Video Series Unveils AYF Youth Corps 15th Trans-Atlantic Mission

GLENDALE–The Armenian Youth Federation’s Youth Corps program released on Thursday the first in a series of promotional videos as part of a year-long campaign to build momentum for the program’s much anticipated 15th anniversary.

Posted on Youtube, the short video produced by Youth Corps Alumni Anahid Yahjian, chronicles the program’s activities in 2008, when the it began operating a summer day camp for underprivileged children in Gyumri. In the coming weeks the program is set to release a 15th anniversary documentary, chronicling the birth and development of the program.

“I wanted to show people at home how great the energy at the camp was last year, so I volunteered to put it all together to function as not just a memory for the participants, but an up-to-date presentation of the current evolution of Youth Corps,” says Yahjian. “I hope that once it gets distributed online, young Armenians all over the country will see the beauty of this priceless experience and want to be a part of it.”

“When I watched it, I felt like I wanted to pack my suitcase and go to the airport,” said Nora Kayserian,who plans to go next year. “I can’t believe I have to wait until July to actually get to participate.”

Youth Corps began in 1994, following the signing of the cease-fire between Armenia and Azerbaijan, ending the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In its first 13 years, the program sent AYF members to the Nagorno-Karabakh republic in the summers to help rebuild many of the newly independent republic’s war-torn villages. Throughout the years the Youth Corps program has grown and developed into the most memorable, productive and exciting means for Armenian youth to establish and strengthen their ties with the homeland.

In 2008, Youth Corps switched gears to focus on building connections between Armenian youth in the diaspora with their counterparts in the homeland. Camp Gyumri, as it has come to be known, gives young Armenians from the United States a chance to make a direct impact on the lives of some of Gyumri’s most impoverished families.

“This is a very exciting year for us,” exclaims Sose Thomassian, the director of the program. “It’s truly an achievement to be able to look back at 15 years of young Armenians taking the initiative to do much needed work in the Homeland.”

This 4 week long program, which begins in July 2010, accepts 150 children every summer and provides them with a fun and safe environment to make new friends,and learn new things, explains Thomassian, noting the many activities available for the campers. “he campers’ daily itinerary consists of English classes, music classes, arts and crafts, karatee and organized games and educational competitions.

Through this summer experience, campers also learn about respect, trust, tolerance, diversity, responsibility, and cooperation–all of which are critical in helping them grow to become members of a healthy civil society. The camp is just as special for it’s counselors, who spend six months ahead of their trip doing grassroots fundraising in their local communities to raise the money needed to run the program.

The AYF is now looking for ways to expand Youth Corps beyond Gyumri, to establish day camps in other cities and villages throughout Armenia where the need is great but the attention is still lacking.

“We have already begun scouting new camp sites throughout Armenia, focusing on the most deprived regions, where opportunities for youth are limited,” says Thomassian. “Our goal is to extend and expand the program as much as possible, to be in as many places as we can, and to impact the lives of young Armenians all across the country.”

Such an ambitious goal, however, requires serious fundraising and community, adds Thomassian, detailing her committees plans to reach out to the program’s alumni and supporters. “We’re going to have a 15 year anniversary fundraiser early next year, where we can not only reflect on the monumental impact of our efforts in the past, but also begin imagining our long-term role in Armenia’s future.”

As in year’s past, the program will spend much of the months leading up to the summer, planning and preparing for the camp; raising the funds to run its daily operation and building the much needed momentum to ensure Youth Corps is able to expand its operations.

“Last year we accepted 75 kids for each of the two sessions of camp; this year, I want to see us accept 150 kids per session,” says AYF Chairman Arek Santikian. “To do that, we need more participants so we hope to build enough momentum in the weeks and months leading up to Youth Corps 2010 to recruit more participants than ever.”

Applications for Youth Corps 2010 are set to be released early next year. For information, please contact: (818) 507-1933 or email youthcorps@ayfwest.com

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