Camp Javakhk: A 5-Star Experience
By U. Ani Bournazian
I, like many of the AYF interns this past summer, was confused on what exactly to expect when agreeing to be a counselor at Camp Javakhk. Given this summer was my first time in Armenia, it was a difficult decision for me to leave and go to Georgia—even for just one week! Since I had been working at Orran and at the Fund for Armenian Relief Children’s Center all summer, I figured going to Javakhk would be no different. I’ll admit, I was definitely wrong. The experience as a whole was a very unique and rewarding opportunity.
I was placed in a town called Ninotsminda with a fellow AYF intern, U. Arev Dinkjian. Given both of our backgrounds in working at AYF Camp Haiastan, we took charge to lead morning exercises together. At Camp Javakhk, we did many of the same activities campers engage in at AYF Camp Haiastan, with the addition of English and health lessons. Just like at AYF Camp Haiastan, “Hello, my name is Joe” was a favorite among the campers. That exercise, along with “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,” was also a great way to reinforce the terms we were teaching the campers in their English lessons.
To my surprise, many of my campers were very excited and eager to improve their English. One camper of mine in particular, Armine, always asked me to speak English with her so she could practice for the upcoming school year. I was unaware that this is an opportunity for students in her school. She also spoke to me about her dreams to attend Oxford University, travel to America and direct films. It was very uplifting to hear from a child coming from such a small village have such large ambitions. I assured her that she can achieve any goal she sets her heart on.
As for the health program implemented this summer, I have nothing but positive remarks. I helped instruct basic health lessons with supplemental activities to my campers on topics of nutrition, hand-washing, oral hygiene and the effects of smoking. We provided each camper with resources to take home, including a toothbrush, floss and a booklet explaining an overview of the lessons. After each lesson, it was such a great feeling to know that I had further enhanced that child’s knowledge about how to live a healthier lifestyle. For example, after showing the campers pictures of what happens to their bodies when they smoke, I will never forget looking up and seeing their eyes widen and jaws drop.
After the camp ended, campers and their parents kept coming up to me begging to see me next year. They expressed how much they enjoyed everything we planned for them. Overall, not only was Camp Javakhk an incredible opportunity to travel to Georgia and experience a new culture, but it is an amazing feeling to truly give back to the Armenian community, to educate and to be educated in what could be a challenging and very different environment.
Five stars: highly recommended.