When I was a freshman in high school I learned about Vraj Youth Camp (VYC) from a friend and was intrigued by the amazing experiences she had. I decided to go the next summer, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Vraj Mandir is a Hindu temple in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania that attracts visitors from around the world and country. The temple started hosting youth camps years ago where youth ages 9-16 could stay for a week over the summer depending on their age and learn more about their culture, meet new people, and have fun. I have attended the camps since 2015 and have met so many people and learned about my culture as well. The Vraj Youth community is a very strong one that I am so thankful for. After camping for 3 years, I counseled last year and am now on the Youth Committee. Formally established in August of 2005, Vraj Youth Committee has become a home to Vraj Youth far and wide. From its early conception, VYC has overcome the initial obstacles and proved itself as a permanent and vital part of the Vraj Family. VYC has grown from 8 campers to over 550, and the numbers keep rising every year. We strive to promote and protect our culture by devoting our time and volunteer efforts at Vraj events; With a large network of alumni, we manage and execute various gatherings and programs to unite and encourage Hindu youth in America. Every year, we see newer generations of Vraj Youth, some of whom are grandchildren of the pioneers of Vraj.
Due to Covid-19, we had to have a virtual camp, but the turnout was great! Many campers logged on every day for a week to see their favorite counselors and participate in virtual camp activities. We recently hosted a challenge called the Step Up Challenge where participants of any age- volunteers, campers, counselors, elders- competed in teams of up to six to achieve the title of most average steps. Participants took a screenshot of their step count each day for three weeks and sent in their numbers at the end of every week. We are currently in the process of determining a winning team; the team with the highest average will get amazon gift cards. The individual with the highest number of steps will receive a new exclusive piece of Vraj merchandise, a line that was recently released as the Balbodh Factory.
The Step Up Challenge motivated people to get as many steps as possible and to work with their team members, even if they were across the country. I personally had a lot of fun getting my steps in; I went hiking, made sure I tracked my steps at work, went on long walks, etc! The Step Up Challenge was a memorable one, and I'm sure we will have more exciting, valuable challenges and activities in the future.