All We Have is Now

By Karine Najarian, Washington D.C. “Sevan” chapter

The Armenian Youth Federation Eastern Region is pleased to present the winners of the 2024 AYF Camp Haiastan Campership Essay Contest. The first and second place winners in each age category were announced at AYF Junior Seminar over Memorial Day weekend. Najarian’s essay, which won second place in the older group (ages 15-16), answered the following prompt: After the Armenian Genocide in 1915, our ancestors established the Armenian communities across the world that we have all grown up in today. Following the Artsakh genocide in 2023, what can we do to ensure that the sense of community and identity of Artsakh is preserved?

Central Junior Council with Sarhad Melkonian, New Jersey “Arsen” chapter, and Karine Najarian, Washington D.C. “Sevan” chapter, older group winners

We as Armenians in the Diaspora must represent our ancestors who were martyred or escaped the Armenian Genocide in 1915. Throughout the past 109 years, we have never given up no matter what our people have gone through. The lands where our people have lived since the beginning of time, where our mountains stand, and where we have spilled our blood, sweat and tears, will never be forgotten. The justice our people deserve has not yet been served, but the outcome of our efforts will only get better the harder we try and the harder we work in every community around the world. To preserve the sense of community and identity of Artsakh, we need to educate through the youth and social media, celebrate our culture and traditions to keep them alive and bring the people together through events and gatherings. 

In this new age, social media has become a main source of communication for people everywhere because of its powerful impact. Reaching a wide audience in such a timely manner can be crucial to spreading important content to raise awareness about Artsakh’s history and culture. Once the community is informed, connected and engaged in the news, convenient feedback and information is received in real-time. Many chapters across the world have their own social media accounts where they post their events and share with other communities hundreds of miles away with a click of a button. This is an amazing way to increase awareness as well as open opportunities that were not previously available. We often hear the phrase, “You are the future of the Armenian community,” but in reality, we are the present. What we do now, in these moments, can be so powerful and moving to not only grow and expand on what we already have but also teach the new generation to keep pushing to maintain their Armenian identity and justice for the Artsakh and Armenian people. This increases diversity of thought and stimulates the brilliant minds of our youth.

Through the Armenian church and various amazing organizations, we can bring people together. In Armenian schools, children can gain a stronger connection to their roots by learning Armenian dance, religion, language and literature. In the AYF and Homenetmen, youth gather at meetings, local events and larger events such as the AYF Senior Olympics and Homenetmen Jamboree where they can create strong bonds and lifelong friendships that are vital to their everyday life. They stay connected to their culture through these connections and as a result, give back and champion our cause.  

Every year, each AYF and Homenetmen chapter has an April 24 protest to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Communities have come together to wave our flag and prove that Turkey and Azerbaijan have failed to ethnically cleanse our people.  We are still here and will continue to fight no matter how long it takes. We have filled the streets with a strong message to everyone who will listen, that we are here and not going anywhere. This is a way to share the sense of unity amongst our people when facing challenges together and supporting one another. We lift each other during these difficult times.

Despite the challenges we face to maintain a positive attitude and bright vision of a thriving Artsakh community, we have not failed to preserve our past and build on what we have now. A constant reminder of who you are will always make you proud of your identity and the power that is deep down in your heart. These efforts can inspire current and future generations to continue towards our goal of a free, independent and united Armenia and Artsakh. Accepting defeat before the battle has even started gives you no chance to win because you have already accepted the fact that you are going to lose. The drive and determination our communities have shown in the past 109 years proves that we have never and will never give up. Artsakh is and will always be one with Armenia.

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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