Teaching Democracy and Elections to Children of Vanadzor

AYF Canada Youth Corps 2016 participant, Anoush Djrbashian, with camper in Vanadzor
AYF Canada Youth Corps 2016 participant, Anoush Djrbashian, with camper in Vanadzor

AYF Canada Youth Corps 2016 participant, Anoush Djrbashian, with camper in Vanadzor

BY ANOUSH DJRBASHIAN, member of the AYF Western USA – Burbank Varak Chapter

As an Angeleno participating in the AYF Canada Youth Corps program, I have gotten a lot of “why Vanadzor?” questions. The truth is, I really couldn’t resist two weeks in this beautiful, green, mountainous city populated by some of the friendliest people in all of Armenia. After just two days of camp, this program has already exceeded all of my expectations.

I, along with Unger Shaunt and Ungerouhi Lucy, have been supervising the 13-14 age group. We have some Camp Vanadzor veterans and a few newbies, all of whom greeted us with smiling faces at 10 AM this morning. Our first order of business was coming up with a nickname for our group. Campers suggested names, which one of the ungerouhis wrote down on the blackboard, and we voted on the best option. Collectively, we chose the name Kaitzak. However, not every camper was happy with this decision, preferring their own suggestions. We had to explain the importance of respecting the result of an election, even if the outcome is not necessarily what we wanted. We further explained that voting is one of the building blocks of a democratic society, which is one of the fundamental tenets of ARF ideology.

The campers quickly forgot their grievances after we split them into small groups and gave them the task of coming up with a chant for our group. Shaunt, Lucy and I witnessed the boundless creativity of these children, who came up with 2-3 suggestions each with ease. After another round of elections our group settled on a final chant, which they now scream out at lunch breaks and flag ceremonies with complete pride.

Even the simplest activity at camp can turn into a teaching moment. Within the span of an hour or so, our campers worked together, presented their ideas and participated in two elections. My fellow counselors and I understand the responsibility we bear by working with such impressionable young minds, and I can only hope their experience at camp over the next two weeks will be as fulfilling as mine already promises to be.

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