For the eighth consecutive year, counselors from the Eastern Region of the United States visited Javakhk day camps in three towns: Akhalkalak, Akhaltskha, and Ninotminda. Their mission was to teach basic health and hygiene, current events, Armenian culture, Armenian history and more. They also organized arts and crafts activities, played various field games and hosted friendly competitions. Of course, they also sang and danced, but more importantly, they created, once again, everlasting bonds with not only the youth of Javakhk, but with every Armenian they encountered during their short time in the region.
After coming back from Camp Javakhk in 2017, I said that I never imagined I could fall in love with this program and the Armenians of Javakhk more than I already had. This summer, once again, proved me wrong. This was my fourth season participating in the program, but it was a bit different than the others. This time, I had the honor of being one of the three directors of the ARS Camp Javakhk program.
Being a Camp Javakhk director was an important responsibility. As the days got closer to the start of Camp Javakhk, I remember being very anxious. My heart would beat faster by the minute, and I kept wondering why. This was a program I had participated in multiple times. I was familiar with Javakhk and its people. I knew what to expect. It didn’t hit me until I got to Yerevan and saw all the counselors, some familiar and some not-so-familiar faces, who would all quickly become my Javakhk family.
I realized that I wasn’t nervous or scared but more so excited, excited for this group of dedicated youth to experience Camp Javakhk themselves. I was excited for counselors to experience mornings in Akhalkalak, to wake up to a blue sky and green mountains and to be fed banir, hats, varoonk and lolig (cheese, bread, cucumber and tomatoes) every morning. I was excited for these counselors to ditch their morning alarms for the rooster’s crow. I was excited for them to experience the storm of eager children, asking if they can braid their hair or telling them that they are their inspiration in their daily journals.
These are all things that I have experienced. These experiences have changed my life and touched my heart in ways that I cannot put into words. This summer I got to see over 350 campers do the same to our 27 counselors who participated. I think I speak on behalf of all the participants when I say there is no better way to spend a summer than with the children of Javakhk who have an incredible thirst for knowledge, an unbelievable enthusiasm for any and all activities and a passionate heart. Although by the end of the day we are all drained, there is no better feeling than seeing a smile too big for a camper’s face when they wave goodbye, excited to do it all over again the next day.
The improvement I saw within each counselor from the first day to the last day of camp was commendable. From them coming home the first day debating if they can handle another day of camp to them being able to control their groups, give lessons confidently, teach Armenian dances and songs proudly, and conquer any hurdle that is thrown at them by the last day. One walks into this program without expecting to get anything in return. They leave with not only an unforgettable experience, but lessons and tools that will last them a lifetime.
I am eternally thankful for the Armenians of Javakhk and the program that has shaped me into the person I am today. But this time around I am thankful for my group of counselors as well. The dedication, growth and passion that these counselors showed throughout the two weeks of Camp Javakhk not only gave me hope, but it also gave me strength. Our generation is ready to learn, ready to work and ready to lead. I am excited to see how much this camp will grow in the coming years.