By Sanan Haroun
In the aftermath of the genocide–Karekin Njdeh–a fedayee and field worker for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF)–brought a group of youth together with the purpose of instilling future generations with the Armenian spirit. The idea–which Njdeh successfully implemented in Boston over seventy years ago–has since spread throughout the United States. Today–the group that was created through his initiative–the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF)–serves youth under the age of 16 through its Badanegan organization.
The AYF Glendale Badanegan chapter–established in 1981–is just one of the many chapters that provides young Armenia’s an environment–in which they can gather–learn about Hai Tahd–and volunteer for their communities. Members of Badanegan participate in all sorts of activities that make the Armenian spirit an important part of their lives. Such activities include singing traditional songs–assisting political campaigns through phone banking–and participating in discussions about Armenian issues during weekly meetings. The AYF Glendale Badanegan is divided into two portions: the Shant chapter–which accepts youth between the ages of 7-13–and the Simon Zavarian chapter–which is composed of 14-16 year-olds. Both chapters meet on Friday nights: Shant from 6:30-8:15pm and Simon Zavarian from 7:30-9:00pm at the Glendale Armenian Center/Ararat Elderly Day Care Center–721 S. Glendale Ave. During a typical one-and-a-half hour-long meeting–members read news from Armenia–learn new Armenian words and participate in quiz bowls and other fun games. Additionally–guest speakers are invited to attend meetings and discuss career opportunities. Speakers in the past have presented information about a variety of professions–including plumbing–psychology–law–and dentistry. Each badanee–as members of Badanegan are called–also has an opportunity to speak to the chapter about their personal hobbies. Badanees have spoken about playing instrumen’s like the violin and guitar–roller-blading–water polo–and drawing.
Furthermore–meetings sometimes include casual debates amongst the badanees over issues that affect Armenia’s in the Diaspora. One such topic is the importance of Armenian language to the Armenian identity. Divided into two groups–members eagerly wait for their chance to express their thoughts and opinions.
In addition to the meetings–AYF Glendale Badanegan members plan and participate in social and athletic activities. Sleep-overs–movie nights–pool parties–trips to amusement parks–hikes through waterfalls–visits to the beach–bowling and ice skating are just a few examples of the activities that badanees enjoy. These excursions provide endless memories and create strong friendships that last a lifetime.
Some of the badanees’ more elaborate projects include trips to AYF Camp Big Pines and Malibu Beach–where members camped out on the sand and woke up by the ocean.
The Glendale Badanegan also has a long tradition of presenting plays about heroic Armenian figures and Armenian issues in the Diaspora. Some of the plays presented include "Njdeh,"Menk Hayers,"Yert Aran’s Tartsi,"Siamanto," and "Black and White." In both 1991 and 2001–song tours were organized in Glenddale to mark Armenian Independence Day. Badanees also distribute Christmas cards during each December.
The Glendale chapter is continually busy in planning events that are both fun and educational. The idea of bringing together a few Armenian kids in 1933 has developed into a large organization dedicated to involving youth in the Armenian Cause. Today–the growing Glendale Shant and Zavarian chapters have over 70 members.
The AYF Badanegan provides leadership training and education for future generations. Countless young Armenia’s attribute their involvement in social and political causes to their experiences as AYF badanees. The badanees who enjoy their social and educational experiences become life-long community activists.
–Sanan is an executive member of the Glendale AYF Badanegan Zavarian Chapter