We are unveiling the 2010 design of our official camp t-shirt. The picture above was chosen from hundreds of entries submitted by last summer’s Camp Gyumri campers as part of a competition.
It’s become a tradition of the Youth Corps program to have the campers of one year design the official shirt of camp for the following year.
Throughout the 4-week program in Gyumri, the kids draw and color Camp Gyumri as they see it, hoping that their logo or design will be chosen as the following year’s camp shirt for 150 other campers like them to wear day in and day out.
Below is a camper working on his design in the summer of 2009 :
My first week in Gyurmi has been eye opening to say the least and I have felt every emotion one can possibly feel.
I decided to come to Gyumri a month before the Youth Corps group (which is set to arrive in Armenia on July 12) to volunteer with Birthright Armenia and I’m so glad I decided to do so. It has given me a chance to spend quality time with the locals, build relationships and integrate myself into the community.
This is the first of many blog entries I will be making (along with my group mates) to chronicle our summer here working to run a summer day camp for the children of Armenia’s second largest city. You can read more about our mission in Gyumri here.
I currently work at Gyumri’s Social Child Care Center, which provides psychological, educational, health and legal services to Gyumri’s most impoverished children and their families. During my first counseling session I had a conversation with a young girl who told me how she had to repeat the 6th grade because she had missed over 200 hours of school. When I asked her why she had missed school for so long she said she didn’t have proper winter shoes to walk to school in. The next day I met another child with a learning disability who went a year without going to school because her mother didn’t know there where services her child could benefit from. The center takes cases like this and works to empower families and their children in the hopes that one day they’ll be self-sufficient and won’t need such services.
Unfortunately, due to lack of funding the center has very limited resources for these children. There are no toys, no playground, and hardly any books or art supplies. On Friday I brought in some puzzles and art supplies for the kids and I couldn’t help but notice the excitement on their faces. I wish I could say I felt happy when I left work that day but I felt quite the opposite.
It’s no surprise that poverty exists in Armenia, I’ve read about it, seen pictures and heard stories, but witnessing it first hand was the most painful feeling of my life.
The pain doesn’t go away either. It runs through my body along with sadness, anger and frustration. Then I remember the wise words of a fellow unger: “Hooys, Havadk, Ser” (Hope, Belief, Love). I repeat these three simple words over and over again and I channel the pain into action. Like the people of Gyumri I will keep fighting and join them in helping to promote change.
On his recent visit to France, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili gave a talk at the Paris Institute of Political Science, where he sought to paint a picture of his regime being a bastion of democracy in the Caucuses.
The Nor Seround members asked him when his government was going to stop its policies of discrimination and repression against Armenians, and heed the calls of the UN Human Rights Committee and Council of Europe to promote the participation of national minorities in the political and cultural life of Georgia.
Regrettably, Saakashvili’s response was one of arrogance and ignorance, claiming that Armenians in Javakhk were satisfied with their conditions and that everything was fine. Such a detachment from reality and denial of the facts has been a sad hallmark of Georgian state policy.
This head-in-the-sand approach is ill-advised and can only lead to greater discontent and tension. It is high time for Saakashvili to live up to his rhetoric of democracy, end the repression against activists in Javakhk and ensure equal representation and cultural rights for the Armenian population.
In April, the AYF teamed with local band VIZA to put on an April 24 social justice concert to raise awareness of the Armenia Genocide. The event was a great success thanks to our members and community supporters and raised unprecedented amounts of money for two Armenian orphanages. You can read about the April 24 concert here…
The band, a mix of musicians and activists, has been very active in the Armenian-American community, working with grassroots organizations like the AYF and ANC to help educate, motivate and active the youth on human rights, genocide prevention and social justice.
VIZA is now gearing up for a big show on Saturday, June 19 and they need community support. The concert will take place at the Key Club, located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and the show begins at 8:00pm.
This time the rock band will team up the Armenian National Committee-Professional Network (ANC-PN) to educate and activate concert-goers about current efforts to end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. You can read more about the Key Club concert here…
Long time activist and former Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee-Western Region, Andrew Kzirian plays the oud (traditional Armenian instrument) for VIZA and has been instrumental in bringing civic engagement into the band’s mission. For him, there is “no better way to work with the community than to blend music and awareness through music.” You can buy ticket’s here…
A historic hot spot, the Key Club has seen the likes of Bon Jovi, The Doors, Van Halen, Alice Cooper, Tom Petty, Motley Crue, Guns ‘N Roses, ‘N Sync, Incubus, Kanye West, Prince, The Roots, Def Leppard, and other legends come through its doors.
By reaching out to concert-goers at the VIZA show this Saturday night, the ANC-PN hopes to bring political awareness and community involvement to the Sunset Strip. “The strong response we expect to see at the show will exemplify that Armenian Genocide recognition is something that all Americans care about and is not just an Armenian issue.” says ANC-PN Board Member Vicken Chitilian, who will be working the ANC booth inside the Key Club entrance.
