It Starts with Community

By Amy Karageozian, Albany “Shoushi” 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. Karageozian’s essay, which won first place in the middle group (ages 13-14), answered the following prompt: Being an active participant in your Armenian community is crucial for preserving the Armenian Diaspora. What does your future with the Armenian community look like? What are some challenges that your community may face, and how can you utilize the AYF to overcome these challenges?

Central Junior Council with Amy Karageozian, Albany “Shoushi” chapter, and Victoria Penenian, Washington D.C. “Sevan” chapter, middle group winners

Keeping alive our Armenian history, people and culture takes great responsibility and commitment. I am fortunate enough to be a part of an Armenian community that starts in my home and goes to a worldwide level. Being a part of my Armenian community means a great deal to me, especially being a part of the diaspora. The Armenian diaspora is the crucial key to Armenia’s success. This includes my involvement in the community, as well as being a part of AYF. My future in my community starts with our local chapter, my church and my family. All of this takes effort and determination. It also comes with many challenges that I, and we as a community, will have to face, but also figuring out ways to solve these issues and how I can utilize AYF to do so.

Community stems back generations in my family. Throughout their lives they had to make a community everywhere they went to make sure they don’t lose a very important part of themselves and so their future children can grow up to know their heritage. My great-great grandparents on both sides of my family had to suffer through the Armenian Genocide and flee from their homes for a chance of survival, and much like many other Armenian families, they didn’t want to lose where they came from. I was taught to preserve my culture, so I can one day also pass it along to my children and keep the diaspora going. To achieve the goal of ensuring the future of Armenia, it starts with my community and me. I take part in my community in many ways, starting at my Armenian church. I have been going to church all my life and I wish to continue once I am older. Any event that the church holds I am there to volunteer and give my time. One day, I plan on being a part of the church committees to make sure the church still stands many years from now. I have also been attending Armenian school; this gave me the ability to read and write. I have been to events that they hold as well.

I have done talent shows and been a part of an Armenian dance team. I am able to perform in shows around the city, and that gives me the opportunity to share my culture with everyone, even outside my own city. Once I am of age, I could teach the little kids how to read, write and dance as well. One of the opportunities that I am more grateful and lucky to be a part of is AYF. Even though we are a smaller chapter, we still have a great influence in our community. I am still a junior and cannot wait to be a senior and be a leader in my chapter. The future of our community will stay alive and well, as long as others such as myself continue to follow traditions and pass them on for generations to come.

While there are many great achievements that have been accomplished through our communities, there are also many challenges that we have faced and will continue to have to go through. Growing up in Albany had its advantages and disadvantages; while there is a pretty big Armenian population, we face some difficult situations. We have two Armenian churches, but there is the issue of difference in denominations. This causes a significant divide between the community. It has become difficult to have a sense of solidarity between everyone when that stands between everything. I believe that this divide has to be resolved because without solidarity, how can we truly stand together to keep Armenia from those who want to take it away? We must learn to put those differences aside to become one. When the churches do not see eye to eye, this also causes political differences that have major effects. One side is expected to think one way and another is expected to think another way. We all should be striving for the same goal: to have a peaceful, standing united Armenia. The AYF has Armenia and the diaspora in its best interest in mind. AYF has become a pivotal point in my community because of the events and fundraisers we host. It gives everyone the opportunity to come together, to put their differences aside and enjoy our culture. As AYF members we help out whenever either church needs anything or would like us to participate in their events. AYF gave us an excuse to embrace our heritage more and more which is one of the main points in our community.

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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