Winter had arrived and the excitement was palpable as a group of kids gathered for a residential winter camp in Pondicherry. Focused on conscious living, the camp aimed to immerse the kids in a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. The winter camp at Pondicherry was unlike any other. For four days, kids woke up early to do yoga, meditate, and chores, all while embracing conscious living. The camp was all about connecting with nature, learning new skills, and discovering the beauty of the world around them.
On the 24th of December, children had vegan lunch that they thoroughly enjoyed and gathered in the meeting hall of Society where Dr. Mollika conducted an orientation session that included An Ideal Child by the Mother and set the tone for the rest of the camp. Then they had a quick ice breaking session with and Nagarjuna, one of our camp volunteers. They got to know each other a little better through games and a few activities. They shared what they understood of the camp’s objective and what they expected out of it. After everyone gave their introduction, Shiv bhaiya regaled the 20 kids with a beautiful story. After the storytelling session, the children spent time playing, away from screens, in the company of their new friends. Rathi, our co-coordinator, with her calm and gentleness, made sure that all the resources were ready and the logistics were taken care of.
As the sun set, the kids were taken to a sea-facing balcony where they were led through a guided meditation by the sea. Refreshed by the sound of the ocean and a day of discoveries, the children had yet another healthy vegan meal. After dinner, they walked back to their dormitory and slept soundly, eager for the adventures that lay ahead.
The next day, on the 25th, they woke up early and went for a yoga session at morning 6am, followed by a healthy breakfast at "The Cottage". Then they headed to Sharanam, a property built on sustainable architecture. Everyone had a rejuvenating hibiscus juice and had session on mindful movements. It was then time for the most exciting item on the schedule with Archana Saraf who conducted a workshop on no-bake cakes and healthy snacks with the children which they thoroughly enjoyed. Each age group was given a task that they accomplished and contributed to the overall learning experience. The lunch that day included the healthy chaat that they made along with a healthy no-bake dessert as a special treat. It was sheer joy watching them not only participate in the learning but also in the cleaning. They cleaned their own plates after their meal and also pitched in to clean the hall. The day ended with a visit to an organic farm called Matri-kunj where the kids were let free to roam in the midst of nature with their friends and their curiosity as their only companions.
On the 26th, the day started around sunrise with an hour spent on the beach, soaking up the beauty. It was a joy to watch them sit there in complete awe as the sun rose and covered them all with a beautiful glow. From the beach, they weaved through the lanes of the city to reach Ashram’s dining hall for their breakfast. Given the simple yet unique menu, the organisers as well as the volunteers were sceptical about how it would be accepted by the kids. In awe, we observed their silent enjoyment of breakfast and were struck by their beautiful souls and strong acceptance of their reality. After a hearty breakfast, they were taken to Sri Aurobindo handmade paper, where Gaurav explained them how handmade paper is made and then a variety of products are made using the same handmade paper. Kids were so excited to witness the process and the final products that they were given an opportunity to pick something from the store within Rs. 120 each. Kids were in cloud nine. Enroute to the guest house, we also treated them to some refreshing tender coconut water. The kids gathered their belongings and headed towards Sharanam for the next three days. Once the kids settled into their rooms and had enough time to explore their new surroundings, they were led through a beautiful Origami lesson by Abhipsa di. A beautiful and sudden shower added to the brilliance of the day as they then proceeded to a session with Sushanto da where they were taught - how to draw inspiration from nature and the basics of sketching. They were then given the freedom to explore their artistic and creative sides, sitting aloof, sketching or painting. As the evening ended, the kids were given a few impromptu lessons in Bharatnatyam, Kathak and even Salsa. It was the perfect way to end the day.
Day three, the 27th of December found the children awake and ready before the sun made an appearance. After reaching Sadhana Forest at 6:15 am, they spent 2 hours in what is called forest-seva and then enjoyed a breakfast of fruits and red rice poha. They spent the day learning about the community. They marvelled at the sustainable way of life and beautifully adapted to their surroundings. After spending the entire day exploring, they had a delicious lunch of veg Thai curry with brown rice. From Sadhana forest, the kids then reached SVARAM – Sound garden, for a hands-on workshop in making musical instruments. While one group worked hard at carving out their single hole flutes, the other was busy assembling and polishing their rattles. It is easy to imagine the beautiful cacophony that awaited the volunteers later that night. Before heading for dinner, the kids were treated to the beautiful experience of a sound bath. While the adults of the group dealt with their emotions and memories, the kids rode the carousel of their imagination and woke up refreshed and peaceful! The day ended with a meal of homemade sandwiches, vegan hummus, and vegan mayonnaise. Children were so happy with the healthy alternatives of packaged and tinned food that they took to contact details of our food expert to keep in touch after the camp.
The final day, 28th December began with an early morning session of Kalaripayattu, where every child enthusiastically participated, followed instructions and even excelled. They were then taken to the famous Auroville bakery for a scrumptious breakfast. The day was spent discovering more about Auroville, its free store and sustainable ways of living, Lunch was at the solar kitchen where the kids were treated to yet another healthy and tasty meal cooked entirely with solar energy. While the kids were in that post-lunch stupor, they were taken to their next activity. 20 quiet and tired kids entered the hut for a session of drum circle and then magic happened. The beautiful beats, along with the riveting stories told by Chinu made the kids forget their tiredness and left them energetic as well. Once back in Sharanam, they indulged in various activities along with a special talent show to end the camp on a high note.
The residential winter camp in Pondicherry was a transformative experience for the kids, giving them a glimpse into conscious living and sustainable practices and taking ownership of their actions. They returned home refreshed, rejuvenated, and filled with memories and experiences that we hope, would last a lifetime.