BY HOVIG ZAKI
Ever since I was young, I have anxiously waited for the day that I would be able to visit my homeland of Armenia. Various circumstances kept me from realizing this dream, until my acceptance into the AYF Youth Corps program. My acceptance not only realized my dream, but allowed me to leave positive impact on the youth of Armenia.
The trip to Artsakh was very memorable. On the road for about 8 long hours, we saw breathtaking scenery, experienced nausea inducing “roads,” and prepared ourselves for the week’s upcoming jampar. Our first day in Shushi was incredible. We opened up camp with Artsakh’s national anthem, which was sung proudly by the children and their parents. We divided the children into their assigned color groups, and began our daily schedule of activities. We then passed out shirts to the children, who received them with such joy that their smiles reached both ears. We continued with our activities, and taught the children about the ARF ideology and the importance of the organization throughout Armenia’s history. We ended the day singing Mshag Panvor, ARF’s anthem, that, while many of the children had just learned, sang with pride and strength.
Throughout the day, I witnessed moments of generosity, laughter and kindness. One instance that stuck in my memory was when, during our Arts and Crafts, the children made bracelets and necklaces. Assuming they made these crafts for themselves, I was positively surprised when they began handing these newly made bracelets and necklaces to their respective counselors. Coming from a group of people that have dealt with so many difficulties, to see them be so humble and good-natured really opened my eyes to the quality of the people of Shushi.
Now, writing this blog, I am surrounded by people who have become a family. I am writing this blog amidst the beautiful skyline of Free and Independent Artsakh. I am writing this blog from a place where the hills and mountains are filled with song. The wind carries their tune, and the notes find their way into my heart, singing their song, “Stay because this is where you belong, stay because this is your home.”