The SSE Children of WA were treated to an SSE Camp in the scenic Bickley Valley during a near-perfect Autumn weekend in April this year. The camp was held from Friday evening 12th till Sunday afternoon 14ht April 2019, and in sharing the theme, Boomerang Back to the Source, the camp was a precursor to the National Conference that was being held in Sydney the following weekend. The WA SSE camp is held biennially and this year was the first time children had the option to camp out under the stars. One of the aims of the camp was to allow children to embrace Mother Nature and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
The proceedings started off on Friday evening with devotional singing under the stars followed by a sumptuous dinner. Teary-eyed parents begrudgingly let go of their children, many of whom were camping for the first time. Their apprehensions and their children’s fears vanished within minutes when, before they could leave, they witnessed their children laughing with joy as they chased each other up and down the grassy amphitheatre, not allowing the dinner to digest for one moment and making new friends almost instantly. The ice was broken with a rousing Icebreaker that had children twisted in human knots before they were finally settled with a bedtime story taken from Sai Baba’s childhood.
Children arose on Saturday morning before the crack of dawn and assembled for morning prayers at 6am. Nagarsankirtan followed and children spread positive vibrations to the Bickley campsite with their songs carrying Sai Baba’s blessing to all corners of the grounds. The program commenced with Walking Meditation followed by Yoga Therapy to awake the tired bodies and rejuvenate the minds. Everyone was then divided into four streams for the different SSE groups and the Parent Volunteers. Facilitators challenged participants to Boomerang back to Sai through age-specific workshops and activities which also continued after lunch. To break things up, children participated in a series of nature-bases activities that got their competitive juices pumping and encouraged them to boldly face their fears. Vertical climbing challenges, flying fox over the river, team building and hut building were some of the activities on offer.
After lunch, one of the children shared with the group his experiences with past SSE camps and how it transformed his life. When he learnt about the harmful effects of meat-eating at the tender age of 5, he decided to become a vegetarian overnight and converted his whole family in the process. Four years on and he is still a vegetarian. Sports was always high on the agenda for children and they certainly had their fill. Volleyball, basketball and soccer games were a hit with the older ones, whilst younger children competed to see who could pitch and pack a tent the fastest – a handy life skill to possess. Outdoor bhajans followed a warm shower and dinner where a few children bravely sang their very first songs. The Saturday night entertainment session closed a full day of activities with fun and laughter and an early night’s rest to prepare for Hindu New Year the following day.
The morning was welcomed with a Unity of Faiths Program before dawn. All major faiths were honoured with songs, prayers, reading of quotes and flags to represent their symbols. Whilst the children sang devotional songs to conclude the program, the milk boiling ceremony was set up in front of everyone with the beautiful Kolam (rice design) that was designed by parents the night before. As the milk began to bubble, children stood around the pot and tried to guess which direction the milk would spill out first. Each direction is sacred and contained a meaning that was symbolic for the new year. The following weekend was also Easter so to commemorate, younger children participated in an Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt whilst the older children explored the true meaning of selfless service.
The final session was the main event before home time. Parents and children were all welcomed to participate in Brazilian Capoeira, a unique high-flying martial arts form shrouded in dance and song. We learn about the history of this inclusive art form and explored the meditative power of the Brazilian musical instruments. We were also all impressed by its inclusivity as the rule is that all must be involved, either as the Capoeiristas practising against each other or as observers playing the instruments. The final meal was a delicious traditional South Indian Banana Leaf lunch.
Feedback for the camp was overall very positive and there was even interest to have it yearly. Appreciation goes to all the parent and teacher volunteers who worked tirelessly in the background to make it a success. We thank our beloved Sai Baba for bringing joy to children and parents alike and making everything possible.