Camp Gyumri has been an eye-opening experience. I didn’t quite know what to expect before coming here, but I’m very pleased with the outcome. For this session, we were prepared to accommodate about 100 children, but had a much greater turnout. As I made a personal goal to mesh with the locals, I discovered some disheartening things. Finally, I was concerned about how the group dynamic would be, but soon learned that I had nothing to worry about. We all continue to struggle through and overcame the logistical obstacles together.
Amongst our obstacles at AYF Camp Gyumri was the overwhelming turnout of participants we had. The initiation of the fourth annual Camp Gyumri was marked with a warm welcome from over 180 eager children, greatly surpassing our anticipated 100 participants. Each camper is given a T-shirt, two meals a day, along with stationary for classwork and hygienic supplies. Although the amount of interested children have caused our financial figures to rise far beyond our anticipated budget, we agreed that it would be unfair to leave anyone behind. Fraternity and equality are among the pillars of our organization, so we made a point of instilling those virtues within the campers.
Unfortunately, equality is not a widely accepted concept in Armenia. Prior to arriving in Armenia, I decided to frequently communicate with locals to find out about their daily lives. From what I’ve gathered so far, the main issues among those who live here are the uneven distribution of wealth, the lack of social programs and the difficulty of finding a job. Several Armenian citizens have redirected their efforts from trying to better our homeland to trying their luck at success in the Diaspora. Though at times this can be discouraging to see and hear, any sadness I experience is soon turned into motivation to lend my people a helping hand through their current hardships. By spending time and learning with the children at Camp Gyumri, I realize the tremendous potential within the next generation of Armenians; each child is eager to learn, establish genuine friendships and is always willing to give in any way. If we each had a fraction of the motivation and optimism of our campers, we’d overcome any obstacle that come our way.
Although I was initially hesitant about my fellow Youth Corps 2012 group members, I soon realized that I am surrounded by a great group of people. Though we come from varying backgrounds and sometimes have different ideas about how things are done, the most important part is that we all have the same goals. We’re all here for the same reason: to actively affect our homeland and do our part to make it better. We’ve been faced with a few obstacles, including a shortage of supplies, but rather than driving us apart, these difficulties have brought us closer together. Only through teamwork can problems be solved and a difference made.
We were overwhelmed by the great interest in our program when we started and turned no one away. I learned of some unfortunate issues in Armenia currently, but realized that the dedication and ambition of countless individuals can shape a strong and stable future. Facing many obstacles, our group quickly learned about the power and strength of friendship and teamwork. As I mentioned before, my time with the AYF Youth Corps has really opened my eyes. Though at times what I see is disheartening, it’s difficult to lose optimism when surrounded by my campers and fellow counselors. It’s difficult not to love Armenia and all its people. It’s difficult to hold back from wanting to keep helping.
As a member of the AYF, I feel it is my duty to encourage and inspire the future generation of Armenia to take a more active role in their government, to feel more compelled to voice their concerns, and to commit to working toward the betterment of our homeland.