2009 Sidak Leadership Camp Hosts Young Sikhs From Around The World

Evening Divan was my favorite – sitting in the midst of the sangat, reciting Rehraas Sahib with my eyes closed....

VANCOUVER - Participants from across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia attended the seventh annual, two-week summer program Sidak, hosted by the Sikh Research Institute (SikhRI), which concluded on 11 July 2009 at the Concept Therapy Institute in the hill country of San Antonio in Texas, US.

This year’s program was the largest to date, with 38 developing Sikh leaders, including high school and college students, and young professionals.

“We try to diversify the instructors, modes of learning, and content to keep Sidak engaging and interactive,” explained Jasmine Kaur, SikhRI’s Director of Education.

“For seven years now, Sidak brings in a focused group of participants from around the world and provides them with the tools and training to become leaders in their communities,” said Dr. Gurvinder Pal Singh, who serves on SikhRI’s Board of Directors and is a volunteer guest lecturer at Sidak. In fact, several instructors at Sidak are volunteers, comprised of past Sidak graduates and notable community members.

Each Sidak participant went through an intense two-week experience from learning and sharing of a Sabad with Viakhia to researching and presenting on a a Sikhi topic with themes as diverse as Ammrit, Disability, Fashion, and Sovereignty. For many participants, it was the first time they presented in public or sang a Sabad. “Sidak challenges participants to go beyond their comfort zone and engage directly in learning,” says Inderpreet Singh, Sikhi 101 instructor who serves on SikhRI Board of Advisors, “Sidak is not about just classroom education, it focuses on experiencing the Sikh lifestyle – learning through direct action.”

Workshops were conducted by successful community leaders including Larry Mills (Senior Executive, Spurs Organization), Stephen Nickle (Reverend and Chaplin, Trinity University), Gunisha Kaur (author, Lost in History: 1984 Reconstructed), and Harinder Singh (Executive Director, Sikh Research Institute & Sikhi 201 instructor) to explore topics on personal development.

Evening divan (Rahiras Sahib) was followed by either personal time or organized activities like Dodgeball, Ultimate Frisbee, Charades, and rounds of “Are you Smarter than a Sojhi 5th Grader”. Additionally, Sidak included some notable features such as a hike to see fireworks on July 4th and a Degh making lab.

Sidak: A Life Changing Experience (By Neal Singh)

This summer, I was able to take part in a two-week intensive learning program in San Antonio, Texas called Sidak. I didn't know what to expect, since it was my first year attending, but I heard so many great things about the program so I had to see it for myself.

I decided to take Gurmukhi 101 this year, which provides an in-depth overview of Punjabi grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure. I really felt like I needed a much stronger grasp on the basics of the Gurmukhi script, and I truly think that I have built a good solid foundation from Sidak to continue building on in the future. I was also able to develop my speaking, writing, and reading skills at the same time while I was at Sidak, which was very helpful for me to immerse myself more into the language. I was encouraged to continue developing my skills outside of the program and use what I've learned as a base to start communicating and interacting with others in Punjabi. I was never given any formal education in the Gurmukhi script until Sidak came along!! I'm really thankful that I've been given the opportunity to attend this program to spark my interest in learning Gurmukhi, and eventually learning how to understand Guru's message through the Guru Granth Sahib.

Every day of the program was divided up into four sessions... the first three were dependent on the track which I signed up for, and the last session was a group session for all students. For the Gurmukhi 101 track, I had one session just specifically for Punjabi grammar instruction, and the other two sessions were set specifically for transcription, speaking, writing, and reading labs as well as history lessons, which were all spread out throughout the two weeks. I was provided with a binder with all the learning material, so it was very easy for me to read through the material covered in class if I didn't understand something and ask questions to my teachers throughout the day. During the personal development time, the teachers were always accessible, the students were always willing to help... at Sidak, you are a part of a sangat that encourages and motivates you to keep learning and making yourself better!! I loved the supportive environment at Sidak; it encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things, like taking Hukam in front of sangat, and of course, singing the Kanye West song Heartless during the Open Mic Night! Now everyone thinks that I'm American Idol bound!

