Giving back to the local community, staying clear of peer pressure induced vices such as smoking and drug abuse, keeping Indian values intact while getting ahead in life and career - these were some of the hot topics of discussion at the fifth Youth Leadership seminar held in January. The BAPS sadhus worked with more than 800 youth - students and professionals- who converged from all over North America at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn here.
The venue, the largest Hindu temple outside India was abuzz with three days of interactive workshops, discussions and lectures on developing management and interpersonal skills, public speaking and youth counseling.
"This was an extremely motivating weekend for me," said Rani Thakkar, an investment banker from Cleveland, Ohio. "This is my third such seminar and I am always amazed at how inspiring they are. I am able to apply what I have learned not just to my volunteer work as a youth group leader but in my professional capacity."
The youth leaders also took part in the ceremonies and rituals performed at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and attended specialized workshops on Indian cuisine and classical music. "We learnt so much on how to fine-tune our leadership skills", said Vipul Patel, a graduate student from Atlanta, Georgia, "Along with learning these skills, I also gained a sense of who I am and where I come from."
"Growing up in environment where Indian values are not always stressed, it is all the more important that our youth imbibe right mix of moral and spiritual qualities along with leadership skills," says Yogi Trivedi, spokesperson, BAPS America. Hence everyday life issues, being able to communicate with peers and colleagues, healthy lifestyle and how to spiritually focus on one's path improving one's character, values and family relationships apart from a huge stress on community service were the focus areas of the seminar.
Akhil Patel, coordinator of BAPS Youth Activities in North America says, "They seem to love the environment. It creates a sense of belonging and positive energy. A lot of the participants loved the traditional Indian cuisine served in a traditional manner. One of the participants was hesitating pointing out that as his favorite part of the seminar. I told him it was one of my favorites too!"