Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa,
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
Before I begin, I would first like to introduce myself. My name is Naureen Kaur and I am currently a sophomore at CU Boulder in Colorado.
Growing up as a Sikh girl in a predominately Caucasian state and community meant I had to face the pains of racism and prejudice. After the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, I was often labeled with names like “terrorist” and “raghead” because I walked in the community with my father and brother, both wear turbans. Despite my father serving the US Army for 30 years ultimately earning the prestigious ranking of a colonel and becoming one of the only Sikhs in the army with a turban, my teachers often told me that if I wanted to keep my family safe, I should cut my hair and convert. I started to believe that my appearance was all wrong. I needed to dye my hair blonde, or wear blue contact lenses. I probably stared at mirrors for hours asking myself every “why,” “who,” “what” question there was, before I decided I needed to take a step and figure out who I was.
I attended my first IIGS Sikh camp in 2005 with my younger sister, during a time when we both did not know much about Sikhism. That IIGS camp was my first encounter with learning more about my beautiful religion. Papa Ji was that spark and light in my life to make me proud to be a Sikh and gratified I was born into a Sikh family. Till this day, I still remember lines Papa Ji used to say because that is how much they stuck in my heart. The reason why I am the person I am today, is because of that initial step Papa Ji gave me to embrace my religion, but more importantly, to embrace and love myself.
For the next 7 years, I was not able to attend camp because of school, but I came to camp in 2012 and once again this year. This year, I was made a JCT, a job which gave me the responsibility of taking care of the campers and keeping the camp running on schedule. From the moment I stepped into camp, I was greeted with warmth and open arms. Every camper was embodied with love and hope, the two qualities I feel are most important for anyone to enter a camp with. As a JCT, I had the fantastic opportunity of getting to spend more time with the younger campers. Whether it be teaching them the banana song, or tucking them into bed at night, the younger campers taught me a very valuable lesson I will probably never forget. The younger campers showed me how to love unconditionally, and how to be always eager to learn. Throughout the duration of the camp, the campers had opportunities to learn tabla or keertan, attend Sikh History or Art Class, and learn a new Paath. Aashna Kaur, one of the adjutants of the camp, said that her favorite part of camp was finishing up the camp talent show with the cup song. The atmosphere was pure unity.
It felt good to be around such amazing and selfless people. This was like that one moment when everyone acknowledged that we made progress towards our goal together and that we would never forget anything that happened. I was so awestruck at how people we see once a year or people we've never even met before could have such a powerful effect on us and that we all pick up where we leave off the next time.” While some campers enjoyed the games and picnics, camper Jot Saroop Singh loved learning about “the internalpeace that naam simran gives.” But no matter what it was, every camper left camp with something new, something unique, and someone to be a longlasting friend with. Campers were able to take material they learned from camp, and bring them back to the gurudwaras at home. Herleen Kaur, a camper who travelled from Utah believed that her favorite camp memory was listening to the kirtan because “ the kirtan was really sincere and emotional by just just listening to it, and it was definitely no problem singing along. At the gurdwara where I live, I could sometimes find myself falling asleep but just listening to the kirtan was enough to wake me up.” All in all, campers left IIGS with memories to take back home, and memories to last a lifetime. Simran Kaur, another camper from Utah, truly believed that camp taught her “some of the major principles of Sikhism, which include equality, humility, selfless service, remembering Waheguru and finally universal truth. For [hersef], [she] delved into an insight of what kind of person [she] was Throughout camp, I discovered that there is a single entity lying within me that can dedicate to Waheguru Ji.”
I truly believe camp is the one vacation everyone needs to escape all our problems, and focus on the things that matter. As a college going student in an area where gurudwaras are not easy to go to, camp is more of a necessity for me to go to in order for me to remain in chardi kala throughout the year. IIGS is the foundation that marked the base for which my love for Sikhism began, and it will always be that vital foundation everyone needs for their love to keep growing.