The summer camp held at American Bodhi Center was personally led by Venerable Hung I. To ensure the quality of the camp activities, the number of campers was capped at 60, and including all staff, volunteers, and counselors, the total number who contributed to the event reached about 120 people.
Texas Buddhist Association kicked off its first Buddhist youth camp in 1993 and this year marks its 20th anniversary. During the summer of 2008, American Bodhi Center opened and BYC relocated to this ideal camp site. Bodhi Center is a quiet and beautiful garden-style environment both spacious and bright comprised of functional and modern teaching facilities, convenient dormitories, professional kitchen, and etc — all providing a complete solid foundation for organizing large-scale collective activities.
The summer camp’s activity schedule took 6 months of detailed planning — activities included: morning exercise, morning and evening service, Buddhist lectures, special guest lectures, dance, arts and crafts, skits, games, and much more. At the opening ceremony, Reverend Hung I spoke about the importance of giving back to the community and analyzed the 4 levels of joy –materialism, emotions, inner peace, and wisdom. He also encouraged the campers to go beyond materialism and emotional attachment and strive to pursue the highest level of joy. Buddhism (advanced level) class was led by Reverend Hung I who explained a script from the Metta Sutra — Buddhist guidance on how to have an auspicious, peaceful, and happy life. Buddhism (beginner level) class was led by Josten Ma. Other special guest speakers included — James Tao who explained the traits of success, PapaJumba (YouTube star) who took his own experiences and introduced ways of parents supporting the growth of their children, and Dr. Haslam who explained what a community is and the first key to building a harmonious community is having “respect”.
On the evening of July 7th, Reverend Hung I led everyone through the Candlelight ceremony. The candlelight represents wisdom and enlightenment and passing the candle to one another represents being able to inspire each person’s wisdom and enlightenment, the truth of Buddhism, and thoughts continuously from generation to generation.
Apart from the lectures, other activities were intended to cultivate the sense of participation, teamwork, and creativity among the campers. Such activities include a water balloon fight, brain challenges, team games, skits, Hip Hop dancing, and fireworks. The campers say in their own words: “These past four days, we have made memories, made new friends, learned Buddhism, and have become a part of the BYC community.”
The success to organizing such a large event requires a lot of behind-the-scenes support, thanks to the Texas Buddhist Association’s volunteer team. The camp’s planning, execution, publicity, fund-raising activities were all youth counselor-led with adult volunteers’ assistance. Counselors were selected from various youth groups or Chinese School and are required to attend six months of rigorous training and preparation, which helped enhance leadership traits and abilities. During the 4-day camp, every 10 campers were matched to 3 experienced counselors to ensure no camper is left behind, focusing on safety, wellness, and smooth progress of activities.