The 'How-to-Live' Children’s Camp organized at YSS Dwarahat Ashram from March 25 to 30, 2019 was a six-day residential programme in which children were introduced to the principles outlined by Paramahansa Yogananda, along with the opportunity to learn a variety of skills while staying in the Ashram premises. Such camps are held annually at the Dwarahat Ashram.
Forty-five children from standards 3 to 5 of Yogoda Balkrishnalaya (a charitable school run by YSS Dwarahat Ashram) and a few other children participated in the camp.
Swami Lalitananda along with monks and volunteers greeted and welcomed the participants and briefed them about the programs.
Introspection, brief meditations and chanting were part of their camp days. After practising their Energization Exercises, the children would join group meditation - morning, noon and evening. Listening to stories and inspiring anecdotes from the lives of the Yogoda line of Gurus during Guru Katha in the morning, they would head for volunteer-led classes on papier-mâché articles from waste, photography, table manners, amateur astronomy, communication skills and personality development. In this way, they picked up and brushed up a variety of skills while staying in the Ashram premises.
Informative and interactive sessions were conducted by volunteers on various topics like Crisis and Disaster Management, Give the World Your Best and The Best will come to You, Our Environment, Cleaning our surroundings. Inspiring videos were screened and were liked by the children.
An interesting noon session on ‘How To Get Along With Others’ was conducted by Smt Geetika Joshi, the Deputy Education Officer of Tarikhet and Sult Block, who is a pioneer in the education sector in the state of Uttarakhand. With a project called Rupantaran she has initiated the make-over of several government primary schools. YSS Dwarahat Ashram has also helped one such school in Doonagiri, near Dwarahat.
Afterward, they attended in groups one of the following project classes every day – learning papier mâché in art from waste, photography, table manners, amateur astronomy, and communication skills and personality development.
The team-building activities for the young group included games like cricket, football and kho kho during the evening slot of sports where the children competed in a friendly manner. Here, they learnt how to look out for each other and play in sync with the rest of their peers, guided by a team of devotee-volunteers who had come from various parts of India to facilitate the camp, and some local youngsters. To keep the energetic lot recharged for the day-long schedule, a variety of meals and refreshments were offered on the menu, which they enjoyed and appreciated.
The students of the small Himalayan town got an unprecedented opportunity through this camp to learn amateur astronomy, as they were guided by a volunteer in identifying constellations during their post-dinner star-gazing sessions in the clear night skies of Dwarahat. They closed their day with a devotional chanting of the Sunder Kand – complemented by stories of Lord Ram, Sita and Hanuman from Ramayan Katha.
Vibrant colours and shrieks of joy punctuated the closing of the camp with a cultural programme comprising skits, chants, dances and recitation presented by the children to an audience of parents and devotees on the final day of the camp. This event also serves as the annual function of the school where the students display their leanings from the camp in the form of exhibits made of papier-mâché puppets, acting in plays based on the life and teachings of Paramahansa Yoganandaji. Giving a taste of the Kumaoni specialities, the tiny-tots also joined in with gusto performing rhymes and dancing on a Kumaoni song describing local fruits and habits, drawing loud applause.
After six days of being immersed in the joyous activities, and meditation many children expressed their deep appreciation for the camp, and did not want to leave the Ashram!