11-12 August 2012, MA Center, Washington DC
The third annual East Coast AYUDH Youth Exchange, held in M.A. Center in Washington D.C. Thirty four youth from around the United States to come together for this year’s theme of ‘The Joy of Giving’ fostered a transformative weekend of discussion, selfless service, and prayer.
As the sun rose on the horizon, participants began the first day preparing lunch for a local shelter in Bethesda, Maryland. Everyone’s personal touch added to the splendor of the scrumptious meal. Thereafter a hike alongside the exquisite Potomac River at the nearby Great Falls Park posed a time for connection with nature. Inward reflection as well as conversation and getting to know one another passed the hour.
During the afternoon’s question and answer session, Br. Dayamrita touched upon an array of topics. Inquires varied from basic techniques for overcoming stage fright to more complex issues of karmic unfolding during adverse circumstances. Learning to keep a balance in all endeavors was a central theme. Participants then shared personal experiences. Exchanging thoughts and ideas revitalized the group to continue their charitable work. Creativity came to life as participants each created their unique AYUDH shirt using spray paint. In the evening, a heart-stirring bhajan session concluded the day with remembrance of the divine. Musical talent filled the room as Sonia Patel sang ‘Every One in the World,’ an English song highlighting Amma’s dream for a peaceful world. Interactive theater games ended the long day on a light-hearted note.
The following morning’s activities began with a thought-provoking discussion led by Br. Dayamrita. Approaches to dealing with societal pressures affecting today’s youth were considered. Participants debated on how to live in the world as members of society whilst holding on to spiritual values. After the bhajan class the group divided into several smaller ones, each composed a paragraph around this year’s theme for AYUDH. What resulted was a melodious, multilingual conglomeration of voices, instruments, and styles centralized around ‘The Joy of Giving’.
As a finale to the retreat, all traveled to the Potomac Valley Nursing and Wellness Center to perform for the elderly residents. The group had prepared a collection of songs and dances. As faces filled with smiles, participants shared their numerous talents. Raju Mishra performed a Bollywood fusion dance. Tom Marino choreographed an AYUDH group song. One resident was inspired to participate by singing the 1934 classic, ‘Blue Moon’ for everyone. As some were fighting to hold back their tears, others joyously joined in the celebration – with goals set and hearts opened.