On July 11, we made our way down a nameless street in the rain, kind of nervous that the rain might discourage kids from coming to the first day of our camp. But no, we were welcomed by more than 200 kids who wanted to be part of the first session of 2011 AYF Camp Gyumri. Our capacity, supplies, and resources would only allow us to accept 100 campers. This meant that we would have to do the unthinkable and turn kids away. Our hearts couldn’t say no to all of them so we decided to take in an extra 10 kids and make our supplies last by giving up our lunches.
First we divided the kids into three groups; red, blue, and orange. The counselors started by getting to know all the kids, who excitedly ran around telling stories of past participation in our camp, trying to impress us with the English that they had learned and asking about games and activities we would play.
After they lined up in their color lines, we began our day with “Mshag Panvor” the ARF’s anthem. It was obvious that some knew and others wanted to fit in so they were mumbling words. Our first activity was the “I am” collage. The kids were given a piece of construction paper and were asked to write about everything that describes them. Some wrote poems, other wrote about their hobbies, others about their activities, some drew their favorite food… Two people stood out the most in our red team. One drew Ararat and told us he wants his house to be right by it. Another one wrote how she wishes that there will never be any war in Armenia and her country could remain peaceful.
After lunch, the kids were so excited to continue learning songs to sings at the top of their. Later we played dodgeball (bader), which of course Red team won!!
Our day ended with Mer Hayrenik, the Armenian national anthem, which every single person poured their heart into. It was unexpected that every single girl came up to all the girl councilors and kissed each one of us. The guys were kind of shy and said bye from far away, but im sure we’ll all get closer as the days pass.
We walked back home with hope in our hearts that we will run an amazing Camp and will touch the lives of 110 kids, and they too would touch our hearts, and they will remember us for the rest of their lives. 12 of us walked back home knowing that our first day was a success and our hearts were filled with self-fulfillment that we were here for a reason, and we would be the small pieces of the bridge between our homeland and those who live outside its borders.