Hindu Heritage Youth Camp (HHYC) Counselors Preparing for 210 Campers

Rohan Shah, Khayla Patel, Aanya Bhandari, Mallika Singh, Meera Borle, Keya Shah, Medha Koniki, Nitika Veludandi, Jiya Ghorpade, Nithya Gehani, Hetali Trivedi, Anuja Pendse, Krish Dani Row 3: Keshav Shah, Shakti Dash, Aman Patel, Akash Tarkunde, Ronak Patel, Varun Trivedi, Neha Afzalpurkar, Abhishek Pratap, Rithvik Edupuganti, Anunay Dixit, Rishabh Ashar, Arrin Desai (Top) Row 4: Pratham Rathi, Saaj Patel, Shaan Patel, Ansh Bhandari, Sarthak Bansal, Parth Dargan, Smit Shah, Rajit Shah. Photo credit: Vijay Pallod

By Dhwani Dawar

HOUSTON: The excitement of the counselors is palpable in the air as they work vigorously to prepare the arts and crafts supplies for camp. Another group of counselors sits in the corner with the directors practicing their educations and ensuring that everything is perfect for their campers. This hustle and bustle occurs every Sunday at Keshav Smruti in Houston, TX as counselors organize everything down to the last detail for the 210 campers expected this year.

HHYC Camp Directors Ranjan Veludandi and Shivangi Dixit. Photo Credit: Vijay Pallod

Each counselor realizes the importance of Hindu camp and the role it plays in the lives of the campers – strengthening religious and cultural ties. Thus, the preparations for the “best five days of the year” are in full swing.

Hindu Heritage Youth Camp (HHYC), founded in 1984, has aimed to “inspire the younger generation by teaching them the rich values and ideas of their heritage” for 38 years now. Children from the greater Houston area come together to discuss India’s rich history, learn age-old Hindu traditions such as yoga, and form bonds with each other while playing games like “steal the butter.” Life-long friendships come out of these five days, and many campers go on to serve the community that once served them by becoming counselors, coordinators, and directors. They spread the knowledge and wisdom they once received to the next generation of campers.

The five-day camp in Medina, Texas is packed with numerous activities that appeal to each age group. This year, we have over 60 college students and recent graduates who have worked tirelessly to organize daily games, educations, and arts-and crafts for the that occur each day. Without the hard work of our counselors, camp would not be possible. Sara Joshi, a 5th year counselor, explains that “I met some of my best friends at camp and learned to appreciate my Hindu Heritage. I want to provide these campers with the same pivotal experience HHYC had for me because camp is where I learned to be proud of my culture and my roots.”

Camp will be directed by Ranjan Veludandi and Shivangi Dixit this year. Ranjan is a recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, and this is his second year as a director. Ranjan explains that this year of meetings has been quite different. “We have taken on a hybrid format of Sunday meetings. We started especially early this year with Sunday zoom meetings and now will be meeting in person for the final touches before camp. We are learning to adapt to the new environment around us and are prepared for any challenges that come our way. Can’t wait to see everyone there!”

Shivangi Dixit is a recent graduate from Texas A&M University. She has served as both a counselor and coordinator in the past. This year will be her first year of directing. Shivangi states that she is extremely excited because “the counselors and coordinators have worked rigorously to prepare phenomenal education topics that will give campers an insight to their cultural background. Hopefully, campers will leave HHYC with new knowledge to share with their family and friends. I am counting down the days till July 26th.

HHYC is only possible due to the hard-work of our counselors and support of it’s umbrella organizations, Hindus of Greater Houston. Furthermore, there are a multitude of volunteers who help out behind the scenes during camp – there is a camp doctor who ensures the wellness of the campers, volunteers work in the kitchen to prepare homecooked meals, and sponsors to fund the various supplies. In the future, HHYC is looking forward to building its permanent home at Texas Hindu Campsite.

This article was written by Dhwani Dawar. Dhwani graduated from UT Austin with a degree in Neuroscience and has been a counselor at HHYC for 6 years.