Editor’s Note: The following remarks were delivered at the 70th anniversary gala on July 23, 2022 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
We welcome you to Haiastan!
Being here tonight, after two years of postponing this event – sharing this celebratory evening with all of you – is truly an honor. I have talked to many of you on the phone or via email. Some of you may have seen me through the screen during our raffle videos, which has now given me the new nickname of “raffle girl.” Tonight, however, is extra special for me as I finally have the opportunity to meet you all formally in-person.
As I started in my role in June of 2020 amidst a pandemic, the most difficult decision in Camp Haiastan history had been made. The in-person camping season would be canceled – a statement that even to this day is tough to say. However, when I think of summer 2020, I don’t just think of the pandemic. I think of the 50 staff members who came together and volunteered their time to ensure that our youth would not have a summer without Camp Haiastan. The appropriately named “Camp Zoomastan” brought together over 200 campers virtually from across the world to experience the daily activities of Camp Haiastan.
When I think of the last couple of years, I do not think about the financial hardship brought onto the camp after closing our gates. Rather, with immense gratitude, I think of the response of our community, the individuals in this room, who generously donated, who volunteered at cleanups, who bought extra raffle tickets, who donated camperships – all to help secure the camp’s financial stability. I ask that you please take the time tonight to look to your left and right to your peers and say “thank you.”
Camp has been able to continuously improve on its facilities, from refurbishing the old washstands to a staff living quarters, improving cabin ventilation, installing a new dock, and additional security enhancements, to name a few.
Another improvement I would like to highlight is the installation of the third flagpole in the sacred Cabin Circle. This flagpole was installed to raise the flag of the Republic of Artsakh every morning, alongside the Armenian and American flag.
Seeing the Artsakh flag wave behind Unger Njteh and hearing the words of the Artsakh national anthem sung by our campers and staff, serve as an affirmation of our mission as AYF Camp Haiastan: our mission of an azad, angakh, yev miyatsyal Haiastan.
Although I am part of the generation that is lucky enough to know an independent Armenia, it became clear to me why the generations before us called this plot of land in Franklin their Haiastan. These grounds were about hope–the hope that someday, they will be able to see, touch and feel a free, united and independent Armenia. It’s the same hope that our campers today will have about Shushi, Hadrut and Aghdam.
The 2022 camping season returned this summer with an exciting aura, as it would be the first in-person camping season with no capacity limits since 2019. Our youth were clearly eager to come back to their home, with the return of day camp, a record number of Teen Session campers, and a sold out First Session.
I hope this event tonight not only serves as a celebration, but as a reminder. A reminder that it is our duty, as Camp Haiastan alumni and supporters, to ensure that our grounds, our Haiastan, are always filled with Armenian youth.
The forward progress of Camp Haiastan directly correlates with the progress of our Armenian communities throughout the United States. Camp Haiastan continues to stay at the forefront of raising the next generation of future leaders.
Since archery was one of my favorite camp activities, I often think of our camp as the bow and its youth as the arrows. We nurture their Armenian identity to then propel them into our communities as leaders. No one more powerfully embodies this metaphor than our campers and alumni.
I would like to remind us all that each generation has one overriding responsibility: to safeguard the legacy it has received from previous generations and hand it off enriched to the next one.
Tonight, as we celebrate over seven decades of the Camp Haiastan spirit, we are taking a major step in that direction.
Togh menk sharoonagenk mer soorp kordzuh.
Harach ansasan, harach antetev, tebi haghtanag, haghtanag.