There is no better start to the year than attending the annual Sikh Youth Australia Summer Camp. As soon as you arrive you feel like you are at a family reunion and are welcomed by familiar faces; some you have met quite often throughout the year and others you have not seen since the last camp. And then there are the new additions who you meet and before long they too are part of the family.
Except unlike most family reunions, at SYA Camp you learn about a lot more than just the past activities of your family members. At Sikh camp you learn about yourself, your Guru, your heritage and so much more. This year was no exception! Held from the 9th- 13th January at the Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation in Narrabeen, this year marked the 15th anniversary of SYA Summer Camps and turned out to be one of the best camps yet.
Shortly after arrival, the participants were divided into four Jathas; Khushi, Shanti, Kirpa and Pyaar, and were each given a task to complete as a group. During this time, participants from all age groups bonded as they worked together to arrange the dining hall, decorate the Darbar Sahib and prepare the chhatar/umbrella and a shabad for the grand arrival of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, establishing a lively atmosphere that would last for the rest of camp.
Inspirational Sessions also began on the first day with the fantastic team of facilitators engaging the whole sangat with their kirtan and lectures. As well as our old camp favourites Giani Sukhdaiv Singh Ji from Malaysia and Dya Singh from Melbourne, this camp also saw the introduction of Hari Singh & Yadvinder Singh from Auckland and Amarjeet Kaur from Bangkok who all enlightened us with their perceptive ideas and inspiring approaches to Sikhi.
The facilitators also ran the thought provoking and entertaining age group workshops, where they tailored their message to suit the needs of the specific age groups and presented in a range of forms using personal stories, historical details & evidence from SGGS. The interactive workshops were filled with simulating discussion as well as the traditional lecture style sessions - all easy to understand & giving us a deeper understanding not only of the main camp theme ‘Nirbhau, Nirvair’ but also of Sikhism as a whole.
The first night also saw the beginning of the inter-jatha kirtan competition (or gurmat sangeet competition as it was called this year), a tradition of SYA Summer Camps. Each jatha presented a prepared shabad every night, showcasing their creativity through their high quality performances using a variety of instruments and led by participants as young as 6 years old, some doing kirtan for the first time! The presentations improved throughout the camp and by the last night what had started as gurmat sangeet had evolved into divine kirtan, thrilling the judges and the rest of the sangat.
This spiritual vibe continued into the mornings with the Nitnem, Asa di Var and Naam Simran sessions settling the mind and giving everyone a beautiful start to the day. As the camp progressed, more and more faces were seen at these early morning sessions despite the lack of sleep they had received the night before!
On the second day our camp was officially launched with visits from Senator the Hon. Kate Lundy (Federal Minister for Sport, Minister for Multicultural Affairs) and Michelle Rowland MP (Federal Member for Greenway). In the afternoon we also received a visit from the Hon. Victor Dominello MP (Minister for Citizenship and Communities) who acknowledged the outstanding contribution of some of the elders at camp.
Then there were the afternoon activities. Every afternoon participants enjoyed canoeing, sailing, kayaking, swimming, rock climbing, archery and many other recreational activities. During this time adults also had the opportunity to improve their flexibility and calm their mind through yoga sessions while the youth participated in intense youth discussion circles, covering issues pertinent to our lives as Sikhs today.
The night time activities further strengthened the friendships everyone had made at camp. The sports competition on the second night, with newcombe ball for the Mighty Khalsa & Bahadur Bachey and soccer for the rest of the youth, showcased everyone’s excellent sportsmanship, creative cheers and interesting costumes. The sporting prowess of our Mighty Khalsa & Bahadur Bachey made SYA history with every jatha winning the newcombe ball competition. This enthusiasm was also apparent on the bhangra aerobics night when after learning a few moves, everyone split into jathas and prepared a routine for the quick & intense bhangra dance off which followed. A fun night was had by all.
But the most intense and entertaining night time competition had to be the drama night “SYA’s Got Talent”. The Mighty Khalsa & Bahadur Bachey set the night off to a great start with their exceptional performance on the story of Bhai Khanayia. Each jatha then presented their short play which encompassed the theme of Nirbhau & Nirvair. The effective incorporation of sumo suits, television commercials, rewinding action and little kids taking on a whole gang of 6-foot tall boys was a credit to the effort each jatha put into their performance and the talents of their members. Much fun and hilarity ensued!
As always this year’s camp left everyone positively charged for the year ahead, making it a memorable experience for all who attended. The vibrant kirtan, inspirational talks, sewa and fun activities had us all captivated from beginning to end and made camp one of the highlights of the holidays. Even as this year’s camp was drawing to a close, everyone was already making plans to attend the next one. Hope to see you all there as well!
By Jainoor Kaur Rana