Welcome to the 2023 Youth Group Newsletter!
Editor: Ridhi Miglani (8th Grade); Co-Editors: Saamya Mehta (8th Grade) & Ajay Anne (9th Grade)
Welcome to the 2023 Youth Group newsletter! Read on as we recap some of our notable moments from this year.
Sweets Packing/ Orientation Day
Last fall, our youth group students and mentors made and packed sweets for our annual DBV orientation. Everybody had fun building boxes, packaging sweets, and even rolling up laddoos. Each DBV family received one box full of sweets for them to enjoy. The yummy sweets were met by positive reception at the orientation event and everybody loved them.
Youth Group Debate
Debates are a fundamental component of education, providing students with a valuable opportunity to refine their critical thinking skills, articulate their viewpoints, and engage in constructive discourse with their peers. Recently, the youth group at DBV organized two debates during normal DBV hours, with four teams participating, each team under the leadership of a mentor. The topics of the debates were mandatory voting and book banning, with each team working independently to prepare their arguments. The panel of judges was made up of representatives from the DBV board, core team members, and teachers.
The first debate centered on the question of whether voting should be mandatory. Proponents of mandatory voting posited that participating in the democratic process is a fundamental right and duty of citizens and that requiring citizens to vote would increase political engagement and reduce political polarization. Additionally, they noted that countries such as Australia and Belgium that have implemented mandatory voting have higher voter turnout rates and greater political stability. Opponents of mandatory voting argued that it violates individual freedom and that citizens should have the choice to vote rather than be obligated to do so. They also expressed concerns that mandatory voting could lead to uninformed or coerced voting and that promoting voting through education and outreach would be a better alternative.
The second debate focused on the issue of book banning. Proponents of book banning argued that certain books could be harmful or offensive and that schools and libraries should be able to restrict access to such materials. They provided examples of books that promote hate speech, violence, or other harmful ideologies, and argued that such books should not be made available to the public. However, opponents of book banning countered that censorship threatens free speech and intellectual freedom. They argued that individuals should have access to a broad range of ideas and perspectives and that efforts to ban certain books are often influenced by political or ideological biases. Additionally, they cautioned that book banning could lead to a slippery slope scenario, where the restriction of certain books may pave the way for the prohibition of other materials.
The debates were conducted with professionalism and civility, with each team presenting well-researched and thoughtful arguments. Ultimately, the team arguing against book banning prevailed, citing the importance of intellectual freedom and the potential dangers of censorship. Similarly, the team arguing against mandatory voting was victorious, as they highlighted the importance of individual freedom and the potential risks of obligating citizens to vote.
These debates, organized by the DBV youth group, serve as a testament to the value of critical thinking and constructive dialogue in promoting a healthy and vibrant democracy. By encouraging students to engage in respectful discourse and examine complex issues from multiple angles, we can equip the next generation with the tools they need to become informed and engaged citizens.
Navratri and Diwali Celebration
By: Trisha Mukherjee and Ajay Anne
On Saturday, November 5th, DBV Youth Group kicked off its first big post-COVID event, the highly anticipated Navratri & Diwali celebration! There was something for everyone- a Children’s Hour to get younger kids comfortable with garba, a colorful Rangoli competition for the creative minds, and dandiya for all those with fancy dance moves. During the Children’s Hour, the Youth Group hosted a variety of activities. They had presentations showcasing India’s regional traditions around Navratri and Diwali. They also taught kids traditional garba and dandiya. The Youth Group had an amazing idea of combining garba with a popular party game: musical chairs to make it even more fun. The kids did garba in a circle around chairs and when the music stopped, they ran to grab a seat. It was a fun game filled with lots of laughter and learning! While the younger children were occupied, the Youth Group simultaneously ran their annual rangoli competition with the adults. The competition featured nine talented teams who were able to create amazing works of art using just colored rice and dal. To make things even more challenging, there were lots of twists such as being forced to use a bad color. Our respected DBV grandparents judged the final designs and awarded prizes - 1st place winners: Rajani M. and Shubhi S., 2nd place: Sama S. and Dimple S., 3rd place: Parikha M., Hemal M., and family. Congratulations to them all! Following all the fun and games, families enjoyed a festive night of dancing with live garba music and a delicious dinner. It was such a delightful evening, we even forgot COVID ever happened!
