11:30 pm: Reminder message and bags packed!
12:00 am: Setting the alarm for the next morning 4:00 am
12:15 am: All set to SLEEP 1:45 am: EXCITEMENT and NO SLEEP
2:15 am: Gazing at the roof and still NO SLEEP
3:45 am: Butterflies in stomach and ALREADY UP BEFORE THE ALARM!
With each passing moment, my excitement grew that night. Like a child, I was eagerly waiting for the alarm to ring so that I could get up and get ready. For the camp; a MAD CAMP! Yes, finally, it was here. This year! :D
We were to leave for Kajrat, a city located on the Western Ghats, some 85 km from Mumbai with the children from St Francis and YMCA. As I reached the centre, I saw that the kids were extremely excited, even though it still was early morning!
They were all ready to go and on that pleasant morning, OUR JOURNEY BEGAN! :D
From cheering by the boys from St Francis for the engine as it revved up to to everyone hitting the floor, showing off some amazing dance moves on the latest numbers, we did it all! Every 15 minutes someone would come to us with a big smile on the face and a twinkle in the eye and ask, “Didi, aur kitna duur hai??” or “When will we reach, bhaiya?”
Taking several turns, crossing the beautiful mountains and, not to forget, FORGETTING OUR WAY, we finally reached our destination THE MAGIC BUS! *Yayayayyaaaayy!!* :D As we entered, we realized how huge the whole area was, with a lush green background, fresh air, and a cool breeze amidst the forest! Something hard to find in a place like Mumbai.
The Magic Bus coordinators welcomed us warmly and were ready with the itinerary for the day, packed with innumerable fun-filled activities! The best part about a MAD CAMP is that it is the perfect time to spend some time with the kids and take the relationship we share to an altogether different level! What better way than at the breakfast table!
Giving a further boost to the already sky-rocketing level of excitement, we took the kids for the first activity. Grouping them into teams of 12, they were told to cross a virtual swamp using only 6 tools without stepping on the floor! An awesome way of teaching them teamwork, coordination, importance of time and most importantly, how to go forward in life, no matter how many hurdles!
It was then time for lunch; some more *bonding* and then, for RAPPELING and LOW ROPE activity! Forming 2 teams, each team was allotted one of the 2 activities. The kids were literally jumping around with excitement. After having explained the activity and the proper use of safety devices to them, they got all ready with the harness and helmets to go up and start rappelling down!
As team 1 was busy rappelling, team 2 were all set for their low rope activity, where they had to walk on a log without support and 2 wires with nothing more than a rope to aid them. We were amazed to see how quickly they strategized and finished the activity!
Yes, some of them were scared. Scared of falling down or failing to complete the activity; but the loud cheering by all the other kids kept their confidence high! The post-activity review session ensured that they understood the importance of FEAR and learnt about the art of GOAL SETTING and going on to fulfilling it.
A free football session and later, a CAMP FIRE, where the kids got to showcase their amazing dancing, acting and qawwali skills, acted as an awesome end to an awesome day!
Morning of day 2! We went on a nature trail, moving through a REAL FOREST, seeing trees, vegetable plantations and some cute little birds here and there. Then, team 1 (from the previous day) went on for the low rope activity and team 2, for rappelling.
For the kids with a creative inclination, a session was organized where they painted and were asked to *draw* their dreams and what they’d do to achieve them.
As if the day wasn’t already going awesomely, something happened that I am sure none of the volunteers present there can ever forget.
During our break-time, the boys from YMCA got all of us to gather in the balcony saying that they had a surprise for us! And what did we see there?
A big bottle of Pepsi, plastic glasses, packs of Kurkure and paper plates – all from the money they had saved just for us! Guys, as if we don’t already know how much you love us!
As the camp neared its end, a song kept lingering on in my mind…
“Aane wala pal,
jaane wala hai..
Ho sake toh ismein, zindagi bita do,
Pal jo yeh jaane wala hai…”
We packed our bags and went for one last session, concluding the purpose of the camp. As we headed to the bus, the kids were not happy; they wanted to stay there longer and demanded a 5 day camp next year! :P
These 2 days reminded me what it felt like to be a child; it took me back to my own childhood days. Their smiles kept telling me how important these kids are in my life. Like them, I too wanted this camp to go on forever…with all the fun we had, all that we learnt, and all the lovely memories we made!