The Armenian Youth Federation Western United States 2004 Year in Review

The AYF is known for its commitment to political activism. In 2004–this took the shape of protesting former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres’s visit to Southern California for his disregard for the historical record of the Armenian genocide and his denialist statemen’s made to the Turkish press; a Rally Against Genocide Denial reaffirming that the youth of today continue to be determined in their quest for justice; its annual April 24 protest at the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles with close to 5000 participants; and an informational booth at the System Of A Down Souls 2004 concert to encourage youth to get involved in Armenian issues. It also undertook the responsibility–on several occasions–to inform the community of vital issues.

On the education front–the AYF held its Annual Educational Seminar at AYF Camp–where members from all chapters came together in a fraternal and social atmosphere. Aside from three in-depth educational lectures about American grassroots political activism–an overview of the ARF 29th World Congress was presented. The AYF’s official quarterly publication Haytoug received a boost this year–generating a renewed interest among its young readers.

It also held many social functions including ski trips–fun camps–kebab nights–and dinner dances. Through proceeds from those social events–money was raised for current and future endeavors.

In an effort to create a philanthropic and physical bond between the homeland and the diaspora–coupled with the motivation to assist war-torn towns and villages in Artsakh–the AYF created the Youth Corps program–providing an opportunity for young Armenia’s to spend approximately five weeks during the summer in Armenia and Artsakh–where they supply the much needed resources and manpower to villages where residents are rebuilding their lives. The Youth Corps Sponsorship Program (YCSP) was created to provide one graduating high school senior an all expenses paid trip to participate in the AYF Youth Corps–a five week summer program in Armenia and Artsakh providing manpower to villages where residents are rebuilding their lives.

During the summer of 2004–AYF Summer Camp was home to more than 450 Armenian youth. Established in 1977–it provides a great atmosphere for young Armenia’s from all over to make new friends–become more acquainted with Armenian history and culture–and participate in a wide array of athletic activities. The AYF Camp Board is currently working to remodel each cabin–the lodge–kitchen–and bathrooms.

Along with the old must come the new and the AYF certainly met the challenge with innovative initiatives.

–The AYF–an international organization with over 100 chapters in more than 15 countries–has a vibrant presence in Armenia with more than 1000 members. The AYF Western Region Central Executive has begun a campaign to help its counterpart in Armenia in their efforts to create youth centers and new chapters. Although this effort began in the final quarter of the year–the Western Region has already allocated over $5000 towards this important project.

–In an effort to make Armenian literature accessible to both AYF members and the youth in general–the AYF created the Armenian Literary Project (ALP)–tasked with translating important pieces of literary work from Armenian to English. The ALP’s current project involves the translation of a publication produced in Armenia by the ARF. The publication provides answers to common questions about ARF ideology–platforms–worldview–and activities.

–Currently in the process of creating an AYF Alumni database through their online Alumni Registry and chapter archives–the AYF collected contact information for more than 2000 AYF Alumni–who are responsible for many of the organization’s successes–the education of several generations–and shaping the organization.

–This year the AYF also created www.SonsofArmenia.org–an educational initiative directed at educating the public about the liberation struggle of Artsakh and the heroes that were born from that struggle.

–From over 30 applications–seven graduating high school seniors were chosen to receive the Nanor Krikorian Scholarship gran’s totaling $3500.

–Through its Youth Guidance Program–the AYF continuously prepared and aired public service announcemen’s targeting both Armenian parents–as well as youth who are at risk for drinking and driving–violence–and drugs in an ever-changing society.

— AYF’s 2nd Annual Little Armenia Cleanup gathered hundreds of youth volunteers from all over Southern California to remove thousands of pounds of trash from the streets of Little Armenia. After the first Little Armenia Cleanup held at the end of the last fiscal year–the AYF conducted a poll of 25 Little Armenia businesses and found that the general consensus was for more AYF involvement in the community. As a result–the Little Armenia Beautification Program was created. The program includes AYF’s participation in LA City Council’s efforts of removing graffiti–cleaning litter from streets–continuously adding "Welcome to Little Armenia" light-post banners–and participating in LA City Council’s Little Armenia and Thai Town Improvement Committee.

–New websites have been created for AYF Summer Camp (ayfcamp.org)–AYF Youth Corps (ayfyouthcorps.org)–Haytoug (haytoug.org)–and launched the educational initiative of www.SonsofArmenia.org.

–Over the past several years–the AYF has faced the challenge of providing its novices a uniform educational curriculum. This year–the Novice Educational Handbook was created to serve as the uniform educational program for all novices. The handbook consists of 17 educational topics spanning over 48 pages and covering early Armenian history to the post-soviet Armenia.

International Involvement:

International Union of Socialist Youth:

As a full member of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY)–the AYF exercised its full member status by sending four delegates to its World Congress in Budapest–Hungary this year. The congress provided the opportunity for the Western Region to share its mission and activities with the rest of the world’s leading youth organizations–while learning from and networking with them. The IUSY is the youth counterpart of Socialist International–composed of 143 socialist–social democratic–and labor youth organizations from all over the world. It was founded over 90 years ago and is currently the largest student and youth political organization in the world. Its purpose is to establish bonds of solidarity between its members and promote the principles of democratic socialism throughout the world.

Youth & Student Conference in Armenia:

The AYF Western Region participated in the ARF Youth and Student Conference held in Armenia–where representatives from AYF regions and ARF Student Associations from around the world gathered to discuss their respective region’s experiences–activities–and challenges.

Americas Social Forum:

The AYF participated in the Americas Social Forum–which is a part of the World Social Forum–providing an open meeting place where groups and movemen’s of civil society opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism–come together to pursue thinking–to debate ideas democratically–and network for effective action.

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