BY ALIQUE CHERCHIAN
The morning of departure was beyond one of the most tashkhala (“chaotic”) experiences of my life; the stresses of ensuring that luggages are below 50 pounds along with our boxes full of supplies for the camps having enough tape to prevent ripping, rushing to the airport to be on time, and being surrounded by our beloved family, friends, and ungers supporting us… the year and the moment had finally arrived to embark such an extraordinary journey on Saturday, July 2nd. With Youth Corps 2016, we were finally heading home.
Although the sixteen hour flight to Qatar was brutal beyond words, the fact that we were on our way to experience and conduct jampar in our Armenia made the impatience and restlessness fade. Upon arrival at the Qatar Airport, we ran into our fellow Australian ungers who were also on their way to do their own Youth Corps program. It gave me such a clear view of how much we are connected through the Armenian Youth Federation; the AYF Youth Corps program, which started in Los Angeles, not only builds bridges between the diasporan Armenian youth and the youth in Armenia, but has rippled an incredible connection between the diasporan armenian youth around the world who aspire to reach the same common goal of impacting the youth in Armenia. I am proud and thrilled to say that out of our twenty seven Youth Corps 2016 volunteers, four of us are ungers from the Orange County “Ashod Yergat” AYF Chapter.
When we finally arrived in Yerevan, it gave me chills knowing that all of my ungers had the same feeling: the months of planning and training was about to be put to the test. Although I am still processing the fact that I am currently sitting in a small cafe in Yerevan, Armenia, surrounded by our beautiful Armenian language, chatting with the local people as though we have known one another for years, writing this blog to share with you all about this program, I have yet to process that it feels so good to be home, and even better to give back to my country.
With only a few days away from running our first camp at the new agoump in Gyumri–thanks to the We Are Gyumri Campaign for making the renovations possible–the anticipation to run jampar and to be with the campers only grows more. From being in the capital city to being able to experience the village lifestyle alongside the locals, the AYF Youth Corps program provides an amazing stepping stone to determine whether or not actually living in Armenia could be a reality for participants. As this reality is being lived by so many of my AYF Ungers, I hope to one day do the same. AYF Youth Corps 2016, here we go…