Sakhaa Retreat, the inaugural event of  IGS NOW, a non-profit spiritual organization, was a huge success. Held in the beautiful, newly built Khalsa School Campus of San Jose Sikh Gurdwara, from August 4th to August 7th 2011, Sakhaa was attended by over 75 young Sikh children, youth leaders and experienced facilitators.

IGS NOW has been established to continue the dream of Captain Kanwar Habhajan Singh, the founder of International Institute of Gurmat Studies (IIGS) known all over the world as Papa Ji. Jessi Kaur (author of Dear Takuya and The Royal Falcon) who had co-founded IIGS with Captain Singh wants IGS NOW to take Papa Ji’s vision to the next level by including an outreach element to the organization.

Collaborating with mainstream institutions and communities, building cultural bridges using visual arts, theater, and music as a medium, and synergistically working with other Sikh organizations, IGS NOW seeks to strengthen the roots of Sikhi while emphasizing in parallel the One Creator One World message of the Sikh Gurus as enunciated by Guru Nanak Sahib in the mool mantra: Ek Ong Kar.

Sakhaa was an enriching and enjoyable experience for its young participants.  The curriculum was designed to strengthen Sikhi through interactive workshops, breakout sessions in which the participants explored their personal responses to the core messages, and activities and games that instill the values viscerally. Diana Argabrite of the Euphrat Museum in Cupertino guided the children to embellish a beautiful Ek Ong Kar while experiencing the oneness of humanity through weaving various colored strands of sculpi.

The children created visual representations of what their faith and culture meant to them. Julie Smith of the Tech Museum created an engineering challenge for Sakhaa keeping the core values of kirat, (righteous action),udham (initiative), sangat ( team support), and chardikala (high spirits and positive attitude) as key elements required for a successful venture. Jessi Kaur and JJ Singh, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, held workshops on topics ranging from the three Golden rules of sikhi, ardas, chardikala, to leadership, and Sikh identity.

Meet Paul Singh, an MD turned venture capitalist, Harbir Kaur, TV Host and budding entrepreneur, Pushpinder Kaur, author and educationist, and Keshav Singh, a jazz guitarist who is doing his undergrad at Princeton, were presented as role models who were making strides in life while staying rooted in their faith.

With the help of several facilitators from the community, the children created skits and presentations to demonstrate the value and importance of integrity, equality, and selfless service. Games and challenges were designed to keep the youth engaged in fun activities that further strengthened their core beliefs. Sheena Kohli, a South Bay realtor, was responsible for the operations and kept the retreat moving like clockwork.

During the closing ceremony on Sunday, the children got a chance to share their thoughts on the retreat through short speeches. Most shared a common theme: Initially they were not very excited to attend another “religious camp filled with long boring lectures.”  But all of them found the experience at Sakhaa exhilarating and left with the feeling of fulfillment, of having learned lessons that would help them all their lives, of having acquired tools they could use in their everyday lives. IGS NOW will be collaborating with other cities and states to hold the Sakhaa program in their communities. Kaur Foundation of Maryland had partnered with IGS NOW for Sakhaa’s debut. For further information, please go to www.igsnow.org