After the three track sessions were over, I always looked forward to the fourth session of the day. The fourth session would always be some sort of informational or leadership development workshop run by well-known leaders in the San Antonio community. The informational workshops covered topics like gender constructions, falling in love, the events of 1984, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The leadership development workshops covered topics like conflict resolution, the social change model, and the everyday activist.

In every workshop, I was able to engage in the discussions and ask questions to better my understanding of the topic at hand. The facilitators of the workshops were not only credible but they were also very knowledgeable about their chosen topic! For example, Larry Mills, an executive member in the San Antonio Spurs organization, shared with us during his conflict resolution workshop the obstacles that he had to overcome in order for him to become the successful leader that he is today. The facilitators expressed so much enthusiasm about their chosen topic which made the workshops much more interactive and engaging! I could tell that the facilitators of these workshops really wanted us to take the knowledge that we gained from the workshops and apply it into our daily lives in our respective communities. I feel motivated as a Sidak 2009 graduate to take on what I've learned from the workshops and classes and share my newfound knowledge and experiences with the people in my community. Right now, I serve as an ambassador to all my family and friends from Florida and other places around the United States and Canada, and some of them hope to join Sidak next year, which I'm very truly excited about!

Overall, the Sidak program has not only given me the basic knowledge of the Gurmukhi script but also it has given me practical leadership skills that I can utilize when I start my college career in a few weeks at the University of Florida. I really look forward to becoming a leader in several organizations like the Sikh Student Association and sharing my experiences from Sidak with my college friends. I truly feel that participating in Sidak this year is a stepping stone of greater things to come, and I can't wait for next year! I want to give a big thanks not only to the San Antonio sangat for providing us with a safe and enjoyable learning environment but also to Waheguru for blessing me with the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing program like Sidak! It has changed my life for the better, and it will certainly change yours!

My Sidak Experience (By Sharanjit Kaur Sandhu)

Evening Divan was my favorite – sitting in the midst of the sangat, reciting Rehraas Sahib with my eyes closed. For a moment, I took a deep breath and listened. The sound of synchronized voices has an immense power – something I still cannot explain in words.

This is Sidak.

Over the course of two weeks, I looked forward to each evening. It was a time that allowed me to truly understand my Guru and connect to bani on a deeper level. I cherished each and every moment, whether it was listening to kirtan sung by another Sidak participant or hearing the Hukam being discussed amongst my peers.

Each evening, members of the Sangat would discuss what they had learned that day. It was not only a time to discuss textbook material, but also how to apply the material learned in classrooms to everyday life. The vitality of the information gained throughout the day was heavily present in each person’s reflection. Whether it was discussing a portion of Asa Ki Var or the equal importance of the Guru Granth and Guru Panth, one was able to learn from each individual’s personal account.

Later in the evenings, after Divan, it wouldn’t be uncommon to find myself in an unplanned discussion started by a few people sitting next to me during dinner. These were truly eye opening experiences for I was not only able to express my thoughts, but also gain different perspectives on various topics.

Being able to discuss issues I wouldn’t normally delve into on a day to day basis made me appreciate the sangat around me. These were extraordinary people that taught me more about myself than I could have imagined. They came from all walks of life and had an array of passions – some were great musicians, talented artists, accomplished scholars, or even activists that made me want to make a difference in the world.

Sidak gave me a platform to discover my faith and my personal relationship with the Guru in an environment that was enriched with leadership and Sikh principles. I gained the confidence I needed to initiate a connection with the Guru and I no longer feel intimidated.

Although my days in San Antonio are over, my Sidak experience has not left me. When I recite bani on a day to day basis or even when I talk to others, I always remember the principles I was taught. Sidak made me realize that Sikhi is not simply a religion, but a lifestyle. I live my Sikhi each and every day and I am grateful for my Sidak experience, for it truly made me realize my faith and who I am as an individual.

[Established in 2003 and located in San Antonio, Texas, U.S.A., SikhRI is a non-profit, faith-based initiative whose mission is to "facilitate training and development while inspiring Sikh values, create global awareness of Sikhi, and deliver solutions to the key challenges faced by the Sikh community."]

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