Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
The laughter of friends in a dinky looking van with keertan playing in the background is only the beginning of the awe-inspiring camp experience. You know you’re about five minutes from camp when all you can see is a forest of trees, the open road ahead, and your van gliding up and down the hills–the ultimate Gurmat Camp road trip! Just stepping one foot out of the car ride and hearing the roar of the campers, you know you’re home!
Taking one glance, we can see a multitude of things, starting with the welcome signs directing us towards the main lodges and a handful of campers already getting a soccer game started. We start to remember all the wonderful things that camp has to offer, one of them being our dearest sangat. We all remember that awkward first day of camp of being in a room full of strangers and feeling terror in our eyes. Yet, to our relief, the first stranger we speak to is kindhearted and friendly, and so is the second, and the third, and the fourth. From here, we quickly learn that everyone is genuinely nice and welcoming. The friends we make at camp are like no other. Everyone understands what we have to say and appreciates us for who we are. The struggles of looking different are erased for one week because to our relief, we aren’t seen as different from everyone; we are seen and feel as a collective. That’s the most important part–feeling like we belong. In that one short week, we create lifelong friendships.
Apart from spending time with our friends, we have a range of classes like Sikh history, Guru history, keertan, and gatka. Not only are we in classrooms learning about our awesome history, we also get the opportunity to experience this history by heading outside, picking up Shastars and learning how to defend ourselves, just as Sikhs did on the battleground in the centuries prior. By practicing what we’ve learned in class, we truly get the opportunity to experience one of the main principles of Sikhi–being a “Sant-Sipahi,” a “warrior-saint.” Along with having fun in class, it’s necessary to take what we learn seriously, and that’s why we may have to stay up a bit later one or two days to cram for the quiz or exam the next day (a quiz we actually look forward to taking, for once!).
Moreover, there are many activities that campers participate in. One of our favorite activities from attending “SYANA” Gurmat Camp is the campfire–the aroma of wood crackling as the fire emerges, volunteers running from place to place, ensuring the campers’ safety, and making scrumptious (vegan!) s’mores for all of the campers. Yet, in the midst of all the chaos, everyone is calm for the annual tradition of “Rehras by the Fire,” followed by the theme shabad. The campfire is always an opportunity for campers and organizers to present poems, songs, or stories in reflection of their camp experience. The evening perfectly comes to a close when all the brave Singhs and Kaurs, with all their might, roar a jakara whose response ripples and echoes through everyone.
Gurmat camp is often referred to as an empowering week that charges us up for the rest of the year. Many times, campers leave camp inspired and motivated to make their lives more Sikhi-oriented at home and within their local communities. It is essential for campers to carry the messages they have learned at camp and pass them on to future generations. Gurmat camp instills the value and importance of the Panthic family within each camper, which drives each and every camper to care for and fight for our Qaum. We feel so warm and mushy inside when we see our Bhain Jis and Vir Jis who, like us, went to camp since they were children, and are now at camp with their children! We see these Bhain Jis and Vir Jis doing wonderful things for the Panth–co-founders of Dasvandh Network met at these camps and retreats when they were kids! Other activists and leaders of Panthic organizations we know today are also products of Gurmat camps and retreats. Thinking about this truly makes us all feel like one, big, happy Sikh family, and motivates us to follow in their footsteps in service of the Panth.
As we prepare ourselves for the upcoming camps this summer, we can’t help but reflect upon how impactful and resourceful Gurmat camps have been for us. If you’re looking for a crazy, fun, and educational summer- sign up for a Gurmat camp and watch the magic unfold! If you’d like to experience the best week of your life, it’s still not too late to scope out camps whose registration is still open [United Sikhs, Camp Sant Sipahi, Windsor Gurmat Camp, Camp Chardi Kala, and others]! In case next summer works better for you, start looking early and check out these camps which have already happened [Tennessee Gurmat Camp] or have reached their registration capacity [GHISS, SYANA]!
We hope that the “Khalsa Fever” we get from attending camp lasts forever.
(((:-) Look out for #syana2014 next week in social media!
Vaheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Vaheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
Guest blogged by Manvir Kaur, Japman Kaur, and Triman Singh.
Manvir Kaur is a second year student at Western Michigan University. She has been going to various Sikh youth camps since the age of 8. Her favorite part of camp is the awesome sangat that she has the pleasure of meeting and connecting with.
Japman Kaur is senior at Vincent Massey Secondary School in Windsor, Ontario. She has been to various Sikh youth camps since the age of 4. Her favorite thing about camp is being with friends and camp divaans!
Triman Singh is a sophomore at Vincent Massey Secondary School in Windsor, Ontario. He has been going to Sikh youth camps since he was four years old. His favorite thing about camp is learning about Sikh History, Gatka and Keertan.