First Friday Fun Night
This year, Downingtown Balvihar Youth Group has incorporated a monthly event called First Friday Fun. On the first Friday of every month, the youth group gets together to do a fun event. Some events we have done are bowling, laser tag, ice skating, and a bonfire which we do yearly. At the bonfire, we took a hayride up to our spot and hung out with our friends and we tossed pieces of paper with things that we wanted to let go of into the flames. The mentors also brought hot chocolate and s’mores for us to enjoy. We added First Friday fun to our youth group because we thought it would be nice to incorporate fun bonding activities outside of our regular meetings.
Storytime in the Park
Storytime in the park was a Downingtown Balvihar-led event where youth group members read Indian stories to young children. We held this at the Miller Park Pavilion in Exton. This event was meant for children 3-8 years old with caregivers. It was free and open to the whole community. We would go to the park, pick up a story, and read to a young child. It was a great way to educate young children about Indian culture in a fun environment.
Service is a big part of the mission of the Downingtown Bal Vihar Youth Group. When an earthquake ravaged parts of Syria and Turkey, our students partnered with Project C.U.R.E to help the victims. Project C.U.R.E is a nonprofit organization founded by Dr. James Jackson whose mission is to identify, collect, sort, and deliver medical supplies and services according to the needs of the world. Our youth group's day at Project C.U.R.E was a great experience. We spent the morning presorting the donated medical supplies and making sure that they were not expired or damaged. We then packed the supplies into boxes. By the end of the day, our crew managed to successfully pack 100 boxes of much-needed supplies to be loaded and shipped to medical facilities in Syria and Turkey. We properly disposed of the expired and damaged items, as well. Not only did we help many suffering people, but this made all of our members feel happy on the inside, which is the purpose behind our service projects. We would definitely do this again.
P B &J Drive
During the month of February, DBV children participated in the Youth Group’s “Spread the Love” campaign. They "earned" jars of peanut butter and jelly to donate to our PB&J drive by showing some form of kindness - helping a sibling, doing a chore, being kind to a stranger, etc. Students had the opportunity to share with the group what they did to show a loved one they care. Through this activity, students not only showed love to their family but, in turn, also showed their community some love by giving back in this way. Together, our children collected 60 jars to benefit the People’s Pantry!
Syria Earthquake Fundraiser
The powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria this year tragically impacted over 24 million individuals. The devastating consequences of this event left numerous fatalities and many survivors without shelter or any medical assistance. In response, the Downingtown Balvihar Youth Group took action and organized the Earthquake Relief Fundraiser to help out victims. The money collected was then sent to the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF). The SETF distributed vital resources and supplies to Northern Syria, where they were direly needed.
By: Darsh Savalia and Sonya Patel
The Chester County Hospital’s Labor/Delivery and Maternity Department delivers approximately 2,600 babies annually, which is about 50 babies a week! Each baby needs a knit cap on its head to maintain heat. Youth group students spent some time learning how to make these hats for newborns and trying their hands at it. In total we made 372 hats! That means the hats we made will last the hospital almost 1.5 months. Great work everyone!
Holi, Festival of Colors
Holi is the festival of colors and this year DBV Youth Group made it their mission to give all a fun and eventful Holi. On April 15, 2023, Downingtown Balivihar came to celebrate this special holiday and many were thrilled. There were games, music, a skit, color, and lots of food! Before all the fun started, families lined up to take pictures at the photo booth. Kids made some funny faces and many held props saying things like “Desi Girl”! After that, the Youth Group planned and coordinated many games for the kids including lang di tung, a version of tag but on one foot; a 3-legged race, which many kids enjoyed; and even a little game of hot potato which got the kids to settle down a bit! Kids were laughing and parents were chatting. The Youth Group managed the grade groupings and had exciting games to teach the young kids. By the end, the kids didn’t want to go inside! After all the fun, kids and parents had a cool down while some of the Youth Group gave a delightful skit about what Holi is. The skit was a combination of modern talk and old stories. Parents were laughing and kids were learning. After the skit ended, the music turned up, and limbo started! Kids and parents joined in on the fun with classic Bollywood songs and dancing for all. However, tummies were grumbling and that meant food! After limbo, everyone was called for the feast. Delicious food was served and the kids were loving the pav bhaji and pasta! Now there was only one thing left to do, and that was to paint ourselves and our friends in color! Holi is known for its bright colors and all over the world you can see streets being filled with powder. One thing I know is that colored powder is everywhere! Both parents and kids had fun throwing colors and dancing! We were so lucky to incorporate fun, educational, and cultural activities at this event, and we cannot wait to do more!
