One Day Kids Retreat In Surat

Posted by Varsha Soni on Oct 14, 2018
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[Recently I had the opportunity to volunteer alongside an incredible crew of love warriors for the first ever one day Kids Retreat in Surat. What started off as a seed from a 10 year old's curiosity to come together along with other kids to practice small acts of kindness - unfurled into an incredible day of learnings, aha-moments and smiles of gratitude. Deeply grateful to Meera Ben (the mother of this 10 year old), and many other visible and invisible volunteers who made this intention a reality.]

On September 2nd, a first of it's kind one day Kids Retreat was hosted in Surat at the Fountain Head School. It was a totally new experiment and experience too. As I was also a part of that retreat I want to share my experience.

The whole idea started with one simple question that Ramit (Meera Didi and Ritesh Bhai’s son) asked. He was recently at ESI, Sughad and at that time he asked a simple question to his mother, "Why do you elders have all the fun in the retreat? Why can't kids join and enjoy it too?".

Ramit's question had shifted something in Meera Ben and she really started to think about the depth in which her son had just inquired. She felt the urge to do something about it and to initiate an experiment with the children. She thought, this was a new way and a different way to connect with her son. She immediately reached out to the local community in exploring possibilities of such a random but an interesting idea.

The entire volunteer soul force of Surat immediately said yes to this intention. It was so so awesome to witness this first hand. They reached out to many parents around the community and hoped to cap it at 15-20 kids. Partly, they weren't sure that kids or parents would be interested in exploring something like this. But it was a reverse problem. They now had 32 kids interested (and counting, to most they had to humbly deny) Just imagine 32 kids (who are in between 8 to 14 years) under one roof! Par soch liya to soch liya karna hi hai wala jazba. (It was like we've thought of it and now there's no looking back kind of a moment).

All the arrangements went smoothly to accommodate 32 kids and 17 volunteers. The retreat was finally happening on September 2nd, 2018. Meghna didi, Reva (as a full participant this time), Harshil and me were ready to join them from Ahmedabad too. We were double lucky because Manish Bhai anchors Awakin Kids circle on the first Saturday of every month. Incidentally it was also the day when we reached Surat so we joined the circle and had a wonderful experience there. After the circle, we reached at Parag Bhai's house for an informal volunteer meeting with the most amazing home cooked dinner. The planning for the day was in full flow, with many questions, much excitement and a lot of energy.

On the day of the retreat, we reached the Fountain Head School where the retreat was planned. Nimisha didi and Payal didi were our super rockstars who went in a day earlier to decorated the space. I must say it was so beautiful.

Mitisha Didi, Sandeep Bhai and Ritesh Bhai were in the welcoming team, which they did with big wide smiles. Kids entered the hall and after a sarvdharam prayer, the opening circle started.

The circle started with the question, Who are some of the superheroes that you are aware of, which superhero do you like the most and what are their super powers? Considering you are a super hero too, what is the super power in you? And lastly, how have you used your super power to help others?

It was nice thought to throw this kind of question front of the kids so that they could connect with their own gifts - that actually were their super powers. It was a lens that they had never looked at themselves or even others. One kid shared that his compassion to others is his superpower, another shared that she is very kind to others, kindness is her superpower. Some said that smile was their superpower, some said hugs, someone shared - talking to strangers was her super power, someone shared cleaning was his super power. One volunteer said how he enjoys garba and that to do garba with people is his superpower. Whereas another one said that her favourite superhero is ‘flash’. It was a very insightful circle to see that kids really got the intention of this introduction. It set the pace of the day.

After a good 2 hour opening circle, the kids were super excited to get up and move around. This seemed like a perfect lead into the next part of the day. After the opening circle Ketan bhai led children into a fun Yoga session. Kids actually enjoyed a lot, and even volunteers too. A volunteer gave his camera to me so that he could join the yoga with the twist. Kids were thoroughly enjoying the Yoga and Aerobics that was brought in as a surprise - with some fun and humor.