The show is the band’s first since coming back from their East Coast tour in New York City and Philadelphia and will be sure to be a packed house.
On their East Coast tour, VIZA joined with the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Eastern Region, Armenian Youth Federation, and Cyprus Action Network to educate and activate concert-goers about current efforts to end U.S. complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and end Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus. Read about the East Coast tour here…
On June 6, the ARF concluded its 15th Supreme Assembly in Armenia. The assembly and the newly-elected governing body of the party have made no qualms about the need for fundamental change in the government and society of Armenia.
It is clear that the ARF is increasingly emphasizing internal socio-economic issues and pointing to the need for a bottom-up movement in the country.
In a recent interview with Lragir.am, ARF Supreme Council member and National Assembly Parliamentarian Ara Nranyan stated:
“People need to understand that they must struggle for their rights. If everybody sits alone in their houses, no political force–not even the ARF–can solely secure for them higher wages, higher pensions, and so on. In other words, it is necessary for citizens to struggle collectively around socio-economic issues. In the forthcoming period, we are putting our emphasis on raising the level of activism among the public.”
When asked why the ARF, unlike the non-parliamentary opposition of Levon Ter-Petrosian, is not calling for the resignation of Serj Sargsyan, Nranyan responded by explaining:
“Those who think that the President will simply resign due to the announcement of one or two political forces can by no means be serious. The ARF, as a serious political party, is not interested in carrying out empty steps that will not have any effect. That same resignation and regime change you refer to needs to be prepared through actual work. We do not want to come out with some statement that we are not in a position to immediately put into reality, but that also does not mean that we will not go in that direction. Our emphasis is on changing the public atmosphere. If the public realizes that this government is incapable of solving the challenges facing the nation, than the large majority of citizens would not accept bribes for their votes. If the public sees that there is a genuine alternative, then by refusing a bribe of 5000 dram for his vote they will help ensure real change and secure a brighter future for themselves and their children. The truth is, the grassroots organizing of the public in this manner has not yet been completely carried out, neither by us nor the non-parliamentary opposition.”
On the final question of whether or not the ARF would try to bring people out into the streets, Nranyan states:
“Right now, we will be actively working on organizing the public and working with representatives from different segments and spheres. We will be working not only in the capital but also in the marzes. As for your question, we do not rule out that possibility.”
Expressing yourself is probably one of the most important things you can do in your life. Photography is magic. Since it started about 200 years ago it still hasn’t left us. Mediums like film and music owe a lot of their method to photography. For me personally, I love capturing moments, things that move, things that need to stand still to be more appreciated. To me photography is all about the details.
The creation of details that aren’t appreciated to their maximum potential at their very moment of existence. Things that need to live on passed their moment of occurrence. Things in need of being shared, remembered, or cherished. Photo is also about feeling; love, hate, passion, beauty, ignorance.
A picture is captured, but so much is remembered, and photography is the only art form that can gather so much detail from a single moment of what’s really there, the truth, and re-present it in such a reflective and clearly understood and digested form.
I started working with photography from the age of 17. I got into because of my passion for filmmaking, but the magic of it just stuck with me. I left it aside for a while, then in 2009, while I was a student at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, I picked it up again. Black and white photography is true magic in my opinion, because it never ceases to amaze me. Digital is fun, and you can do a lot with it, it really let’s you be as creative as possible, whereas with film you end trying to make the image come out before you think of experimentation.
The black and white photos you see below are from my time at Art Center. Two of them are from a series called Armerica: a documentary of Armenian-American immigrant businesses.
Sarkis Iknadossian immigrated to the United States from Aleppo, Syria with his wife in the late 1970’s. After opening a small convenient store in Montebello, California Sarkis was quickly shut down because of the opening of a 7/11 market across the street.
After re-establishing his family closer to the Armenian Community, in Glendale, Sarkis decided to open a household supply store in what is known today as Little Armenia, in Hollywood.
In addition to selling common household appliances, Sarkis also repairs kitchen and household electronics, such as vacuums, electric stoves, and toasters. Sarkis says that in recent years their business has once again fallen victim to competition coming from bigger stores and companies. Already past the age of retirement, Sarkis and his Wife continue to work despite their lack of energy to compete.
‘Round The Clock Cleaners
‘Round The Clock Cleaners has been owned and operated by the Kasparian family for over 20 years. The Kasparian’s immigrated the United States in the early 1980‘s, during the Lebanese Civil War. Their business became the very resource for their establishment in the United States. The location you see is currently managed by the Kasparian son, Johnny Kasparian. The family has also opened a few other locations that cater to various parts of the Pasadena and greater Los Angeles area.
Round the Clock
The Accordion Man was taken at the 3rd street promenade on a sunday evening. Summer of 2009.
