Mayr Hayasdan is a symbol of pride towering over the city of Yerevan. The tanks and military planes, as well as the pictures of war heroes in the museum, remind Armenians that we have a reason to be proud of our men and women who have given their lives to protect our homeland. After a tour by a very enthusiastic tour guide, we headed to Dzidzernagapert. It’s very difficult to describe the contrasting emotions I had at these monuments. The feeling of pride turned to sadness as I read the names of cities like Adana and Kharpert which are no longer populated by Armenians. We sat around the flame and had a discussion. As we shared stories, thoughts, and opinions about the Genocide and what it means to us as Armenians in the Diaspora, that feeling of pride came back. I felt proud again because I looked around the group and saw 20 other individuals just like me who are interested in learning about our past in order to help shape the future. Over the next six weeks, we’ll be doing just that. We hope to impact the lives of all the kids that will show up to the jambar. I, in turn, know that they will impact my life even more. There is no doubt that us Armenians have a tragic past, but we know that the future is bright.
Although I’m only four days into the program, I’m amazed at how much I’ve come to love and learn about Armenia. It’s my third time here and I’m surprised by how much I have yet to learn about the country and It’s ancient history.
After the first day, I had learned some truly mind-blowing facts, an example being that the monastery of Geghard was carved out of a mountain and that it is the only church in the world of it’s kind. Vartivar in Armenia was also something I had never expected. Back in San Francisco, when celebrating with my friends and family, we would splash each other a bit and call it a day. In Armenia people embrace and relish the day long tradition. From getting attacked off of balconies, being cornered by children with hoses and surprise attacks from hidden alleyways, it was exhilarating to say the least.
My favorite place we visited so far was Sardarabad. I’ve been to Sardarabad twice before, and each time has been more memorable than the last. Simply standing there and absorbing the magnitude of the events that took place was enough to give me the chills, Singing “Sardarabad” as a group was really something else as well.
Something that I really enjoyed was having an educational from CivilNet. It was a real eye-opener to learn how important a role media and journalism currently play and should play in Armenia.
To top it off, we also went to Lake Sevan today. Although the water was freezing, it was an incredible experience nonetheless, simply because of how endless the lake seems. Afterwards, we traveled to Dilijan. It was very relaxing to sit next to a creek and enjoy some fantastic food from our talented chefs (Rubo and his father).
Youth Corps has been great so far, and I only expect it to get better once we start working!
I’ve been to Armenia once before, but as a tourist. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to experience my homeland in such a unique and memorable way. In addition to being able to live in my homeland for 6 weeks, I get to meet other volunteers like myself and create long-lasting friendships. So far, everything is surreal to me to the point that I feel like I never left America. But I know that once we start camp and I get to spend time with the kids, I won’t want to leave my homeland. My friends who have done Youth Corps in past years told me before I left that this is a life changing experience, and I’m ready to take the next step with my fellow volunteers in making sure that it is one.
I can’t wait to see what the next 6 weeks have in store for us!
This is my first time in Armenia and I’ve been here for two weeks already. I met my fellow AYF Youth Corps participants today, and I felt a connection with them right away.
We met early in the morning and quickly put our bags down to head to Garni and Geghard. Geghard was one of the most amazing places I’ve seen in my life. It was truly astonishing to see how people could carve into a mountain and create such a beautiful place hundreds of years ago.
I had visited Garni earlier this week, but it was nothing like experiencing it today, seeing as today is also Vartevar, or Water Day, in Armenia. I was sitting by the window in the mini bus and, as we were approaching the temple, a kid ran up to us and splashed water all over me through the window. After that, we parked the bus and got out to walk towards the site, and our group was quickly ambushed by five other kids with buckets, drenching all of us. It was a very fun and special experience seeing the whole town happy and splashing water on everyone and everything.
After seeing Garni, we made our way back to Yerevan. The entire city was out on the streets splashing anyone and everyone they saw. Whether it was from a balcony or on the sidewalk, everywhere was fair game. What an experience.
The first day with our group exceeded all of my expectations.
I don’t even know where to start when describing my internship experience during these past two months. The time spent interning at the AYF Office as part of the Future Leader’s Program has been a roller-coaster adventure that broadened my horizons from working solely in my local chapter to experiencing how the organization is run regionally and worldwide. I have networked, I’ve met new and influential people, and I have begun working with different organizations. At times, I felt overwhelmed at how these organizations have dedicated their lives to causes that they hold dear to their hearts. The common thread between these organizations and individuals is their commitment to fighting for Human Rights and combating injustices throughout the world, whether in the past, present, or future.
During just these 60 days of working for the AYF, I have witnessed political uprisings in Syria, Egypt, Turkey, and Armenia–four countries, whose citizens have been struggling for freedom of speech, and four movements for which one could rarely find an unbiased view when following traditional media. It took days of research to find the political motivations involved in each movement, and to learn what was really going on in these countries rather than a government-sponsored cover-up of the activism in their country. At times, it was dissuading to see the mainstream media coverage and realize that no one was asking why people were rebelling, or why there is a bitter civil war in Syria. For example, the media portrays the Syrian forces as using illegal means to kill the rebels, but what if the media is purposely hiding the truth in order to better protect American interests in having the Syrian government be brought down.
I have learned to question, to learn about motives of the media, and to never take anything at face value. Nowadays, citizens have learned to question and to demand their freedom of press and speech, but at what cost? It is our job as civil activists to ensure that we do not judge one another; instead, we need to respect one another regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or religious creed. Whether living in America, where there is no current civil rights movement that is apparent to the entire population, or living in Armenia, where citizens recently stood up to voice their concerns against an unjust and fraudulent election, I have learned to be aware of my surroundings.
As an Armenian youth, my promise is that I will continue the fight of our ancestors, who survived a plan of extinction for an entire ethnicity. I will fight for recognition, reparations, and restitution; I will fight to stay Armenian; I will uphold our traditions and remember our culture. After surviving the annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians and the displacement of countless others, it is not enough to simply give our children Armenian names. Whether or not you speak, read, and write Armenian, our homeland and our heritage is a part of your future. So I ask each reader, regardless of heritage and ethnicity, to begin researching and studying their culture. The 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide is less than 2 years away, but let us not regard that as 100 years since the attempt at bringing Armenians to extinction. Let us use this opportunity to show the world how and why we were able to survive. Let us embrace that constant belief in our faith, culture, and traditions.
«Մենք քիչ ենք‚ սակայն մեզ հայ են ասում։» -Պարոյր Սեւակ
“We are few, but we are called Armenians.” -Baruyr Sevag
I love Armenia. I love everything about it. The cute old women selling apricots at the corner of the street, the Soviet style buildings that managed to survive despite all of the development around it, the fact that it is so beautiful that no picture I take will do it any justice, and especially the fact that I am staring at Mt. Ararat as I write this blog. It is for these reasons, and so many more, that I decided to participate in the AYF Youth Corps this summer. I’ve visited Armenia many times before, but this time I will be experiencing it from the other side; living the way the ‘deghatsis’ live, changing the lives of hundreds of kids, and in turn, the kids changing mine. It’s been almost a week since I’ve been in Yerevan and I can’t wait for the program to start. I can’t wait to wake up in Karabagh surrounded by luscious green mountains and be greeted by the kids every morning in Gyumri and Broshian. I’ve talked to previous participants, heard their stories, seen their pictures, read their blogs, and after months of counting down, it’s time for me to make my own memories.