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Arriving at Family Camp
First Memories
Tim Hagyard recounts arriving for the first time at the Amaravati Family Camp

SINCE 1996 THE FAMILY CAMP HAS BECOME THE FIXED POINT around which the rest of our year is planned. We went to Amaravati Monastery, my wife Torn, daughter Justine (6) and son Francis (4) that year, excited if apprehensive, for an event that we had little knowledge of apart from the Rainbows magazine and some interesting accounts in the Forest Sangha Newsletter. A few memories of that first afternoon and evening still remain.

First, there was a warm reception from Wendy who was doing the bookings role; we registered our arrival and found out where we were sleeping and what the basic programme for the day was. I wish I could say that as bookings officer in later years I had organized such a welcome reception for new arrivals.

Then there was a helpful and polite young boy from the family staying in the bedroom opposite us. He showed us around the Retreat Centre, which he seemed quite at home with, and he also mentioned ‘Puja’ at 7.30 as if it was the most natural thing. What was that? Oh, when we all get together in the shrine room. That was Josh.

Finally, the gathering for our first Evening Puja. I wondered how this would work with two tired and restless youngsters. We sat together as a family that evening. The chanting started up, ninety people or so in that confined space – what a sound and resonance. It didn’t need any translation. I remember Justine leaning across to me excitedly and whispering ‘I love this, Daddy’. The Camp was led by Venerable Kusalo in those days and he proceeded to expand on the Camp theme of The Worldly Winds and the role in life of what he coined as ‘squirts’ – those ‘beings’ (unexpected happenings) which have a habit of popping up and changing things just when we think it’s settled. So not a bad first Puja; Pali chanting, squirts … and then we heard that young Oliver had broken his nose in a corridor collision!

It would take an age to cover the memorable moments, the highs and lows of the Family Camps over the years and it would still not do it justice; but through the years, squirts and all, there has been a steady growing in awakened community that has sustained this particular family, and for that I know we have been truly blessed. Family campers are a very special group for me – as our song says, we are all one family.

May all beings be well and free from suffering.

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