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Summary of Question:Sikh Youth Camp
Date Posted:Thursday, 9/30/1999 5:15 PM MDT
The following is Jasroop Singh's account of his experience at the West Coast Sikh Youth Alliance's Sikh Camp. You can contact Sukhvinder Kaur Bains ([email protected]) or Randeep Singh Sarai ([email protected]) if you are interested in attending next year.

I had it already envisioned, me a young male with almost all my hair shaven off waking up at 5:30am getting ready for a day full of adventure. No, this wasn't bootcamp, although some people might have rather been there. I was on my way to the Sunshine Coast for my second experience with the West Coast Sikh Youth Alliance's Sikh Camp. I don't know why I was going back; I decided that it was just fate. The first camp didn't affect me much. I didn't think this one would, but it certainly did.

We arrived there approximately around lunchtime and had lunch before completely settling in. I had already met some new people, and remember seeing a few old faces. We finally got to see our cabins, and I was shocked as they were really dogsheds like I was told they were. They were at least three times smaller and were missing the most important necessity of camping, heat. I had a sense that this camp wouldn't be great so I tried to keep a positive attitude.

Each day we had a set schedule starting off with waking up earlier than most are used to. From there we would get ready and change into our Kurta pajamas for the guys and salwar kameez for the girls. From there we would proceed to the Gurdwara for our morning Darbar. This consisted of Kirtan, the reading and reciting of Bani, the singing of Shabads, and finishing off with Ardas. Then we would proceed to have breakfast, and once that was finished we'd go to our cleaning duties. Quickly following would be a lecture, two workshops and then lunch. After lunch the rest of the day was mainly for relaxation: recreation activity, yoga, dinner, evening Darbar, and finally campfire. Each one of these activities contributed to affecting my life in its own way.

The mandatory early wake up brought the little bit of discipline I needed to be able to try and keep doing it when I got home. The wearing of Kurta pajamas by everyone brought on a sense of unity that I could feel. Out of all the activities, it was each of the Darbars that had the most impact on me. Having the time to go through all of Jap Ji Sahib or Jap Sahib and being able to read the English, helped me understand what was going on a lot more. The singing of the Shabads was extra special, especially during the camp favorite Charn Chalao. The energy level would get so high that you could feel it through the air. Once the Shabad was finished and we sat there for a minute in silence; there was no description for what I felt. That was the first step to my learning what being a Sikh was all about.

The lectures and the workshops were what taught me who Sikhs are. I learned what attitude to take in life, how to be a better person, and I learned more about the history of Sikhism. One of the workshops everyday was Gatkha practice. More discipline was introduced here, but not to an extent where it was dreaded. We practiced how to stay alert and on your feet at all times. The other daily workshops were about various subjects, but they all tied into Sikhism and how to become a better Sikh. The clean-up time involved a lot of teamwork, and had people showing initiative in making sure everyone was contributing equally. The counselors didn't have to do this, the campers were more than willing to. Recreation was a time for socializing. I believe it is important for a Sikh to be extroverted, to be confident and happy in their love for God in order to better help others.

During the Darbars we would sing an English song entitled Song of The Khalsa. It, like the Shabads, caused an exponential growth in the energy level. It talks about how Sikhs of the Khalsa dedicate their lives to God, and conduct their lives in a manner that will meet their standards and needs, and those of others also. During one part of the song, the females sing a verse and then the males sing a verse. In the spirit of the song, each group would try to sing as powerfully as possible in order to out sing the other gender. This is where all that we learned came to play. The teamwork, the pride of being a Sikh, the strength through voice, the respect and the equality. If one gender out sung the other, there would be celebration but no put down.

When it was time to leave camp, I had a feeling that everyone there would miss it. Even the people that were forced to attend would miss the friendly environment. We all parted our separate ways, promising to see each other next year when camp comes around. I look forward to seeing everyone next year, and hope to duplicate if not better the atmosphere of last year's camp.

My days after the camp have not been the same as they were before the camp. I try to read the whole of Jap Ji Sahib everyday and when I finish it, I get that same indescribable feeling as I did in camp. I view the world differently, and treat each day with the same positive attitude. I hope one day I can bring upon someone what was brought upon me at the camp, and I will always be proud to be a Sikh.

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