A pandemic and war: reflections from the AYF Central Executive

2020 was a difficult year, to say the least. A global pandemic forced the organization to operate virtually beginning in April and the first-ever cancellation of the annual AYF Olympic Games. Our membership interacted behind cameras and computer screens. If a pandemic was not enough, Turkish and mercenary-backed Azeri forces unleashed wanton destruction, death and carnage on our ancient homeland of Artsakh, forcing tens of thousands of Armenians out of their ancestral homes, culminating in a disastrous peace agreement signed by a feckless, demagogic Prime Minister. 

But the twin blows of the pandemic and the Artsakh War were not enough to bring our organization and our people down. We learned how to adapt, hosting incredibly successful virtual events such as Junior and Senior Seminar as well as weekly Armenian language discussions dubbed Zruyts Mruyts. During the Artsakh War, our organization and our community came together en masse, planning dozens of protests all across the region, raising awareness of Azeri aggression and terrorism as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars for dozens of humanitarian and infrastructure efforts in both Armenia and Artsakh. 

The 2020 Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Central Executive is incredibly proud of its members, its organization, its friends, families and supporters who once again demonstrated the indomitable spirit of the Armenian people.

Of course, the 2021 AYF year is now upon us, and we must continue to look forward as we attempt to rebuild our homeland, re-engage our membership with in-person events and move toward a brighter future.

As most are aware, the CE, along with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Central Committee, decided to postpone the Annual Convention and extend the 2020 AYF year until March 31, 2021, given the ongoing pandemic. As a result, chapter executive terms were extended as well. Because the CE had two members aging out of the organization, two members—Araxie Toussounian (Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” Chapter) and Alex Manoukian (Washington, D.C. “Ani” Chapter) were appointed as replacements. Furthermore, all central councils were re-formed at the beginning of the 2021 calendar year. 

In regards to organizational events, holding a safe and effective Annual Convention as soon as possible remains a top priority of the CE. Furthermore, as more states continue to open and relax gathering restrictions, the CE will stay informed to help members safely resume in-person events. 

Of course, the focus also remains on Artsakh and Armenia. Our main goal during these difficult times is to support efforts of the ARF, ARF youth and the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) in the homeland that contribute to the territorial integrity of Artsakh and the economic viability of the people of Artsakh. Already, numerous members of the Eastern Region have volunteered their time in Armenia and Artsakh, giving back to those in need. The CE will continue to coordinate with the Bureau Youth Office of Armenia (BOYA) to ensure the utmost in coordination and efficacy for not only our members, but also the people of Artsakh.

Future initiatives conducted in coordination with BOYA will include: 

  1. Short-term programs for children and teenagers throughout Artsakh (i.e. summer camps)
  2. Assistance and moral support to soldiers and the families of martyred, wounded and disabled soldiers
  3. Collaborate with the ARS in Artsakh and Armenia to conduct surveys of Artsakh Armenians, identify their difficulties and their needs and assist the ARS in providing IDPs with housing assistance and basic necessities
  4. Organize internship programs with hospitals, rehabilitation centers, approved NGOs and governmental agencies tasked with supporting Artsakh

These efforts will run concurrently with the Eastern Region’s initiatives (AYF Summer Internship Program and Camp Javakhk).

Currently the CE has committed the organization to fundraising for the ongoing POW initiative in Armenia, along with the ARF Central Committee. This initiative, led by Siranush Sahakyan, is attempting to bring home the over 200 POWs Azerbaijan is illegally and barbarically keeping in captivity. The fundraising goal is $25,000; over $15,000 has already been raised.

As we look to our future and the work ahead of us, it is clear 2021 will bring with it hardship, sadness and grief, but also hope and love. The Armenian nation will struggle to rebound from the devastation of the Artsakh War. But therein lies our cause, for our work never ends. Our struggle never ends. The AYF will always work for our people and our nation. And we will prevail. We will rebuild, and we will see a united, free and independent Armenia once again.

Պայքար, պայքար, մինչեւ վերջ:

AYF-YOARF Eastern Region, USA
2020 Central Executive

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Founded in 1933, The Armenian Youth Federation is an international, non-profit, youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). The AYF-YOARF Eastern United States stands on five pillars that guide its central activities and initiatives: Educational, Hai Tahd, Social, Athletic and Cultural. The AYF also promotes a fraternal attitude of respect for ideas and individuals amongst its membership. Unity and cooperation are essential traits that allow members of the organization to work together to realize the AYF’s objectives.

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