The “AYF Summer 2017” section of the Armenian Weekly’s Youth page will highlight the 2017 summer programs of the Armenian Youth Federation—Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF-YOARF) Eastern United States.
One Tree at a Time
By Theresa Jelalian
2017 AYF Summer Intern and member of the AYF New Jersey “Arsen” Chapter
On July 8, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) interns took part in a growing project in Armenia. Our journey of the weekend introduced us to the Armenia Tree Project (ATP), a nonprofit program based in Yerevan and Woburn, Mass., that brings important environmental projects to Armenian cities and villages.
ATP creates jobs for communities in Armenia and helps restore the environment and greenery of Armenia—one tree at a time. Through this program, more than 5,300,000 trees have been planted, bringing forestation back to parts of Armenia. The goal is for Armenians to use trees to improve their lives while protecting the global environment.
As a group, we were given the opportunity to plant two trees of our own. For the first tree, we all took turns shoveling dirt onto a small patch of soil, which will soon sprout to play a role in the growth of Armenia.
We planted the second tree in the memory of unger Mark Alashaian.
Planting that tree for Uncle Mark symbolizes the impact that he had and still has on countless lives in the Armenian community, including mine. Uncle Mark understood and inspired many to create opportunities and connections that will forever have lasting value. He was the ultimate advocate for getting involved with and staying connected to our roots. Uncle Mark was an inspiration and mentor to many with his hard-working, honest, and “don’t stop until it’s done” mentality.
Simply, he was a presence that everyone gravitated to.
Growing up a few miles away from him and seeing him at AYF meetings, Sundays at the Hackensack Middle School gym, Camp Haiastan, and many other encounters in between, I had a powerful connection with him, just as he had with nearly everyone around him.
I usually found myself waiting online to talk to him or just say hello because everyone wanted to talk to him. But the wait was worth it because every conversation I have had with Uncle Mark left me wanting to do something great, whether it was advice for a basketball game I was about to play in or simply a conversation about Camp Haiastan. I was always inspired by him just like many others were.
Uncle Mark may not have been born in Haiastan, but Haiastan was born and grew in him. He is now reborn within this tree planted in the motherland, where the connections and influence he has had on the community will only continue to grow and never be forgotten.