Hindu Heritage Youth Camp

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By Trisha Ashar

HOUSTON: It began with a single goal: to promote the Hindu dharma.

Fast forward 32 years, and the annual Hindu Heritage Youth Camp (HHYC) not only continues to inspire young Hindus, but also engages its campers with activities such as Holi celebrations, sunrise yoga, and garba-raas.

This year, HHYC boasts a full camp of 205 campers split between two weeks: grades 8-12 camp from August 2-7, and grades 2-7 camp from August 9-14. Approximately 50 college-aged counselors have devoted their summer to preparing for HHYC, along with returning director Arpan Amin and first-time director Veli Shah. Amin is the son of Hindu Heritage Youth Camp’s co-founder, Sharad Amin.

“The camp started with parents taking the lead back in 1985,” Sharad Amin said. “Adults were taking on educations, games, managing the facility’s logistics and registration. After a few years, we started mentoring younger, college-aged students.

“Now, HHYC has become better by having counselors who have shown an understanding of Hindu culture and the goals of camp. By having a solid core group, camp has evolved with the times and changing needs.”

HHYC’s appeal lies in its ability to resonate with campers, as counselors teach Hindu values in a way that is more accessible than reading ancient Sanskrit texts, in addition to engaging campers with activities such as canoeing, archery and dodgeball.

“HHYC allows the youth of this day and age to connect with the years of rich culture and values that Hinduism has to offer,” Shah said. “We utilize our entire week of camp to show the children  how enriching Hinduism can be and how applicable the values and morals gained from these lessons are! We hope that they can leave camp able to apply Hindu ideals to their everyday lives.”

2016 registration reached 90% capacity within one week, filling up faster than any of the previous 32 years.

“Apart from the sheer size, we split into two camps a few years ago,” Amin said. “While this was a seismic change at first, it allowed us to focus our activities towards a younger and an older age group. Now, we can focus on making our educations applicable to each individual child.”

To do this, the directors rely on coordinators that determine education themes, organized recreational games, and arts and crafts, among their other logistical responsibilities. Middle school coordinator Aadithya Srivastav not only ensures that camp activities run smoothly, but he also helps first-year counselors make the transition from camper to counselor.

“I want this year to be the year where the educations have a long lasting effect,” Srivastav said. “Many of the educations that I learned back when I was a middle school camper had a big effect on me and my fellow campers. I’m excited to be in the position now where I can make an impact on these kids at a very young and influential point in their lives.”

In addition to the hard work of counselors, coordinators, and their directors, HHYC relies on sponsorships from local businesses and volunteers from the community. Steering Committee member and former director Bharat Pallod handles intricacies outside of operations, including having doctors on hand and arranging buses to transport campers to the campsite.

“There are a couple ways to get involved,” Pallod said. “The best way to help is to sponsor a meal, whether that’s lunch or dinner. Additionally you can sponsor a camper, books, shirts – work with us and we’ll create the opportunity. Direct donations are also great and allow us to think bigger every year.”

Amin hopes that HHYC continues to evolve as it has done in years past, from counselors introducing new activities to volunteers implementing new environmentally friendly practices, sparking innovation as an entire organization from the top down.

“There’s not many opportunities you get in life to impact so many people’s lives at once, so at the beginning and conclusion of every camp I definitely love hearing stories of how kids went from being uncomfortable and scared the first day to not wanting to go home by the last day,” Amin said. “It definitely fills our hearts with a lot of joy. I feel like a kid again at camp every year.”

If you’re interested in sponsoring Hindu Heritage Youth Camp or volunteering for any part of the camp, go to HHYC’s website, hinducamp.com, for more information, or address direct inquiries to info@hinducamp.com

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