In any faith, the most basic principals mold the foundation of the community that stems from it. As the older generation, it is our duty to provide a platform of growth for our younger generation. Being in the NY/NJ area, we do our best in providing the youth with weekly kirtan programs, monthly camps, monthly langars, annual gurudwara clean-ups, etc. However, besides gurmat, history, kirtan, and seva, rarely do we ever ask ourselves and even the youth the following:
Why do we come to Gurudwara?
What’s the importance of Langar?
Whats the meaning behind a Hukamnama?
What does it mean to matha-taek?
Why are we putting money in the Golak?
Whats the Nishan Sahib
Why do we sit on the floor in the Darbar Hall?
What is the meaning of being a Sikh?
It’s the answers to questions like these that will make or break our youth. If they don’t know why they come to Gurudwara, forget about talking to them about gurmat, history, kirtan, and seva. If one doesn’t know the basic scientific method, then it is very difficult to do an experiment. Just like that, if a young gursikh doesn’t know why they come to Gurudwara every Sunday, then it would be very difficult for them to understand gurmat.
Last October, I was approached to coordinate the first Jakara Juniors Camp within the NY/NJ community. Upon learning that the camp would be about connecting and growing with your Gurudwara, I knew this had to be done.
You see, “Connecting with your Gurudwara” may sound very boring, but if we as a sangat can’t connect with our own Gurudwara, then we can’t connect with each other. Sikhi will keep dying as it is. Amongst many other factors, one of the basic platforms that we need to instill amongst the youth is
How and why do we connect with our sangat, our guru, and our community?
After getting a team together, we knew we had a lot of work to do in a short period of time. Although the camp date changed four times, and the Gurudwara for which the camp was going to take place in changed two times, the perseverance and resiliency of this team was always positive. We were doing this for the kids. Together, we also decided to waive any registration fees because this was our duty and it was our seva to our community.
Registration was very slow at first. We put an online form out and were able to connect with parents via facebook and email. Still, we only had about 13 kids registered. After connecting with the Khalsa School and tabling on New Year’s Day, we were finally able to register over 50 kids. It was a very humbling experience because it was the kids that never really came to our other youth events that registered for this camp.
Our team worked very efficiently. The camp itself was a great experience. It was something different for the kids and the parents. We made every activity more interactive and fun. After every session we would ask the campers to speak to the sangat about what they learned. Although it was not included in the schedule, we also incorporated a Gatka demonstration and class about the significance of each shaster. Nonetheless, as a staff, we really enjoyed this camp. It was worth the hours and hours of hard work.
Some of the activities included:
- A guided tour of the gurudwara
- Why we come to Gurudwara, Why we don’t come to Gurudwara
- What manners do we exemplify at the Gurudwara
- What is the Hukamnaama
The campers wanted to know when the next camp would be!
At the end of the camp, we had prepared a presentation for the parents. This presentation was basically about the Jakara Movement, who we are, what we do and our future events in the NY/NJ community. However, this fifteen-minute presentation turned into an hour and half discussion. This is because we started talking about how the parents could get involved not only with the Jakara Community, but more with the communities around us. We were able to talk to the parents about letting their kids experience the world. You see, in our community, many children are kept hindered and told what to do, what not to do. They are not able to take advantage of many opportunities they get. We wanted the parents to trust their children. We wanted them to take them out of the norm and let them experience the things they love. Whether its sports, music, dance, a field other than medicine or law, etc. we need our community excelling in all aspects of life. At the same time we told them to use the unlimited amount of resources within our own sangat.
In conclusion, this camp was a very humbling experience. I want to personally thank the Jakara Movement, MISL NY/NJ and of course our campers, for making this happen. Remember, if we can better the people within our own community, we can better the communities around us. As brothers and sisters, our duty is to keep this movement going.