By Aminta Kilawan-Narine, Esq.
Temple youth camps provide a much-needed service to Hindu families looking to keep their children productively busy during the summer. For the past few years, I’ve had the honor of co-coordinating my temple’s summer youth camp with my husband.
Each year the camp at the Shri Trimurti Bhavan grows bigger and better. This year, we saw many familiar faces, but also many new ones. Among a group of 60, each camper came with their own unique aura and brilliance.Trimurti’s Youth Convention began several decades ago, led by long-time community leader Dr. Dhanpaul Narine under the spiritual guidance of Trimurti’s founder, Pandit Chunelall Narine. I attended the Trimurti Youth Convention as an awkward adolescent. Now, at 30, I’m eager to give back to a source of my confidence and personal growth. I remember making first place in the convention’s essay-writing competition. Another year, my team won a debate competition – little did I know then that the person I was going to marry was on the other team! As a child, those small accomplishments felt monumental.
At our 2019 convention, we sought to integrate spiritual learning and educational empowerment with the word most campers used to describe the week at their graduation ceremony – F-U-N! Recognizing that children most effectively retain knowledge when it is tailored to their formative minds, we did not come at the kids with a disciplinary attitude (unless necessary, of course), but instead saw them as co-learners. In as much as they learned from us, we too learned from them.
The Trimurti camp featured daily teachers who dedicated so much of their time to ensure that the youth had a fulfilling and energetic experience: Maggie Tiwarie began each morning with yoga including the Surya Namaskar, Yogini Gayadin, who is also a teacher at the East Indian Music Academy, taught the children kirtans, and Ambika Persaud, well-versed in the kathak classical dance style, taught the youth a dance dedicated to Lord Ram. Guest speakers included Pandita Pratima Kushridevi Doobay, who simplified Ganesh puja into a powerful demonstration that even the smallest child could follow. Val Singh provided a platform for the youth to get their creative juices flowing as they painted birdhouses provided by Val and her husband Surujpaul Singh. Gagandeep Kaur and Arsalan Rahman of ThriveNYC walked the youth through a conversation about mental health and bullying, followed by a centering meditation. Pandit Prakaash Anand Latchminarine led a session on the essentials of Sanatan Dharma and Acharya Arun Gossai had the youth raptly attentive as he described what it means to be Hindu and the secret to attaining happiness. District Leader Richard David walked the youth through the basics of civic engagement and the importance of voting. Throughout the week, the youth also learned about Indo-Caribbean heritage and the importance of inter-generational dialogue. Each game they played during free time served a purpose – refrain from violence and promote peace.
Tuesday afternoon was dedicated to career exploration. Presenters included Christine Kim (animal rights), Dr. Kamini Doobay (medicine), Jennifer Persaud (marketing), Jenifer Rajkumar (law and politics), Arun Singh (aviation and mechanics), and Mendra Singh (business and entrepreneurism). The presenters were top-quality, and also forthright during the Q&A segment – even when one bold camper asked how much they each make!On Friday, Aryan Persaud, won Trimurti’s Annual Storytelling Competition 2019. He received the latest version of the Apple Watch. From memory, Aryan told an adapted story of Mohini chock full of body language, voice intonation and his own unique touches. Aryan’s wisdom far surpasses his nine years.
The camp would not be possible without those who supported from behind the scenes. Breakfast and snacks were provided by Jennifer Persaud and Vinod A. Siwlal. Lunch was provided by Rajesh & Amrita Mahadeo, Mala Boodram, Annie Persaud, Natasha Singh of Nidji Photography, Joy Singh of Singhing Sweet Catering, Winston at The Nest Restaurant, and BP & Sarina Singh.
Beverages were provided by Bihari Lall of Denny’s Restaurant. T-shirts were provided by Shanti Ammar and Pt. Ganeshwar Ramsahai & family. Bus transportation for the field trip was provided by Rudy Itwaru, Jenifer Rajkumar and Shelly Persaud. Prizes for the Storytelling Competition were provided by Cindy Ramjeawan and Nyran Rampershad. Medals & certificates were provided by Mendra Singh of MetroCity Brokerage. Notebooks, pencils and pens were provided by Mavis Persaud. Dinner for graduation was provided by Sarina Singh (cooked by Singhing Sweet Catering). Other donors included Krishna Mohanlall, Alya Doobay, Kimberly Harrichand, Natasha Rupan, and Dr. Dhanpaul and Sophie Narine.
Day in and day out, counselors and volunteers stepped in anytime help was needed and made sure our youth were always attended to, happy, safe and meaningfully engaged. Senior counselors were Yogini Gayadin, Jagdesh (Joe) Churaman, Varun Paras, Savrana Gayadin, Kala Gayadin, Kayla Holiprosad, Sashi Singh and Brianna Persaud. Junior counselors were Nadiya Rampersaud, Ravesh Bechu, Shaila Somnarain, Ambika Persaud, Taj Mohabir, and Pooran Hansraj.Volunteers included Mendra Singh, Rajesh Mahadeo, Elita Joseph-Mohabir, Mavis Persaud, Kapeel Singh, Anand Lall, Priya Mohabir, Shanti Ammar (storytelling competition judge) and Donovan Fernandes (storytelling competition judge).
To the parents of our campers who trusted us with your gems of children for the week and brought them every morning to gain from this experience, we bow to your feet.Finally, to our campers: you are all brilliant beyond your years. You put smiles on our faces every day, taught us how beautiful the minds of children are, and showed us why our dharma is in good hands. You are all leaders in your own way, each uniquely tailored with a purpose that you are going to find as you grow. We are excited to see all you will do for the world. See you next year for an even better camp!