October school holidays is HSS Children’s Camp time
For nine-year-old Diksha, the recent school holidays were somewhat different.
She attended the annual Hindu Swayam Sewak Sangh’s (HSS) Children and Youth Camp.
“I made loads of new friends and we played some fun games,” she told Indian Link. “Oh, and I learned some new mantras too!”
Over 90 kids took part this year in the annual camp held during the October school holidays. Aged 8-13, they came from a range of Indian backgrounds.
For some it was a debut camp while others were repeat attendees. Many were regularswho attend the weekly Shakha activities.
The Bundilla Scout Camp in Greater Western Sydney was the perfect venue for accommodating over 200 HSS participants over the course of the four days. The camp was jam-packed with content such as team activities, group discussions, games, prayer sessions, disco night, campfire and so on. But the theme this year was “The Story of India’s Independence”, starting from the first invasion by King Alexander to Independence from the British in 1947.
The focus was to highlight to the kids the richness of India’s ancient culture and how it has endured despite the continuous occupation of the country for an incredible 1000 years.
Ice-breaker sessions on the Friday set the mood for the kids after which they went into their bunk beds. (Reports were that midnight snacks and late-night chat sessions did their bit towards group bonding that came in very handy over the next few days!)
The planned activities were divided into interestingly named sessions.
The prayer session ‘Eesh Chintan’ on Day 1 was serene and musical as children recited their mantras. ‘Pratah’ (morning) Shakha followed, including prarthana and games. The highlight of the day was the outdoor activity “Amazing Race”, which encouraged children to work in groups to accomplish team-tasks.
Later they let their creativity run wild as they poured their hearts and souls into creating clay figures relating to India’s cultural achievements and artefacts. It was very pleasing to see them brought to life.
The jam-packed day didn’t stop there. The campers’ day was then filled with a session of ‘Shaka’ where they played games such as tug of war and the dog and the bone. For many children this was the best part of the camp.
Divya Rajagopalan, a fifth time HSS camp attendee, took home some fond memories from this time. “I loved the Blow the Whistle competition,” she told Indian Link. “The teams had to lift the smallest person in their group to blow a whistle that was tied at a height. It was a new game and heaps of fun!”
The activities were then followed by ‘Aarti’, where children got the chance to dress up in colourful, traditional Indian attire followed by the second session of ‘Boudhik’ where children learnt about the pre-Mughal era. The shikshaks (facilitators) brought the era to life with an interesting storytelling session complimented with sound effects.
The treasure hunt was loved by all the kids where they got the opportunity to search for clues with their friends. This was followed by an interesting and knowledge filled ‘Boudhik’ session where they learnt about Maharana Pratap and Chatrapathi Shivaji and his conquests for peace and harmony in India. The experienced shikshaks spoke about many valiant kings and queens of India and how their actions influence India to this day. Kabaddi, kho-kho, trivias – you name it and it became a truly amazing experience for the kids.
“I made some very nice new friends this year and that was cool,” Divya remarked.
It was also a debut for Sahana Sateesha, one of the young facilitators of the HSS camp, along with Vaishnavi Ramyavaran and Kailash Satyanarayan. The young team helped motivate, socialise and bring smiles to the young campers’ faces.
“The kids came wearing their ‘FUN’ hat, looking beautiful and with an awesome attitude,” said Sahana.
The conclusion ceremony involved all 150 volunteers and parents who then engaged in an interactive session.
“Kudos to the 150 HSS volunteer team from eight different Shakhas who served approximately 2000 meals, ran intellectual and physical activities, prepared food, administered and managed the site,” said Shivakumar Rajagopalan, a senior HSS volunteer.
“Each year the camp does a remarkable job in strengthening the cultural identity of the kids through the process of imparting knowledge, history and values,” said Ramyavaran Ramaswamy, HSS head in Sydney.
This year the kids truly lived the mantra of ‘Eat, pray, play and love’ during the camp.