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NSNA retreat – July 4th, 2009

Laxman Pichappan

It had been 2 weeks since the NSNA retreat in Detroit had finished, and I was reminiscing on the last 6 years where I had attended three retreats. I traveled to the one in Washington 2003, Chicago in 2005 and Detroit in 2007.  Each NSNA retreat took place over Memorial weekend every other year in May and during these conventions several of us of the same age had formed a tight knit friendship.  We had started out with 10 friends in D.C  and the group grew over each retreat , resulting in a formation of a group of 25 in Detroit.

The time span between each reunion was a vast period of time that it was very difficult to maintain contact with the friendships that we formed.  The turnouts at the retreats were limited in the activities that were planned for the youth as well the number of youths from the ages 15-25 that came out.  The primary reason youths attended the retreats thus far was the retreat took place within the vicinity of where they resided or that their parents were planning on attending.  Over the past few retreats, there were always a few small groups of youths that would just stray in the hotel and we never had the opportunity to really get to know each other unless we were bold enough to go and meet each person individually.  We were not presented with the atmosphere to cultivate a friendship and in Detroit we had finally gotten over that barrier.

Growing up inFlorida, where there was never more than 15 chettiar families and only 2 other youths in the same age range as me I had a limited chance to make chettiar friends.  The retreats were my first encounter to meet youths with the same background and culture who grew up in theU.S.  After the retreat inDetroit,MichiganI decided to find a method of keeping in contact with the friendships I had formed over the years instead of waiting a span of 2 years to see them once again.  Facebook had just launched prior toDetroitretreat and so I formed a group and invited everyone fromDetroitto join so as to have the ability to stay in contact.  Over the next few months, the 25 of us that joined the group invited every other youth we knew in theU.S.and soon the group grew to 70.  I had never met any of these other chettiars that were the same age as me and yet they were in theU.S.  I decided to make this an informal youth section that gave us the opportunity to talk and form bonds with youths all across the nation and Facebook became the corresponding platform for the communication.

Near the end of December in 2007, I spoke to few of the friends I had made over the past 6 years and asked if they would be interested in creating a self-run youth chettiar organization that would coordinate retreats that were focused on just youths ages 14-27.  A youth organization would compel youths to come out as it is run by someone the same age as them, and the activities that would be planned would be entirely focused on their interests.  We all had the interest and desire to meet others in the U.S that were chettiar youth and I realized that it was a consistent feeling among all of us in Detroit.  We initiated a e-board through Facebook that consisted of 8 members, from 8 main regions in the U.S.  We had representatives from Florida,California,New York,Michigan,Illinois,Texas,Virginia and Oregon.  We commenced our planning of a youth retreat that January and we met once every week in a chat or a conference call.  We established sub-committees for finance, event planning, t-shirts, registration, public relations, transportation and food.

We faced a few problems and hurdles as every organization that is just surfacing and growing does.  A youth only retreat was not a simple passing notion to the adults of NSNA.  Risk management was an issue, as well as what was the goal and point of a youth only retreat.  We wanted to learn more about our back ground and building a network with other youths is something that instills the desire to keep in contact and maintain our roots in a very natural nature.  We wanted it to be supported by the adults, because without their support the retreat could never reach its full potential.  We were aided by NCNA which is North California Nagarathar Association.  With their support, and financial aid of $2,500 it helped tremendously in the advent of this retreat by subsidizing costs, and allowing the first national youth retreat to take place that would have a rippling effect on the future.  We had 35 youths come out to San Jose,California.  The retreat was 3 nights, where we had speakers on the history of nagarathars, how to maintain a balance between our culture while living in a westernized society, we also had outings to restaurants, to a theme park called the Great America, a picnic, and a banquet and formal dinner party.  The success of the retreat would allow us to prove the benefits of a youth organization and the power it had with the youth.  It had formal recognition with all the youth in the U.S and Canada and the group on facebook was now over 250.

We were asked to plan the youth half of the NSNA retreat which is the national joint retreat for all Nagarathar Chettiars of all ages in theUSin May of 2009 in Dallas,Texas.  It was the first time that the retreat had two halves, a youth portion and an adult portion simultaneously.  It was a huge success, with a record breaking number of youths coming out, many traveling by themselves and the youth activities and performances including a youth run fashion show with nearly 60 youth participating.  The success of the retreat had marked a new chapter and the coming of a formal youth run chettiar organization.  With nearly 300 youths and growing in the facebook group now from all over the world, we are currently planning our Chicago Youth Retreat on July 30-August 1.

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