The summer of 2011 was unprecedented for AYF Camp, which served over 900 Armenian youth, participating as both campers and counselors throughout its seven week program. Since 1977, AYF Camp has provided the opportunity for Armenian youth who live locally and abroad, to spend a week of their summer socializing with their peers and reviving their Armenian spirit. After 34 years, the program continues to offer a genuinely rewarding experience, as children make new friends, memories, and become part of the ever-growing AYF Camp family.
During the summer, campers spend their week participating in exciting activities and interesting discussions. The daily educationals are a fundamental component of the AYF Camp, with topics ranging in Armenian history, culture, Armenian-American identity and activism. Every year, knowledgeable speakers are chosen to visit and provide lectures and hold discussions with the campers.
“Knowing you can have an impact on a young person during the few hours you spend with them is an immensely rewarding feeling,” said ANCA WR Executive Director William Bairamian, and guest lecturer for AYF Summer Camp 2011. “My time spent at AYF Camp gave me the opportunity to see how wonderfully intelligent our children are, with their readiness to learn and ask questions, and their willingness to find out how they can be a part of advancing the Armenian Cause.” Inspired from educationals and discussions, campers often return home motivated to become active in their community by volunteering and participating in extra-curricular activities.
In upholding with AYF Camp tradition, campers spend most of their week competing in athletic competitions. They are divided into Red, Blue and Orange teams and participate in several activities every day. Games include Dodgeball, Steal the Bacon, Egg Toss, Swimming, Canoeing and Wacky Olympics. Teams also spend a great deal of time learning Armenian patriotic songs for the most important event of all – the Song Competition. Songs such as “Sardarabad” and “Kedashen” ring through the campground while dedicated campers and counselors diligently practice to win and take the entire competition for the week.
“I’ve been going to camp for the past 10 years and each year I am as equally excited to go.” said 17-year old camper, Alique Berberian. “There’s no other way I’d rather occupy my summer than spending a week with my Armenian friends, singing songs, playing games, and immersing myself in an Armenian embodiment as I learn about my culture and make lasting memories with lifelong friends from AYF Camp.”
Each week, campers are accompanied by a group of volunteer counselors who provide supervision to participants. “Being a counselor is an opportunity to spend time with Armenian kids, and become a positive influence in their lives. I loved volunteering at AYF Camp this summer and can’t wait to be back next year!” says Week 5 counselor Tina Menedjian. Volunteering at AYF Camp allows counselors to enhance personal growth, and gain invaluable training and leadership skills. During this year’s seven sessions, 150 staff between the ages of 18-28 volunteered a week of their summer at AYF Camp.
“There’s no more rewarding summer experience than spending a week at AYF Camp,” said Serouj Aprahamian, Executive Director of the AYF and co-director for the Week 2 session this year. “You meet friends you never had before and come out with a uniquely rich understanding of your culture and heritage. There’s a reason this camp has progressed this far and it’s great to see it growing year in and year out.”
Building on the success of Summer Camp, the AYF Camp Board and its Committee are now preparing to host the AYF Winter Camp, which incorporates elements of the week long summer program into a winter weekend at camp with snow. This year’s Winter Camp will be held on January 13-16, 2012 and will be open to campers between the ages of 14-17. Camper and Counselor applications can be found online.
With such extraordinary achievement, AYF Camp continues to offer a fun environment which instills a sense of Armenian culture, pride and responsibility within Armenian youth of the Diaspora.