After a near two hour ride from Yerevan, we finally arrived to our destination; Gyumri. This would be our home away from home for the next four weeks. As the van neared the house, we saw Digin Lilig, our host mother, waiting impatiently for us. She was standing by the door with arms wide open, ready to give each one of us a big hug and kiss. Her warm and welcoming nature, along with her excitement put us at ease right away.
My fellow participants and I toured the house and soon realized that we would be sharing a bathroom with the host family, an adventure within itself. With the entire top floor to ourselves, which includes three spacious rooms and a huge living room, we quickly settled in with much comfort. Afterwards, we all went down to have soorj with Digin Lilig, her two daughters, and her son. She talked about how excited she was for the upcoming weeks and told us stories about the previous Youth Corps group.
As much as we loved sitting around and drinking soorj, we realized that we had a lot to get done. We went upstairs and organized the supplies and materials for the first day of camp. From pencils and notebooks, to beads and colored pencils, we had everything we needed. After that initial process, we had a long meeting to discuss the camp schedule, which includes games, English classes, arts and crafts, and lectures. I guess here would be a good time to say that halfway through our meeting the electricity went out. It didn’t come on until an hour after we had fallen asleep.
The next morning was the first day of camp. All of us were excited and somewhat nervous. We woke up early and arrived at the camp at 10:00 AM, thirty minutes before it actually started. Apparently, we weren’t early enough because as we walked up to the school, we saw a large group of kids standing in front of the door. All of the campers were waving and smiling, beaming with joy. The excitement on their faces pumped us up.
After a quick set up, we opened the doors at 10:30 AM. The kids came rushing in and all gathered into one classroom. We first talked about AYF, the Youth Corps program, and ourselves. The kids then took turns introducing themselves. With introductions being over, we split ourselves up into three colors (red, blue, and orange) and went into our respective classrooms, where the campers had breakfast. At the previous night’s meeting, we had decided to keep the first day fun and simple. We played some games, got to know the kids, and gave them a short preview of the fun that was coming their way.
A main component of the camp is teaching English. On that first day, we split them into three groups: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. After lunch and a game of volleyball, the first day of camp was over.
Our group had decided to meet up every night to discuss our day at camp. So after the first day, we had the first of many meetings. My fellow Youth Corps participants and I all shared the same opinion. We were definitely tired from the day and from the amount of energy the kids had, but nothing measured up to how happy and excited we were for camp Gyumri.
To be perfectly honest, getting up at 8:00 AM everyday isn’t my idea of a fun time. But after seeing the smiles on the camper’s faces and after witnessing their joy and excitement about the simplest things at camp, 8:00 AM wasn’t early enough. I knew that I would gladly wake up early to spend time with them. Whether from writing the A B C’s to drawing a picture, the campers were overjoyed and grateful for everything.
After that first day, I quickly realized that this would not only be rewarding for the campers but for myself as well. I now count down the minutes to camp Gyumri everyday. I know that it will be an experience we will never forget.