11 Lessons I Learned From Hadootho
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11 Lessons I Learned From Hadootho

The little things I noticed about after attending Hadootho camps.

11 Lessons I Learned From Hadootho
Hadootho Camp

In the Northeast American Diocese of the Indian Orthodox Church, the Philadelphia area churches host an annual summer camp for it's youth called "Hadootho," which is Syriac for unity, joyful, happy. The camp was originally started by a single church from Northeast Philadelphia back in 2008 in which the following year incorporated all the area churches. Each year, the camp focuses on different themes among youth ranging from the ages of 13 to 23, leading the demographics to be middle schoolers all the way to college. I have been on the committee for organizing the camp since the initial start from 2008. Within these eight years, from being on committee and an active participant in the sessions, I have learned some valuable lessons which I thought I should share with future camp participants.

1. People will want your so creatively designed T-shirts.

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Call of Duty, Obama's campaign, construction workers, and even eye exams. Those are some of the ideas Hadootho has been inspired from to create designs. On numerous occasions, I've been complimented for the T-shirts and been asked where others could get them.

2. Snapchat will be in full swing at camp.

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Although Snapchat has only been active for a little under five years, I would personally say my Snapchat and Snapchat stories have never run out during the period of Hadootho. With sending updates to friends as to what's going on at camp to posting stories of sessions of the camp, Snapchat is a strong social media machine that has increased the presence of Hadootho across the nation.

3. You might be rid of your parents, but your parents are never rid of you.

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The largest demographic that comes to Hadootho range from middle and high school students. From that, one of the biggest influencers is the freedom they get to hang out and be in fellowship with their friends, away from home and mainly away from parents, for a few days. Although the students get caught up in the fun of Hadootho, their parents never forget them. On average, it is around 9 p.m. that I've seen almost 90 percent of the camp on phones, or borrowing another person's phone, to call their parents and give them an update as to what has been happening.

4. Being on committee is a team effort.

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Eight years I've been on committee, working with various individuals in various parts of the planning. Therefore, for future participants who want to get involved on committee, here's some advice. It's never a one-person job. We work collaboratively, brainstorming, discussing and planning. We play devil's advocate, we find something that works with everyone. We don't just make decisions individually, it's always a group effort. And our spiritual fathers are always there to guide us. What I've taken away from these past couple years is that although I miss a good chunk of the sessions because of running a session or preparing a session or any other task and duties I have, I always find myself growing closer to my faith and my church at the end of camp.

5. I like having the ability to join thirumeni (bishop) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don't you?

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For the past couple years, the head of the Northeast American Diocese, His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos has been coming regularly to Hadootho and staying with the youth throughout the sessions. I have been able to sit with him during meal times and just talk about the previous or future sessions, updates within the dioceses, or even modern day news. His Grace is very knowledgeable and is an avid reader from books and novels, to publications and news articles. It's not everyday you can learn from thirumeni or even talk to His Grace because of the schedule His Grace follows leading the diocese. Therefore I definitely appreciate every minute His Grace devotes to our camp.

6. Improv is a great tool in learning acting.

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As a "lessons learned" part of the speaker sessions, groups are instructed to relay what they learned and most of the time, groups present a skit to get the point across. Given, we only have two days, the skits are completely improv with no script or direction. Because of that, I'd say I've definitely improved on my public speaking and acting skills.

7. Music ministry will grow your Spotify playlists.

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In the opening sessions of the camp, every day, we have music ministry in which songs from various praise and worship artists are selected and we sing as a group. I've always managed to get hitched on a song or songs and grew my list of praise and worship songs on my Spotify playlist. I find that these songs always connect to me and when I listen to them outside of camp, I can still feel that connection that made me fall for the song.

8. St. Vladimir & St. Tikhon's alumni cannot be beaten in basketball. They will embarrass you.

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Every year, there's always one squad of youth that think they can match the basketball skills of priests and deacons. You might find it funny, but these priests and deacons spent three years obtaining their Master's degrees in Divinity and Theology. During their free time, basketball was the logical option, and so they honed some superior skills. So when a squad rolls in and says they can best those priests and deacons based on the support of the squad having played a game of basketball in gym class, kind of setting yourself up for embarrassment. It's happened every year, and every year the squad loses.

9. It's never just the Philadelphia churches.

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Year after year, Haworth grows or impacts other areas. Because of the start of Hadootho, there is now a camp in every area of the diocese. Even with camps in their own areas we have still managed to get visitors from other areas every year. We have Yonkers church youth come down, youths from some of the Jersey churches and we've even had some of the DC/Maryland youth come up for our camp. All in all, I now find it odd if our registration team says there's only Philadelphia youth. We definitely welcome all.

10. Have your sleep before and after camp.

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Every year because of the excitement and energy of the youths gathered, they never end up sleeping. Everyone stays up in their rooms and hangs out or plays games. But the days after the camp is over, almost 99 percent of the youth take a hibernation period and sleep off the exhaustion.

11. Rev. Fr. M. K. Kuriakose never has a tell.

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Every year during game night, the most epic game played by everyone is Mafia. The game involves trying to figure out who are the villains and who are the heroes. Kuriakose Achen (priest) always gets away with being one of the members of the mafia. But don't be fooled, he just never has a tell in order to figure out if he's lying. Just watch your back out there!

Each year is a new camp, and I only hope future generations continue to grow our area and our camp. Although they are spiritual, it is a chance for the area to come together and be in fellowship and communion. We have our songs and our speakers and our prayers, but we also have our fun and our laughs. And so let's hope we keep our inner fires going and let God be our guide.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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