From March 14-16 the Academy for Learning Islam (A.L.I.) and the Jaffari Tabligh Board held a three-day retreat for girls aged 9-12 years old at Hidden Acres, a Mennonite campsite in New Hamburg. 24 girls participated, along with 4 mentors and 4 adult volunteers.
The group gathered at JCC early in the morning on the 14th. There was a lot of excitement. Luggage and other items were loaded on the bus. Due to some delay in departure, the group played some ice breaker games in the mosque while waiting. Snacks were given to the girls on the bus.
The group arrived at the camp before noon after a two hour drive. After unloading the girls were shown their dorms and the other areas they would be using. The meeting room was for classes. A large hall was set up for salaat with rugs on the floor and pull out banners on ziyarat after salaat and on salaatul layl. The dua books and a chart for signing up to recite duas was also set up in the area.
The first session was orientation where all the girls received their own folders with the camp’s timetable, rooming information, and the activity and duty schedules. There was a discussion of rules and regulations as well as a review of the activities planned.
The theme of the retreat was being strong like a rock. Sr Tahera Kassamali and Sr Rumina Hashmani talked to the girls about what it meant to be a strong believer, Quranic verses on being strong and examples of strong Muslims in history and contemporary times were discussed. The students also had sessions on enhancing their Salaat and wudhu. The girls’ wudhu was checked and each participant received recommendations on how to correct it if there were mistakes.
There were also Quran classes with Sr. Kulsum Dewjee, where the girls were taught some rules of Tajwid and Tilawah. They recited Sura Rahman together. The girls enjoyed Art time with Sr Rumina.
Retreat activities included indoor games which were a lot of fun as well as outdoor activities led by the retreat staff who taught them some outdoor skills such as roasting apples and orienteering. The girls also prepared skits on various themes of being strong and performed them on the last night.
The girls prayed jamaat salaat every day and took turns to recite the Adhaan, Duas, and Ziyarats from the du’a books they were given. They also learnt how to pray Salaatul Layl. They recited the last three rakaats together each morning. After salaat the girls had 10 minutes of Quran Reflection.
The cooks made sure there was delicious food each day. The large kitchen and sunny cafeteria made meals a very pleasant experience. The girls had duties in helping prepare for the meal, setting up, and cleaning up after. For many of the girls it was a new experience to wash so many dishes in such a large kitchen.
On the last day the girls had a concluding session. They wrote one positive thing about each of the girls in their group. The papers were then given to the girls so they could see how much their friends appreciated them. Then each participant had to come up with a sentence on being strong like a rock. After that there was a vote of thanks. Then it was time to get ready to depart.
In a scenic and spiritual environment, the girls were able to bond with each other and the others at the retreat. The talks and discussions helped inspire them to remain strong in their identity. It was a fun filled experience that will hopefully stay with them and shape their views on their religion.