Campers on the final day
This year Camp Fatehgarh was held from August 10 – 17, 2019 at Camp Somers, in Stanhope, NJ, a very scenic 1,000-acre Scout camp. This year there were over 90 campers mostly from the from the tri-state area, but some from out of the area travelling long distances to be at the camp.
This year Kirpal Singh, Kavneet Singh, Sutinder Singh with the help of some wonderful volunteers ran a very organized camping experience, by engaging the campers and enthusing them with the Sikh spirit.
The campers were up by 5:30 a.m. every morning for an early start. The morning session started at 7 a.m. with nitnem, learning how to take the ‘vaak’, and doing kirtan. Each camper took turns learning to take the ‘hukam’ and doing the ardas, regardless of age. Campers as young as 7 to 17 participated in active discussions and questions during the camp.
Nishan Sahib ceremony after the morning diwan
After the Nishan Sahib ceremony a hearty breakfast was served at 8:15 a.m. with classes starting at 9:15 a.m. This year the entire theme was based on the ‘Ardas’ and all the classes from religion, history, language and kirtan were for 45 mins each. Campers were divided into four age groups and age appropriate lessons taught which included public speaking skills. The afternoons were filled with team games, basketball, gaga ball, mountain biking, water balloon fights, Frisbee, target shooting, archery, skeet shooting, rock climbing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, boating, fishing, obstacle course, zip line, ATVs and getting to know each other while soaking in the sun.
There were special late afternoon electives like storytelling, art, bhangra and dastar tying sessions. The evening sessions were held to facilitate open discussions on social issues such as bullying to teenage issues. Each evening a special fun event was organized such as a pillow fight, bonfire with music, talent show, etc. Some of the campers showed phenomenal artistic and poetic skills, especially the younger ones. Rehras Sahib was held every evening with explanation and discussions. After dinner and Kirtan Sohila Sahib it was milk and cookies before lights out.
Dr. Mohandeep Singh discussing the Ardas with his class
Special guests were invited to engage and inspire the campers. US Army Captain Simratpal Singh (Army Engineer and a US Ranger) the first Sikh to graduate from the elite Military Academy at West Point, NY, a Bronze Star recipient who came on August 10 -12, and presented to all levels of campers, while holding their attention completely. Children had so many questions and Captain Simratpal Singh patiently answered all of them with an engaging smile and genuine warmth that touched so may hearts, inspiring many to rise above and beyond. He spoke of various skills and gave examples which make up top notch leadership. There is no question that there will be a camper who follows in his footsteps and join of the elite academies in the near future. In fact, on July 3, 2017 two young keshdhari and amritdhari Sikh American men and one young Sikh American woman (in 2016) joined West Point paving the way from many more.
Captain Simartpal Singh (US Army) talking to all the campers and inspiring them
Daily diwan in the morning at Camp Fatehgarh
The other special guest was Savraj Singh, Chief Technology Officer at Daily Harvest, inventor and a Princeton graduate, who spoke about his life as an entrepreneur and his experiences at youth camps. Campers were really excited about array of skills that Savraj Singh had and conveyed in such a fun manner to inspire the young children.
S.Savraj Singh engaging the campers
Attorney General Gurbir Singh of New Jersey came on Thursday Aug 15, 2019 and spent an hour speaking to the all the campers, including answering their queries. He was a camper once many years ago and today a trail-blazer and genuinely inspired many children to do better and reach for the sky. His entourage included a media person who covered the event.
Attorney General Gurbir Singh with some of youngest group of campers
Gurmeet Kaur a IT professional turned writer who has written eight books on folk tales from Punjab, in Punjabi, Shahmukhi (Urdu) and English to save the original Punjabi language and inspire pride in the next generation regarding the language of their ancestors. She brought tears in the eyes of most adults, especially those who had heard those stories from their Dadis and Nanis but truly understood the depth and nature of her tireless work.
Gurmeet Kaur mesmerizing the campers with her stories
Sherveer Singh a rising freshman heading to University and Karanveer Singh a rising senior at Rutgers University both spoke on the advantages of being a Scout and how to learn life skills in order to prevent getting bullied by others. Sherveer Singh is the youngest Eagle Scout with a Hornday Award in the nation on record and Karanveer Singh has written a unique comprehensive solution-oriented book called, “Bullying Sikh American Children Through the Eyes of a Sikh American High School Student.” www.bullyingsikhamericanchildren.org
Sherveer Singh taking the ‘Hukam’ while Manjot Kaur, Sehaj Singh, and Karanveer Singh are in attendance
Campers got out of their comfort zone made a special effort to try some activities which not only brought a smile to their faces but removed the subconscious fear which brought about a change in them for the better. Rock climbing, zip lines, swimming and few other activities took many children out of their shell and improved their confidence.
Boys swimming in the lake on a sunny afternoon
Every Sikh child came away with learning something new including new ‘shabads’, thanks to the two awesome volunteers like Manjot Kaur and Dr.Harpreet Kaur for kirtan and along with great support of Japneet Kaur and Avneet Singh.
Arjanveer Singh and Tandeep Kaur rock climbing
Children built solid friendships and supported each other creating an environment of ‘chardi kala’, all thanks to the senior camp facilitators and teachers like Kirpal Singh, Dr.Ajay Partap Singh, Dr.Harpreet Kaur, Dr.Mohandeep Singh, Gurinder Singh, Harvinder Singh, Sutinder Singh, Manjot Kaur, Bhupinder Singh, Kavneet Singh and many others who cannot be thanked enough for their tireless sewa. Kudos to the counselors, Karanveer Singh, Sherveer Singh, Ashuvdeep Singh, Basant Singh, Harneet Kaur, Bipanpreet Kaur, Amrit Singh, Puneet Singh, Hargobind Singh, Karanpal Singh, Tandeep Kaur, Gurleen Kaur, Simran Singh and Simran Kaur for their diligent sewa in making sure it was a smooth camping experience.
Older boys on ATVs
Campers fished every day for the entire week as it was such a fun activity. Most campers ended up catching small ‘sunny’ fish as for many it was the first time.
Boys fishing with nets as they got tired of using the fishing rods
Many more of the girls ended on the ‘zip line’ than boys and did not want to stop.
Girls having fun on the ‘zip line’
Kirpal Singh who has been the backbone of the camp for decades has taught and educated hundreds of campers about the true path of Sikhi, as he has tried to live it. His three adult children and eight grandchildren are on the same path. His Sikh spirit and inspiration has touched and brought change to many and cannot be described but only be felt. On Saturday August 17, 2019 he was honored with the ‘ASC Sewadar medal’ for his lifetime service towards the betterment of Sikh youth.
Sutinder Singh honoring Kirpal Singh with the ‘Sewadar Award’ for his lifetime sewa to Sikh youth
Camp Fatehgarh has left its indelible mark on many children and we hope more will join us next year to continue to carry the torch of the Sikh spirit forward.