“This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” — Robert F. Kennedy.
AYF Canada Youth Corps’ Camp Vanadzor paves the way to building a great nation through molding local Armenian youth to become capable future leaders. The implementation of ARF in the daily camp life ensures that the program attains its primary goal of establishing an ARF Juniors Organization. For two weeks, councilors educate the campers on ARF history, English, Health, First Aid, and much more. We attempt to train the campers to become potential “variches”; however the impact exerted year after year, exceeds all expectations.
Youth Corps creates a unique bond between councilors by bringing youth together from all over the world. Through adventures and travels, the experience becomes an unforgettable one. By visiting AYF Yerevan and the ARF Bureau, TUMO Centre, Tatev Monastery, Lake Sevan and Artsakh before arriving in Vanadzor, we were able to bond and get to know one another. The next weekend our group of councilors visited Trchgan–in the back of a truck, I may add–followed by a visit back to Yerevan for the night. I loved how AYF Canada’s Youth Corps program offered an additional week of touring; it brought us all closer together. We formed lifelong friendships through the memories we made and laughs we shared, from the first day we met in Yerevan to the emotional goodbye at the end of the two weeks.
We surely underestimated the power we had as variches at Camp Vanadzor. Every morning the campers, eager to learn, would run to “troshag” lined up to sing Mshag Panvor. They were wide-eyed with curiosity, listening attentively during lectures and not ceasing to ask a million questions. The experience is extremely challenging yet significantly rewarding. The lectures we delivered and activities we organized allowed us to bond and get to know each and every camper. They treated us with the utmost respect, showering us with affection and treating us as if we were their older siblings. Our group was welcomed everyday with an overwhelming appreciation from not only the children, but the parents as well. From the first day of camp they would tell us how they did not want the camp to end and how they did not want us to return to Canada.
Naturally, every age group goes through their own difficulties. My eleven-twelve year old group, who I love, drove me crazy. At times they would misbehave and therefore some days we were obligated to send them home. As a varich we play the integral role of ensuring that the children remain on the right path towards progression and development. Witnessing the growth of these children every day formed a great attachment from camper to councilor. I felt like I was undoubtedly giving them the best two weeks of their summer vacation.
As Armenian youth, we should not shy away from coming to volunteer in our homeland. AYF Canada’s Youth Corps is a great way to single-handedly enable change in Armenia. The wholesome Camp Vanadzor experience has opened my eyes to view my country in a different way. It gave me the opportunity to contribute my strengths and efforts to allow positive change in Armenia, not simply to visit as a tourist. No one should feel intimidated; I strongly urge any Armenian youth interested in coming to volunteer in Armenia to participate in Youth Corps.
By Pala Kochkrian