The Accordian Man
In December of 2009 I ventured on to Armenia with the Birthright Armenia program. I spent most of my time there volunteering at Bars Media Documentary Film Studio and Manana Youth Center. Bars Media has been responsible for documentary films ranging in topics ranging from the Karapagh war, Tightrope Dancers in Armenia, and Donkeys in Lamu, Kenya. Their latest project The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia is what I worked on for the most part, translating dialogue for subtitles in English and promoting the film in the festival circuit.
Manana Youth Center is an after school center for kids in Yerevan that offers classes in Photography, Filmmaking, and Animation. I had a lot of fun working with them as a teachers assistant and helping out with whatever random tasks they needed.
Armenia was a great experience. I learned a lot from being around a completely different atmosphere for those 4 months. I took a lot of photos on my trip, but these two stuck out the most for me. One is probably very recognizable, the Mabib Babig statue in The Free Republic of Artsakh (Nogorno Kharapagh).
Mamig and Babig
The other is an old soviet car I would pass by on my way to the bus stop on a daily basis. I call that one A Daily Sight.
A Daily Sight.
Editor’s Note: High resolution print copies of the photos in this blog can be purchased from this author for $45. Mammig and Babig and a Daily Sight are available for $55 . For more information, visit Avo’s website at avojohn.com or email/call him at: firstname.lastname@example.org/818-251-6008. For more information about Birthright Armenia check out birthrightarmenia.org
A small but close-knit group of 40 made their way to AYF camp the weekend of May 21-23 for an annual retreat featuring educationals and fun activities. Organized by the Pasadena ‘Nigol Touman’ chapter of the AYF, the weekend was full of awesome games, delicious sandwiches, and informative educationals. With the youngest attendee being 6 years old, the oldest 47 and the majority under 16, the weekend was vibrant with energy and enthusiasm.
“It was a really enjoyable experience for me to get together with the youth in Pasadena and spend a weekend with them up at Camp,” said Serouj Aprahamian, Executive Director of the AYF and the guest Director for the Fun Camp. “I was extremely impressed by the level of camaraderie and thoughtfulness each participant displayed. It showed me what a bright future Pasadena has.”
Unger Serouj was in charge of the camps overall administration. His attention to detail and ability to spark competition amongst the attendees led to a fierce battle between cabins for the most neat, creative, and diligent of cabins. Further, attendees competed in dodge ball, capture the flag, butt volleyball, and a quiz bowl.
Kevork Kebabjian, Pasadena AYFs Chairperson, had nothing but praises for all the participants and organizers. I want to commend the chapter executive as well as the badanegan relations committee for their excellent organizational work,” he said. “This weekends success is owed to a team effort; from our drivers, to our cooks, the organizing committees, our director, our local gomideh, badanegan vareech, members, and attendees, all had a role in making this years fun camp as successful as it was.
The chapter plans to continue organizing the weekend retreat as long as possible, and hopes to expand its activities, Kebabjian said. “All interested individuals from the Pasadena area should feel free to contact the Pasadena AYF regarding next years camp. The chapter would love to hear from the community at large,” he exclaimed.
With chapters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) is the largest and most influential Armenian American youth organization. Inspired by the past and motivated by the needs of the future, the AYF actively strives to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of all Armenian youth.
Last month, the AYF Orange County ‘Ashod Yergat’ Chapter brought together eight young Armenian artists from in and around the Orange and LA county areas to showcase their work for a two-day art festival on the weekend of May 22-23.
Almost all of the artists were selling their pieces at prices varying from $15 to $1,000. The event was free admission and all of the proceeds were benefiting the artists.
The exhibition featured works from painters and photographers. The two photographers both had a different way of expressing their work. One, had photographs of nature and objects focusing on using different filters that added effect to each of the pictures. The second photographer was able to capture the everyday life of the people in Armenia in either black and white or sepia adding a very deep effect. The six artists all used either color pencil, oil or watercolors.
As a member of the Orange County Chapter, I feel that it was definitely a successful event. We wanted to make sure that we somehow helped artists within our community which we feel was successfully done. We thank our artists and guests for participating and we hope to do this event again next year.
In recent months, Turkey’s Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, has been harshly critical of Israel and passing himself off as a champion of Palestinian rights, most recently in response to the Israeli raid on the flotilla carrying aid to Gaza.
“It should be known that we will not stay silent and unresponsive in the face of this inhuman state terror,” said Erdogan. “International law has been trampled underfoot.” Other Turkish officials have followed suit, condemning Israel for its “savagery” and attacks on innocent civilians.
It is interesting to hear such criticisms coming from a country that remains an unrepentant perpetrator of the first genocide of the twentieth century, maintains an illegal blockade of Armenia, illegally occupies 1/3 of the island of Cyprus, systematically oppresses its Kurdish population and throws innocent Kurdish children into prison (see the below BBC report video).
Now if that’s not the pot calling the kettle black, we don’t know what is.
You can take action on this issue; Click here to alert your Senators and Representatives to Turkey’s shameless attempts to take the moral high ground despite its record of non-stop abuse at home and violence abroad.