31st Annual Hindu Heritage Youth Camp

VHPA 1in

From left: Top row-Yash T., Arjun R. Divya S., Rohan C., Shamal S., Shiven S., Ketan D.Second row-  Bharat P., Akash D., Namita P., Manan S., Sheeba A., Resham H., Shyam M., Alisha A., Puja J., Aadithya S., Sid R., Vevek S., Arpan A.Third row- Saumya W., Sujata A., Sonya C., Anoosha A., Unnati S., Abhimanyu A., Rahul S., Saket S., Lipika G. Fourth row- Niti D., Simran J., Nina W., Priya S., Kavita P., Rohit M., Veli S., Esheeta B.

HOUSTON: Keshav Smruti is alive and busy on Sunday, August 26. 40 college aged kids are frantically working and running around while a few of the lazy eat pau bhaji. But they can all agree they’re very excited, as the coming Tuesday will kick off what has taken the entire summer to prepare for.

The 31st annual Hindu Heritage Youth Camp will be taking place this year during the first and second weeks of August. Growing on last year’s success, registration this year will be at an all-time high of 200 children ranging from 7 to 17.

In preparation for HHYC this year, co-directors Bharat Pallod and Arpan Amin have been planning since February. It’s a long process, starting with finding enough counselors and volunteers who will be able to make the commitment through the summer. But in recent years there has been a surplus of volunteers, as lifelong campers are eager to return the favor. In addition to counselors, the two directors must also find volunteers – doctors for each day, “aunties” to help in the kitchen and “uncles” to help keep everyone straight, and sponsors to ensure camp fees remain low. As Pallod puts it, “we get counselors, volunteers, and campers from every part of the city, it really requires bringing the whole community together. But we’re able to do it, the support is overflowing.”

Pallod is co-directing camp for the second consecutive year. Doing it once is simply not enough. “You use the first year to learn, and you use the second year to build on that and make camp better.” He’s worked with his co-director diligently on that.

For his co-director Arpan Amin, directing camp for the first time is something very special. His father Sharad Amin was one of the founders of camp, and Arpan proudly boasts that his first camp was when he was still in his mother’s womb 23 years ago. Growing up attending HHYC has not only given him lifelong friends but also shaped his identity today. The desire to return the favor to the next generation is visible.

One of the best examples of this is the revamped HHYC website, hinducamp.com. “Today, if you’re a legit organization, you’re expected to have a legit website”, he says, explaining how he may know how great HHYC is, but showing it to others is important. A better website allows this, and it’s shown in the increased registration, up almost 30 kids from the prior year. But Amin wants the improved website to go beyond that, long term he hopes that it can properly capture the 31 years of history that camp has, and provide portals for counselors and parents. He wants campers to be able to visit the website and look back at the material they were able to learn. He beams “we believe we’re a staple event in the Houston community, and we want to show that”.

For both directors, long term plans for their camp are even bigger. Owning a campsite would be nice, and having additional events in the year would be ideal. “The goal of camp is to help strengthen these children’s identity” as counselor Ketan Datta puts it, and he believes there is so much more they could do to achieve this. But for now, his priority is reviewing a counselor’s presentation on Dharma.