HOUSTON, TEXAS, November 24, 2023 (Religion News): After nearly four decades, a summer camp for Hindu children and teens has a permanent home. On Saturday (Nov. 18), the Hindu Heritage Youth Camp, the predominant Hindu summer program based in Houston, officially began construction of the Texas Hindu Campsite on a 52-acre plot of land. While construction was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the campsite is set to open for a new round of campers by the summer of 2024, just one year before the camp’s 40-year anniversary. “This will unite the Hindu community,” said Vijay Pallod, a longtime volunteer of HHYC and founder of hindusofhouston.org. “This is where the future Hindu leaders are going to come from.” Saturday’s Bhumi Pujan, or ground-breaking ritual to Mother Earth, was attended by members of various Hindu religious organizations, among them priests from the 45 temples in the greater Houston area who blessed the land.

This Bhumi Pujan meant even more to volunteers like Pallod, whose wife and children have been heavily involved with the camp since the ’90s. To them, the dream of having a space just for the needs of Hindu youth has finally been realized. There’s a reason that hundreds of kids flock to the HHYC every year. Uniquely, this is a space for American Hindus by American Hindus — run entirely by the second generation, many of whom were campers themselves. From daily yoga to mini festivals like Holi, the camp centers on approachable Hinduism: life lessons that are deeply spiritual just as much as they are fun. Philosophical discussions on Hindu values don’t come without at least one reference to pop culture, says Bharat Pallod, Vijay’s 34-year-old son. “When you’re learning from your peers, people who have grown up with the same life experiences as you, you’re way more engaged in the whole process,” said Bharat, who started attending the camp as a second grader. “The kids understand better how we want to see Hinduism.” When the camp started, it was difficult to get 90 campers to commit to a weeklong event. Now, HHYC no longer has to advertise or recruit children. The coveted 200 slots fill up almost immediately, leaving 400 more kids on the waitlist.

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