Stomping into Gyumri

AYF Youth Corps 2016 participant, Aren Kamberian, with children of Gyumri
AYF Youth Corps 2016 participant, Aren Kamberian, with children of Gyumri

AYF Youth Corps 2016 participant, Aren Kamberian, with children of Gyumri


This morning, July 11, I woke up to the sounds of thunder and a heavy downpour of rain. Knowing today was the grand opening of the Gyumri agoump, I assumed the weather might cause some issues for the event. Fortunately, the weather cleared up and the sun began to shine bright.

As we walked into the agoump, we were instantly greeted by the smiling faces of the children. Immediately following this greeting were the questions “Are we going to play soccer?” and “Can we play soccer now?” We went on to line the children up by age and divided them into their assigned color groups. I witnessed a wide variety of emotions during this exchange; a group of young girls shouting with joy at the sight of their friend wearing the same colored bracelet was reminiscent of my days as a kid at AYF Camp.

At one point during the event, I remember looking around the center courtyard. I watched the children playing tag, some lining up to play basketball, others content with just sitting and talking to their friends. I also remember seeing the young men, though fully immersed in their games, stop what they were doing as soon as any help was needed. Amid these various groups, each engaged in different activities, was the consolidating air of camaraderie and miyootyoon. Even though the children just met us, they treated us like one of their own. The beauty of these humane interactions was only enhanced by the beauty of the completed agoump, the beauty of the local dziran and tzmeroog laid out across the table in the main hall, and the beautiful faces of the people that occupied the room.

I am proud to say that my Orange County “Ashod Yergat” chapter, along with many other supporting groups and individuals, was the driving force behind planning and executing the restoration of the Gyumri agoump. The grand opening ended on high notes of dances and singing. While watching in admiration, I could not help but compare the dancers and singers to this morning’s weather. The sound of the thunder seemed to pale in comparison to the thunderous stomps of the yarkushta and the booming voices of the children as they sang “Menk Angeghdz Zinvor Enk.” The bright sun seemed lackluster compared to the way the children’s eyes lit up at the sight of a ball, or at the discovery of an impending soccer game. Upon our exit from the event, we said our goodbyes, and were filled with excitement for the days to come. A select few ungers kept calling me their akhper, so as to make sure I would not forget. I guarantee you, I never will.


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