Annual Orange County Camp Weekend A Huge Success

The participants of the annual ARF, AYF, AYF Juniors Camp Weekend

AYF Ashod Yergat Chapter

WRIGHTWOOD, Calif.—The Orange County ARF, AYF and AYF Juniors held their second annual camp weekend this past December, 2012. The weekend consisted of guest speakers, games, and numerous other activities, some even outdoors in the snow.

The two guest speakers gave inspirational presentations. Mourad Topalian came up to the campsite to discuss Armenian in American Society. He spoke about what it means to be Armenian and how to keep being an Armenian in the changing American society, sharing some of his own personal experiences. His speech brought tears to the eyes of the audience, and inspired many of the younger campers to do more for their Armenian community. The second guest speaker, Hovig Saliba spoke to the group about the Armenians who fought to liberate Armenia’s territories, especially in Karabakh. Along with the guest speakers, AYF member Alique Cherchian gave an interactive educational, in which she gave scenarios relating to Armenia and the genocide, where each participant had to justify their position on the issue and explain their reasoning in hopes of gaining the support of those that were undecided. This activity had everyone participate, made everyone think about their positions, and led to great discussions between the participants.

Games were a fun alternative to the educationals, and ranged from butt-volleyball to Wacky Olympics. Playing Wacky Olympics was great for all the campers, mainly because it required cooperation and team support. In the end, it wasn’t clear which of the three teams won, but everyone enjoyed the races and competition. When outside, the campers enjoyed snowball fights, sledding, making snow angels, and two campers even played a large scaled game of tic-tac-toe in the newly fallen snow, the only thing forgotten about was a snowman, which was quickly done just moments before leaving the camp.

The Orange County Camp Weekend has become a favorite amongst both the AYF Aghpuir Serop Juniors and AYF Ashod Yergat members. It is a great opportunity for all three of our local Orange County groups to bond. The AYF Juniors who were not acquainted with the AYF and ARF members, soon became good friends with the older members. The same was true for the AYF and ARF members. The camp weekend truly brought everyone closer together, forming everlasting bonds between the members. This camp weekend has become one that is highly anticipated by all of Orange County’s AYF Juniors, AYF and ARF members.

Mourad Topalian speaks to participants

Mourad Topalian speaks about Armenians in America

AYF Ashod Yergat Chapter

For those that have had the great opportunity in hearing Mourad Topalian speak, know just how effective his words can be. Starting the educational series at the Orange County weekend at AYF Camp, Topalian started off his lecture with a few quotes we’ve all heard in our history classes. “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.” A room full of over 40 ARF, AYF and AYF Juniors listened as he explained how these quotes affect the Armenian people. What we as Armenians, as a nation want is not so different from what the “American Dream” had been. Eyes lit up as Topalian translated the famous “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” to the well known ARF quote “Mah, Gam Azadootyun.”

Topalian explains history in a way that ties today’s problems to those that we’ve learned about in the past. We are so used to learning about the American movements that we have never taken the time to really think about the Armenian ones. Everything such as the Gettysburg Address to John Paul Jones’ famous “I have not yet begun to fight” quote had a whole new meaning to us by the end of his lecture. John Paul Jones, representing the American Revolutionaries who fought for their freedom had the same hope that the Armenian people still have today. With such passion, Topalian described how the fire still exists in the Armenian people. We live in a society where everyday our lives are changing. The media covers nothing for more than a day and for a nation so small but with so much drive, we are determined to keep fighting the fight our fathers started. As diasporans, we have so much more to do and so much more to give to our nation. Topalian spoke about how important it is to constantly educate ourselves. Not only is it crucial to know our past, but also following up with what is happening in the present. The world is changing around us and it is up to each of us to make sure we don’t fall behind.

Following the lecture the AYF and AYF Juniors had the opportunity to have a Q&A with Unger Mourad. Question after question, the kids were alert and interested in not only his stories but also his theories. There is something about the way Topalian speaks that motivates us all. AYF member Ani Akmakjian described his lecture as the “core reason why we are all in this organization.” Whether you are 20 or 40, you will find each of his educationals even more moving than the last. He is a great influence to our organization and it is because of ARF members like him that my generation and the generations that follow will continue the work our fathers had started.

Hovig Saliba makes a persentation about Artsakh

Hovig Saliba Speaks about Artsakh

AYF Ashod Yergat Chapter

The ARF, AYF and AYF Juniors of Orange County had another successful and memorable weekend at AYF Camp. The participants that took part in the OC Camp weekend had the great opportunity of having Hovig Saliba come speak about Artsakh.

Hovig Saliba had many personal experiences with our brothers and sisters who fought during the war. With heart, he spoke of the casualties that occurred in the hospitals alone when he had gone to volunteer. He explained the geography of Artsakh, and its regions: The Askeran Region, Hadrut Region, Martakert Region, Martuni Region, Shushi Region, Shahumyan Region, and the Kashatagh Region.

Not only did he share his personal experiences and insight, he also explained the importance of Artsakh to our people, to our home, to our Armenia. He emphasized that the war isn’t over, and it’s ongoing. We learned that when the guns fire once more, we must fight for what is ours, and to keep our torch lit. He also said how amazing it was for AYF to make the year 2012 the Year of the Azadamardig.

When those words were spoken, it was a great motivation for our youth, and was a reminder that our responsibility for, and duty to our people is not even close to being over. There is always work to be done, and it is up to us to keep the torch of our nation lit.

Participants gather for group discussion and songs

2012 OC Camp Weekend: A Badanee’s Perspective

AYF Aghpiur Serop Junior Chapter

On Friday, December 14, the Orange County ARF, AYF, and Badanees came together to spend a fun and educational weekend together at AYF Camp. The weekend was the best that I could have ever imagined.

It was full of informative educationals, heated discussions and debates, enjoyable snowball fights and many more exciting activities. The games we played were activities originally played at AYF Camp but this time the Badanees had the privilege to play with the ARF and AYF members which made the games even more enjoyable.

The educational topics ranged from Karabakh to open discussions about community involvement. Another educational drew parallels between our revolutionary struggle and the American Revolution. This brought to light individual experiences during times of struggle and our need to stay fueled and driven toward our goals.

Between educationals we had snowball fights, went sledding and threw rocks at a frozen lake. This experience was not only communicative and enlightening it was also a chance for all of us to bond and to come together with our own ideas on how to help our country and our people. I feel closer to our ARF and AYF members after having shared a full weekend together. This weekend at camp provided the venue for our older members to share their supportive and encouraging words with the Badanees.

This experience has further fueled our camaraderie as a community and given me the inspiration to believe that we can accomplish anything by working together. It has shown me that I have a lot more power to make a difference than I thought, and that I am not alone. The only thing I can say is that I wish it was longer and that I can’t wait until next year.


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