Camp Javakhk: Making an Impact in Dzalka
By U. Mari Tikoyan
I hesitantly agreed to attend Camp Javakhk three days before the camp began. The day I was leaving for Georgia, I had second thoughts on participating. I was apprehensive on going because I did not want to leave Yerevan, my job at Orran, or the other AYF interns. However, I am so glad I decided to attend because Javakhk was the highlight of my internship. Camp Javakhk was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I cherished every single moment I spent in the village of Dzalka, and the memories I have from that trip will be with me forever.
U. Sevan Markosian and I were assigned to be in camp Dzalka. We were expecting Dzalka to be a simple little town. However, we were in for a surprise. Dzalka was a straight-up village. There were no paved roads, there was one toilet in the entire village, and there were only two markets. While in Dzalka, we rode pregnant horses, we passed herds of cows regularly, we would take selfies with cows while getting weird stares by the villagers, we milked a cow, and we ate whatever was grown in the backyard of the lady we stayed with. I never thought I would experience something like Dzalka. I would send pictures to my parents of where I was, and they were even shocked. I was so used to living a comfortable life in America and Yerevan, but Dzalka was so different. Staying in Dzalka really helped put my life into perspective and taught me a lot about myself.
The camp was overwhelming at first. We were expecting about 75-100 kids, but some days there would be up to 120 campers. Kids from neighboring villages would even come to our Dzalka camp. Although the camp would be hectic at times, the kids were so sweet. Every morning we were greeted by hugs, kisses, and flowers. I distinctly remember this day where I sat on a dirty ground and when I stood up the kids helped clean my pants. I did not even have to ask, they just willingly helped me clean my pants. I told the kids that they did not need to help me, but they would not stop until I was entirely clean.
While at the camp, I got to teach the kids some games, English, and about health. I really enjoyed teaching the campers about health because the kids were so eager to learn and apply the new things they learned to their daily lives. Teaching the kids about health also helped me realize what I want to do with my life. On our final day in Dzalka, all the kids would beg me to come back next year, and they asked me if we would hold more camps for them in the following years. It was very touching to see how much we meant to the people of Dzalka and how appreciated our volunteer work was. In Javakhk, I really felt like I was making a difference. Not only did we impact the people of Dzalka, but the people of Dzalka also impacted my life tremendously. I am forever grateful to AYF for allowing me the opportunity to experience Javakhk.