On Saturday, March 25, 2023, members of DBVYG participated in a stream cleanup event at Okehocking hosted by CRC Watersheds. Youth group members and their parents all worked in cleaning a stretch of highway along PA Route 3, to help prevent the nearby stream from being polluted. Well over 10 garbage bags were filled with various trash items that had previously contaminated the landscape. Though the event was scheduled for longer, the 15 participants cleared their assigned site in under half that time! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the event, even if it did rain a bit throughout, and the CRC Watershed organization sent their gratitude out as well.
We are excited to share with you the success of our Balvihar youth group's Christmas party. This year, our group decided to spread joy and positivity to our local senior citizens by writing meaningful letters to them. Each of us (one youth group member and one younger Balvihar child) tried to come up with the best message to brighten the seniors' day. We know that this time of year can be especially difficult for seniors who may feel lonely or isolated. Our goal was to make them feel loved and appreciated, even if just for a moment. We were amazed to see the creativity and thoughtfulness that our group displayed as they worked on these letters. Kids from all grades came together to color the letters with unique decorations, add stickers, and most importantly, add their own profound and sincere messages. Each letter was filled with words of encouragement and love, and we knew that they would bring a smile to the seniors' faces.Writing these letters wasn't just about spreading joy to others. It was also an opportunity for us to learn the value of empathy and kindness. As we thought about the seniors who would receive our letters, we put ourselves in their shoes and imagined how they might feel. It helped us to understand the importance of reaching out to others and showing them that they are not alone. We hope that our letters will remind the seniors in our community that they are valued and loved. We encourage others to take the time to write a letter to a senior in their life or community. It may seem like a small gesture, but it can have a big impact on someone's day.Thank you to everyone who helped us make this Christmas party a success. We are grateful for the opportunity to spread joy and kindness in our community.
On March 26, DBVYG welcomed guest speakers Amanda McLaughlin and Alyssa Cutri from the TeenTalkLine. This is a "warm-line" serving Chester and Montgomery Counties and run by teen and adult volunteers. Warm lines offer emotional support rather than tackle crises like hotlines do. Teens are free to text the text or call the line. The focus of our guest session was to learn the difference between active and empathetic listening and to learn some tactics to become better listeners overall. Empathetic listening puts a larger emphasis on understanding the speaker’s personal experience and emotions. We were encouraged to listen to people with empathy rather than sympathy. Sympathy causes the listener to express feelings of pity and this can hinder the talker’s response. Empathy, on the other hand, establishes a connection between the talker and listener; this connection allows for a more open and effective conversation. Another key to good listening is asking open-ended questions as opposed to closed-ended ones. Open-ended questions allow the person answering them to elaborate on their answer and share as much information as they desire. We were also provided with a chance to try it out ourselves. Using given scenarios, we asked and answered each other questions, and reviewed good and bad ways to hold a conversation with someone struggling or asking for our help. Before they left, our guests gave every student a gift bag and shared their contact information! Their Chester County text line number is 484-362-9515 and their Chester County call line number is 855-852-8336.
This Thanksgiving the Balvihar youth group participated in a service project through the CYWA to pack meals for people in need. The CYWA stands for Community Youth and Women’s Alliance, and they aim to improve the spiritual, mental, social, and physical condition of Men, Women, and Children within the Coatesville community by providing full family services with a special emphasis on serving Pregnant Women and Children. One of their 4 branches is the Food Cupboard, which is a program they created to get food to people in need. The Thanksgiving food drive we participated in was part of this program. We had an assembly line of unboxers, people putting in individual components of the meal of a turkey, gravy, and vegetables in bags, and people flattening out boxes for the recycling bin. Our efficiency allowed us to pack 2000 meals in an hour!
The Balvihar Youth Group had the opportunity to ask Balvihar alumni questions and advice about college and past youth group experiences. One of the main points discussed was college admissions and some of the important details that come with it. The alumni first said that SAT/ACT test scores do not matter as much as people think they do because they do not show your true passions and beliefs. In addition, many colleges are starting to make test scores optional. They also said that college rejection is not a big deal as there are plenty of opportunities out there. The alumni made sure to discuss the more independent and fast paced nature of college and the ability for students to change their majors freely at most colleges. Summer programs were also highlighted because they enhance your resume while teaching you about fields you are interested in. The alumni also stressed the importance of mental health in high school and college. IB and AP credits can be great because they boost your GPA and can even give you college credits, but they can be overloading if you take many of them. Thank you to Roshni Vadher, Rahul Rao, Umali Vadher, Reema Jadhav, and Riya Shah for this wonderful opportunity.
Graduating Senior of 2023
Congratulations to graduating senior, Neha Valamkonda.