Bhujangi Youth Academy is a place for boys to learn to be men with responsibilities. Somehow in that process, even men get to re-learn how to be boys with wonder. Since 2011, the Jakara Movement has been hosting Bhujangi Youth Academy in central California. The program has seen phenomenal growth from a mere 6 boys in that inaugural year to nearly 30 in 2014. Our expectations are that it will continue to grow…Why? Because there is nothing else like it in our community and that word of mouth is the prime driver. Boys that attend once are hooked for a lifetime.
Last year a counselor shared the 4 values that he thought were especially important:
Now fast-forward some 20 years later and it is our turn. What were some of our criticisms of those camps?
- INCLUSIVENESS - We never felt they engaged with all sections of the community. Parents of keshadhari youth sent their young sons to these camps, but the vast majority of the youth that did attend the local Gurdwara camps, did not. How could we engage with this larger section of community?
- EXPLORATION - I remember a sense of fear from the adults of the camp that I intended. Though they were all well-meaning and kind spirits individually, fear was a pervading feeling in how they wish to impart learning about the Gurus. This especially was unsettling later, when I realized the pure love and beauty that the Gurus had for his Sikhs. How could we create an environment of inclusiveness, brotherhood, fraternity, and group-learning, rather than disciplinarianism, without compromising on the importance of discipline?
- SIKH VALUES - How can we focus on Sikh values and inspiration in an environment that encourages questions, exploration, and self-learning rather than rote orders?
- CONSISTENCY - While all of us that attended those camps growing up, enjoyed them, we all went back to our own lives soon after and had to wait until the following year to see or relive the experience. Is there another way to keep the spirit ongoing rather than merely annual?
For most of the boys it was the first time they engaged in their daily Nitnem, shot a gun, went kayaking, paintballing, hiking, played kabaddi, studied the life of Guru Gobind Singh, changed a tire, tied a Windsor knot, and plenty of other firsts.
The Bhujangi Class of 2014 is already excited about upcoming reunions and events. The biggest change since 2013, however, is that those in the Fresno area have a new Paaras Youth Center that is open and available to them throughout the week. They are already congregating. For those outside of Fresno, a more developed and mature misl in their communities, be they in Bakersfield, Merced, or Sacramento, are emerging to keep the vital connections flowering.