Click here to view the original article featured on sikhchic.com by Dya Singh
Having attended various Sikh camps around the globe, first as a participant and then as a facilitator, this was a weekend which was different.
A camp about self-improvement and leadership, run by a professional and semi-professional team, including highly successful young Sikh entrepreneurs from around the globe, local management specialists and financial professionals, and former participants turned facilitators.
The syllabus is based on the latest self-improvement techniques, but mainly geared to Sikh youth, with elements of nitnem, kirtan and naam simran thrown in.
I have been involved with Sikh Youth Australia since its inception 15 years ago, but I have not had, till this year, the opportunity of attending and facilitating at their leadership camps … which are now in their 9th year.
I have never been more impressed.
This project is the baby of Satwant Singh Calais, a management consultant himself, and a small team of dedicated sevadars, all professionals amongst whom are management specialists Jaswinder Singh, Buck Samrai, Shankar and Sarv Girn, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the Reserve Bank of Australia.
They are all proud Sikhs doing their seva by helping youth in getting their bearings for the future.
The professional facilitating team is led by Ash Singh, originally a native of Toronto, Canada, but now based in Singapore. When I first met him in Canada at the turn of the millennium, he was in college and, at the same time, selling high-range cars. His main reason being that he could impress his college mates by driving into college in a different, dazzling car every day!
Now he is a highly successful businessman / entrepreneur. His spiel reads: Serial entrepreneur with Sikh blood, Canadian birth, Chinese education and Asian business experience. Asia's Best Young Entrepreneur - Business Week 2009 … and so on.
Through his networking, he has harnessed the talents of a bright young Chinese lady. A highly qualified business consultant, Sara Yik specializes in leadership development and performance transformation, based in Singapore but operating as a global consultant. Her client-list includes entities like Credit Suisse.
The list of other talented facilitators, mainly young Sikhs, goes on and on. One Singapore-based consultant/lawyer, Jasbir Singh, just cycled around Alaska!
"If you are pursuing your dreams to make money, you will not lead a successful and fulfilling life. But if you step forth to help others and work towards the betterment of humankind, you cannot fail!"
A motto which describes the very essence of seva.
“What you think is what you become," is another. Think positive and be optimistic and you shall be successful. They sound like Chardi Kala to me!
Another powerful concept is to always 'think outside the box'. Ash Singh himself is living proof of this concept. He calls himself the black sheep of the family. His younger brother, who had come from Calgary in Canada, is studying medicine NOT to become a general practitioner or even a medical specialist but because he owns a medical innovations company which does research in the medical field. He believes that by qualifying as a doctor, he will be able to contribute towards the future success of his company and help humankind -- not just one patient at a time!
That is thinking outside the box!
There were 120 participants divided into three classes. The first year’s course is called PX2 - an internationally credited course designed by the Pacific Institute (US) for self-mastery, goal-setting and realising your potential.
A number of local youth facilitators assisted in the delivery of this course, including Manu, Amardeep and Saranpaal.
The second year is called ‘Success to Significance’ - a booster to the first year and using the latest tools and techniques in interpersonal dynamics.
The third and final year is called 'I 2 I' - Ideas to Impact. This entails putting all that has been learnt in the first two years into a Business Plan, called the ‘Lean Canvas‘, for a product or service which impacts on the Sikh or wider community.
This plan is pitched and launched by each team on the final day before an audience of parents, relatives, friends and also the general Sikh public. The audience is then wooed by each team to invest in each idea.
This final year is handled by Ash himself, with the help of a small team. This year, his flank was covered by another highly qualified youngster, Sundeep Singh, a co-founder of Lazada.com, one of the fastest growing E-Commerce businesses in South East Asia.
Sundeep is born and brought up in Kuwait - talk of an international team!
The surprise package for the weekend was 24-year-old Sikh hip-hop artiste, Sukhdeep Singh -- stage name 'L-Fresh'. A short impromptu performance within his keynote speech brought the audience to its feet. His dedication to his craft and Sikh principles left oldies like me with tears in our eyes.
He also holds a double university degree - a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law. L-fresh is going to go very far … keep a lookout for him!
Some of the service ideas which were first launched last year are already bearing fruit. Of prominence is the “Young Sikh Professionals Network” (YSPN) which helps as a support group for all young Sikh professionals with professional advice and also helping them to find placements within industry - a natural extension of the aspirations of Sikh Youth Australia.
Of note from this year’s innovative ideas was the pitch for an animated series of Sikh Nursery Rhymes, starting with an interactive Punjabi alphabet playtime and a catchy melody to learn the 'painti' in quick time.
This will be followed by ten other very simple kavitas (verses) to encourage children to sing in Punjabi as a means to becoming familiar and conversant with the language.
Talented 'animation' specialists from amongst the participants have taken up this challenge with a support group of experts in Punjabi language -- writers and singers.
The product, when developed, will be available worldwide as each rendition is completed.
My job was to try and inspire them all in two one-hour slots per day, working around the recitation of Japji Sahib and Rehras, which were done in music with some naam simran and basic pointers for personal practice.
Held in the idyllic rural setting of the New South Wales Institute of Sports north of Sydney, this was a very pleasant weekend with warm accommodation (it is winter here!) and other facilities, complete with tasty nourishing vegetarian food and snacks throughout the day.
One steps out to lush green fields and bushland and one is awakened in the morning to the screeches of white galas with bright yellow plumes, colourful parakeets and kookaburras in the gum trees. One can also spot the odd kangaroo in the bushes.
The joy and sense of achievement and fulfillment on the last day on the faces of the participants as well as the visitors, was a very satisfying sight.
A modest scholarship for two young young women of AUD $500 per participant per year, named after Sara Yik, was announced by the organisers at the finale. Sikh Youth Australia also gave away a sum of AUD $5000 to all worthwhile projects set up by participants and plans to assist each team by assigning local mentors to ensure that all projects are carried through and developed.
Thus, a sizeable sum of money was donated for the projects and also to Sikh Youth Australia by the sangat.
Where we as Sikhs are world renowned for our generosity in building new gurdwaras worldwide, we also need to invest in our youth for a higher civic profile of our worldwide Sikh community and in this I believe Sikh Youth Australia is playing a sterling role in Australia.
Personally, the revelation was in seeing Sikh youth and professionals of every ilk -- ranging from those who shy away from gurdwaras and Sikh politics, to amritdharis, keshadharis, clean-shaven and youth from mixed parents -- all working and playing together. This is an inclusive camp where all are made to feel welcome and equal. Friendships are forged, networking takes place and our youth and professionals find direction and confidence to step forward into the future with confidence.
They also learn something about themselves and their heritage.
"The vision is to spread this venture worldwide so that our future generations will have a network to tap into for their economic and spiritual advancement. Getting a university degree is no guarantee for future well-being these days and into the future, but a worldwide Sikh network along these lines, teaching youngsters Sikh values and tools for personal, professional and business success and generally helping Sikh youth and young Sikh professionals to realise their true potential, is a lifeline not only for economic progress for them, but also for our collective spiritual progress and Sikhi.
“Their success is the success of the worldwide Sikh community, taking us all, together, into the future. Just teaching our young about our 'religion' is not good enough", says Satwant Singh.