Camp Javakhk and AYF Internship: A Dual Experience
By U. Narine Taraksian
Eye-opening. That is the first thing that comes to my mind when reflecting back on this week in Javakhk. It was clear within the first few minutes of being here that people don’t have as much as we do in America regarding materialistic things. However, the family values and friendships the people have here are like no other. The people in Akhalkalak are so quick to invite you to their homes, offer the little they have to you, and make you feel at home. I feel like I have connected more with the people here in Akhalkalak than I have the past six weeks in Yerevan. They are without a doubt the warmest, most selfless people I’ve met this summer.
Working with the kids has also been so eye-opening. I was a counselor of the middle group, ranging from ages nine to eleven. I could easily spot out the kids who don’t have much by the way they dressed, wearing the same hand-me-down t-shirts five days in a row and getting overly excited about getting new tshirts. Although it was clear that they don’t have much, they are definitely the proudest Armenian children I’ve encountered. The first time I heard 120 of them sing Mer Hairenik, I looked at my co-counselors in awe at how loud and proud they sang our anthem. The passion in their hearts was so evident throughout the entire week. Every time we had hantes practice, I was continuously taken aback at how many Tashnag songs they knew by heart and dances they so proudly performed.
Although I was only able to commit to a week of Javakhk Jampar, it was one of my favorite weeks this summer, and I wish I could have stayed longer. Being able to take part in both the AYF Internship and Javakhk Jampar in one summer was honestly the opportunity of a lifetime. Living in Yerevan and working in the hospital is amazing, and I love every minute of it, but I feel like I directly impacted the lives of the children here in Javakhk. They were so appreciative of everything, and I’ll honestly miss seeing them every morning, welcoming us with hugs and kisses.
Overall, this trip definitely made me realize that our region needs to be more active in the Jampar, just as we are with Camp Haiastan and other local events. It’s such a great program that many people could learn from and enjoy. Not only is the Jampar itself such a great experience, but the time I spent sightseeing in Javakhk and Western Armenia with my co-counselors and locals was also unforgettable. It’s incredible to witness the ties that have been formed through this Javakhk initiative, and we should most certainly ensure that the ties last for years to come.