Radha Madhav Dham Youth Reach Out and Connect with Refugee Kids Living in Austin

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AUSTIN,TX:On July 2, a group of youth and teens from Radha Madhav Dham headed over to the Capitol Building grounds in Austin, Texas. A little nervous, anxious, but very excited, approximately 50 youth, ranging in age from 7 to 20 years, headed out in anticipation of the community outreach event they had spent four days planning at the 3rd Annual Summer Youth Camp being conducted by Radha Madhav Dham Temple. Little did they know they were about to experience something unforgettable and life changing.

This outreach event was organized by the Camp teachers, in collaboration with Interfaith Action Central Texas (IACT), a non-profit institution that helps assimilate Refugee families and children from war-torn countries, such as Iraq, Burma, Afghanistan, Nepal, Congo and Sudan. IACT brings in volunteer teachers who teach English and vocational trades.

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In the days leading up to the event, the Camp kids worked with great enthusiasm to make sure they could provide the best experience possible to the Refugee children… One of the leaders of the project, Sudama Francis, said, “As one of the few leaders for the RMD Refugee Program, I was able to see how the children progressed from day one. I can definitely say all our volunteer kids worked extremely hard to make this event possible – raising funds, baking cookies, buying supplies, backpacks, water bottles, scarves to give away; planning and detailing the actual event, packing gifts and so on. They learned organization, team building, and several other leadership skills. However, It was unimaginable, even to us leaders, that they were able to raise $2000 towards this event in merely three days, given their packed schedule of classes and activities.”

“The tension, anxiety and stress disappeared once I saw those bright smiles from the Refugee children. I was able to hear some of their stories. My face reminded a four-year-old girl from Iran of her older brother. She embraced me and gave me the sweetest smile,” said a youth participant.

“Despite all the hardship, I was surprised that these kids were so outgoing, friendly and happy. I have never met kids who have gone through so many struggles. They touched my heart deeply. After the event I couldn’t control my emotions and started to cry,” said Marissa, a teenager.

The kids started by playing soccer, volleyball and parachute. They made up games as they mingled; sometimes dancing together, other times just chasing one another. After the initial burst of activity, they started entertaining the kids with face-painting, henna and glitter tattoos. Then they shared snacks and distributed the gifts they had brought for the Refugee kids. By the end of the day, they were all friends, not wanting to leave or say good- byes.

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This event was life-changing and emotional for both sides. The Refugee children received a lot of love and support for their new lives in America. And the Camp kids gained new, impacting experiences and leadership qualities, which will inspire them to do more outreach projects in the future. “This event did not just make a huge impact on the Refugee children, it was also life changing for us RMD kids,” said 11-year-old Karun Puri. “I felt good about myself because I knew I had made a difference in the children’s lives, and feel lucky to have been a part of it.”

The Radha Madhav Camp this summer was successful on many fronts, including record attendance and participation. In addition to the Refugee Community outreach project, a Blood Donation Camp at the Temple was organized for the first ever time, in collaboration with the American Red Cross. This also was organized by another Austin youth who, through her organization, was able to exceed her personal goal by enlisting 77 people to donate blood to help save lives.

This generation of youth is truly amazing. In addition to having caring hearts, they are savvy and capable. All they need is someone to nurture, coach and guide them, so they can channel their energies in a positive and effective direction. And that is what the Youth Camp at RMD is all about.

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