Community Cleanup at Camp Haiastan

Providence community members masked and ready for work

FRANKLIN, Mass. – What do you do when for the first time since its beginnings 70 years ago Camp Haiastan is not in session? Well, if you are part of the Providence community led by the Varantian Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) chapter and Sts. Vartanantz Church Men’s Club, you roll up your sleeves, don your mask, dress for the outdoors and get to work cleaning up the hallowed grounds of Camp.

Of course, all community Camp lovers are welcome to help, but this first Saturday, July 18, Providence volunteers headed to Franklin to begin by clearing brush, ridding the barbecue area of trash and cleaning out an abandoned building near the upper office. Per current pandemic conditions, the 23 dedicated individuals who made the trip wore masks and maintained an appropriate distance while working, successfully completing a great deal of necessary cleanup.

Volunteers cleaning debris

“If you didn’t know better, you would have thought it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago,” said one of the organizers Steve Elmasian, when commenting on the number of people who willingly gave of their time on a very hot summer day. With the hope that others will join the work, scheduled for every three to four weeks, Elmasian said, “Someday, years from now, people will speak of this community and say something like, ‘I remember the good old days when people would sacrifice their time and help out the camp located nearby in the heart of Franklin, MA.’”

Prior to Saturday, Elmasian sent out an email to the community outlining the plans for Camp, and at the end of the day he provided a brief recap which clearly touched peoples’ hearts. “You say 30, 40 or 50 years…try 70 years ago!” exclaimed Varoujan Karentz, adding his recollections when a couple of carloads containing Providence AYFers would head to Franklin week after week to spend the day cutting trees, clearing trails and creating roads through the woods. Karentz noted a typical crew would be about 10 to 12 people and congratulated this year’s much larger group. “The determination still remains,” he said.

Community cleanup crew meeting in the morning to review plans for the day

Newly appointed Camp Haiastan Executive Director Kenar Charchaflian expressed her gratitude to the Providence volunteers for “choosing to leave it [Camp] better than it was,” especially in light of pandemic constraints. “Saturday served as my first in-person community interaction since I became Executive Director, and days like this validate my decision to take on this role,” she said, adding the hope that other communities will follow suit. Reiterating that Camp requires the support of the community to succeed, Charchaflian asked anyone wishing to help or schedule a work day to reach out to either her or a member of the Board of Directors.

“I’m proud to be able to follow in the footsteps of our parents and grandparents, the visionaries who had the foresight to purchase Camp Haiastan and build the foundation for what it is today – a jewel in our Armenian community,” said Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Eastern Region Camp liaison Steve Mesrobian. “It is a labor of love for my friends and I to put some sweat equity into the camp and ensure it is a resource for our next generations!”

Brush cleared from the grounds
Pauline Getzoyan

Pauline Getzoyan

Pauline Getzoyan is editor of the Armenian Weekly and an active member of the Rhode Island Armenian community. A longtime member of the Providence ARF and ARS, she also is a former member of the ARS Central Executive Board. A longtime advocate for genocide education through her work with the ANC of RI, Pauline is co-chair of the RI branch of The Genocide Education Project. In addition, she has been an adjunct instructor of developmental reading and writing in the English department at the Community College of Rhode Island since 2005.


  1. To the Men’s Club of Sts Vartanantz: with your recent work at Camp Haiastan, you honor all those original AYF’ers who built the summer camp literally by hand during the years of 1945-1951. They came from all over- New England, the mid Atlantic, Detroit to volunteer to build the Camp on the weekends throughout the year. Your dedication is wonderful Abrees

  2. Unger Steve Mesrobian said it all when he stated, “It’s a labor of love”.
    Next scheduled trip to Franklin is August 15th.
    Please join us starting at 9am.

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