that everything I have been taught is relevant and can be applied to how I live my life on a daily basis. The counselors for camp identify how to apply the principals of Hindu Dharma in today’s society and most of all, draw upon their own experiences to provide relevant educations for each camper.
Camp teaches the importance of building both the mind and body, as reflected in it’s daily schedule. From waking up to bhajans at 6:30 in the morning to falling asleep exhausted after a pillow fight, every moment of camp is packed with enrichment. We build our muscles playing games and practicing surya namaskars early in the morning, and stretch our minds during education sessions for which counselors spend months preparing.. We grow spiritually while singing bhajans together. Above all though, we build life-long friendships every moment of the day, and eat the most delicious pav bhaji known to mankind!
As camp co-directors, Sarang and I feel privileged to share our experiences and foster the Hindu Dharma with today’s youth. Although all our counselors spend months preparing for the camp, we always end up learning just as much from our campers as they do from us. There will be 34 counselors altogether (28 full time, 6 part time) working with 169 campers! The lessons we learn from our experiences at Hindu Heritage Camp will remain lifelong lessons we will apply in our everyday lives. More information about the 27th Annual Hindu Heritage Camp can be found at www.hinducamp.com.