THE annual Sikh Youth Australia Camp is like a tonic. You can be down from watching your favourite cricket team get beaten and then, like magic, the camp’s buzz envelops you and you are all happiness and joy.
This was the case with me. I arrived at the Narrabeen Sports Academy with my family, disappointed and exhausted. Our war paint in support of the Indian cricket team had not quite faded away, like our diminishing hopes for the test series.
But the gloom lifted immediately once we saw the familiar faces of friends from previous camps smiling and waving at us. Before we had even found parking, we were encompassed by the atmosphere of buzzing excitement in anticipation of the coming days. Any gloom associated with the Indian team’s performance at the Sydney Test soon disappeared.
Everyone was occupied in talk and laughter, recalling funny moments from previous camps and sharing their excitement for the coming week. We were sorted into four groups, each named after four prominent women in Sikh history – Mata Khivi, Mata Jeeto, Mata Ganga and Mata Gujri. The administrative side of things was soon all sorted out and the 14th Annual Sikh Youth Camp was off and running.
The IPS sessions, led by the fantastic team of Veer Manpreet (UK), Dya Singh (Melbourne), Gyani Sukhdaiv Ji (Malaysia) and Professor Jaswant Ji (Singapore), never failed to engage the entire congregation into a spiritual haven. The chanting of the Divine Name and the reciting of the holy hymns was so powerful, that in spite of the amount of sleep (or amount of no sleep) we had had the night before, it kept us awake and eager to experience more of this sweetness in our Guru’s lap. Even throughout these sessions, there was frequent banter about the ongoing cricket match and India’s performance (which I am sure will turn around).
A captivating Inspirational Session held by Giani Ji
The age group sessions were even more intimate, with personal stories and anecdotes from the facilitators relating to their spiritual growth. These sessions revolved around the theme of the camp - Sat (truth), Santokh (contentment) and Vichaar (contemplation/awareness). These are often referred to as the three primary virtues of our religion. Through discussion, historical details and evidence from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the facilitators translated these words for us into action and taught us how to apply these virtues in our lives practically. What before the camp had merely been ‘the Guru’s words’, now became a principle which I could base my decisions and actions upon. Whilst this may leave the impression that these sessions were quite serious, on the contrary, there was also lots of laughter and plenty of stimulating discussion.
Campers listening attentively in an age group session
All the camp participants were divided into 6 different age groups, from the age of 4 years to 90 years. Each age group had their own facilitator and had their own tailored curriculums. Congratulations to all the facilitators who put in so much effort to present their workshops in wonderful interactive sessions.
The daily Salami (salutations to the Sikh flag) stirred pride for my religion in me. It helped me reflect that our religion holds such universal truth and is so compatible with the modern lifestyle. The pride I felt was not only for our religion, but for our country as well. Not only did we proudly sing our Sikh anthem, but also the Australian national anthem, as we have duties not only towards our religion, but towards our country as well. The daily events and night-time activities demanded a lot of energy, so sleep was not a priority at the camp. The lack of sleep did not deplete our enthusiasm though. Even on the last day, our jaikaras (Sikh cry) resounded throughout the campsite.
Participants loudly sing, "Deh Shi Vah", with pride during the daily Salami
We also had visits from the Honourable Senator Kate Lundy, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. Senator Lundy spoke highly about the work of Sikh Youth Australia and was particularly impressed with the achievements of SYA in the social media environment. She met many of the youth leaders and had a better understanding of their aspirations and goals as young Australian Sikhs.
In the evening we also welcomed the Hon Victor Dominello, the NSW Minister for Citizenship and Communities and the local member for Ryde. He remarked that the Premier of NSW, the Hon Barry O Farrell, had been very impressed when he opened the 2011 SYA camp. Minister Dominello congratulated SYA for completing its 5 year strategic plan and then went on to speak about leadership qualities needed to be successful Australian youths.
Hon Victor Dominello Officially Opens the Camp
This year Sikh Youth Australia had special sessions with parents and young adults on dealing with the matter of Tissue and Organ donation. Ms Jaspreet Kaur Sidhu delivered a very insightful presentation on organ donation and what it means to a recipient family as well as the donor.
Professor Jaswant Singh also dealt with the concepts of birth and death as outlined in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
Before I knew it, it was already over, and post-camp withdrawal hit immediately! Luckily, the EcoSikhs team organised a reunion a week later. All the youths that attended enjoyed an ‘Amazing Race’ style ‘Green Day Out’.
It would be nice to conclude that our journey finished here and that our appetite for knowledge was satiated, but that wouldn’t be true. The beauty of these camps is that they inspire us to continue asking questions and seeking the answers ourselves even after camp has finished. So, even after the 5 days of learning are ‘over’, the spirit of camp is not. My only complaint was that there were only 24 hours in a day. We needed more.
Sanpreet Kaur Sunner.