ShreeSwaminarayanTempleWillesdenAcademy first proposed to hold a summer camp in 2001. We had the support of the committee members, however we had never organised anything on this scale and such a distance away in Kessingland, near Great Yarmouth. Organising the first camp was an experience in itself, making two hour long journeys to the camp site and then two hours back again every few weeks. The camp lasted three days and had just 50 attendees, but it was such a great experience that we will never forget. Members from the temple committee attended on one of the days and were so impressed that they admitted that they were worried how it would all pan out, but were so pleased with what the youth had organised that they declared it will be an annual event.
The interest for the second camp left us deflated. We had a mere 30-40 forms a few weeks before the camp started and were very close to cancelling the whole thing. But with Maharaj’s blessings, in the following two weeks we had close to 100 forms in total. That year was very auspicious for us, as H.H. Mota Gadiwala visited us at camp and spent the day with us and through the years we have had the pleasure of having Acharya Maharajshree, Mota Maharajshree, Gadiwala of Vadtal Temple, Yuvak Mandal santos, many santos from Bhuj and Ahmedabad, sankhyayogi baiyos who accompany Gadiwala and obviously Maharaj Himself attending camp.
Lord knows where the time has gone, just to think where Camp 2001 started with 50 campers and Camp 2013 will end the summer with over 200! Camp has continually evolved to meet the needs of the attendees. We have the best food with new varieties added every year. We make new friends and reunite with old ones at camp. We sing, laugh, play and pray together. We look forward to a week of fun every summer. The weather is not always in our favour, but rest assured there’s always something to do, even sneak in a little midday nap! Some may think all they must do is talk about religious things, well to be honest we do spend time discussing religious topics, this is a mandir camp after all, but the way in which it is done is fun and interesting, so there is no chance of anyone getting bored. We have short, informative presentations and fun workshops where our art, acting, dance and singing skills are put on show to fellow campers and parents on Open Day. We have covered a variety of topics through the years such as Avtars, Vachnamrut, Satsangi Jeevan, Vanvicharan, ways to get closer to Maharaj, the Swaminarayan Mahamantra, and much more.
Open Day is where we are all on our best behaviour and welcome parents and guests to our camp. We spend the day playing sports and games, having our faces painted, eating lots of ice-cream, taking part in the raffle draw and just having a great time outdoors. All our artwork made during the days at camp is displayed in the Exhibition Marquee and marked by the guests. Then we all gather for sandhya aarti, thaal and sabha towards the end of the day, where the all-important results are announced for the exhibition and raffle. Such a nerve-racking experience! We also have a BBQ and on occasions play raas. It is a long and tiring day, but we look forward to the short lie-in the next day.
All in all, we have dedicated volunteers who spend a lot of their time organising sports, workshops and presentations, others who look after campers, a whole kitchen team dedicated to preparing food, first-aiders, a very active maintenance team and many more teams.