This was just enough for kids to be ready for a nice lunch. After lunch, the intention of the day was for kids to get into 3 group activities. This was the key moment of the retreat, because all these kids were going to do something that they have never done before.

1) One group was to make Smile Banners - go out on the streets and spread smiles and hugs. This was particularly tough since most of them were conditioned to not engage with strangers. Even the thought of standing on the road spreading smiles seemed like a vague idea to them at first. But kids are kids - they got into the moment as soon as they started.

I was in the banner group and had enjoyed a lot because we could do whatever we felt to do on whole white sheet. It was an amazing feeling, It feels like we all were became kids again. Made all banners on them written tag lines i.e., “Let's Hi-five”, “Can you give me a smile”, “Free Hugs, Jo Baka, hug toh karvuj padshe (look my dear, hug is going to be an inevitable process of our interaction”, “Can you sing a song with me".

2) Another group was to make fresh lemonade and share it with strangers for free. The catch was - they had to interact with each stranger - talk to them about their super powers, have the stranger share a gift they had with these kids and then the kids would gift them a free lemonade. It was absolutely heart stirring to see how strangers in suits and ties literally let loose with these kids in a strong bond of songs, dance, hugs and smiles. Many actually took selfies with these kids as if they were some celebrities. These kids, surely felt like they were celebrities :))

3) Another group had to make sandwiches for all kids and volunteers - With this idea kids were able to realize how to do things in kitchen with a team. Some reflected on how they never realized how much love and care their mother puts in the kitchen and at home to make sure they are well taken care of. Two of them even cut their fingers while chopping the vegetables. These kids had never entered the kitchen or even held a knife before. It was so nice to see these little chefs in action with so much love. (side note - I had never had such amazing sandwiches before. Food + Love - actually became prasad that day.

After the groups returned from their activities, we all ate the sandwiches which were made by the kids. Children looked so happy. The activities really sparked something beautiful in their hearts as they got a chance to connect with strangers, understood the power of smile and how you can change or build a relation with strangers and family members as well. And that sometimes cooking for loved one's brings a sense of deep satisfaction within. It was a heartwarming experience for kids and volunteers alike.

Linkee closed the circle where kids shared some beautiful reflections and aha moments of an expanded heart that they all felt. To top it all, the kids got a surprise return gift as well that Avni didi, Deep, Kyaari and many others masterminded for them all. There were smiles everywhere as we all departed for the day :)

The day was absolutely unexpected - after a lot of planning and brainstorming, each one's heart was filled with a sense of accomplishment and a sense of a coma - and not a full stop. This seemed to be the birth of so much more that is to come in the future.

Parents were were bombarding the volunteers with love messages as soon as the kids reached home. The kids could not contain the experience and joy they felt. They expressed how the kids had so much fun and now they want to continue to stay involved and do something on an on-going basis.

I really feel grateful for each and every person who were a part of this retreat. And to all the visible and invisible hands behind retreat, I want to thank everyone from my HEART. Deep gratitude towards all.

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Comments (6)

  • Sandip Sheta wrote ...

    Great experience as volunteer....
    Happiness on all face...

  • Ritesh Patel wrote ...

    Its owsome for kids i m thank full to miraben

  • Dipak Soni wrote ...

    Quite interesting read. Would love to be a part of such event in the future!

  • Trishna wrote ...

    AMAAAAAAAAAAAAAZING to hear about this one-day kids retreat, what a beautiful unfolding!! Makes my heart sing knowing that all of you wonderful people are holding space for children in this way! And thanks so much for sharing so that other communities around the world can take inspiration from these seeds you've planted in Surat. Really really grateful.

  • Yvonne wrote ...

    This great day for the kids started with the Love that had inspired all these interesting and joyfilled mind heart and soul have been deeply touched...thank you so much.

  • wrote ...

    great post. i like it. feeling great when reading your post .