Imagine your summer filled with breath-taking landscape, food that entices your senses, monumental structures, endless laughter, meeting locals that will offer everything in their household to you, and taking on the responsibility of being a counselor/mentor to a group of underprivileged kids. Reality transcends imagination when you find yourself in Gyumri, Armenia.
Our real work has finally begun.
Today, at 10:30 AM we gathered at the center where we will be hosting our two-week long summer camp sessions for the local kids in Gyumri. By eleven o’clock 81 kids were present at the center. They were over-pouring with excitement as they could not sit still in their seats. The smiles on their faces and eagerness to start the camp session was absolutely priceless.
We started the camp session with our national anthem, “Mer Hayrenik”. We introduced ourselves and the camp rules. Next, we did some exercises, which was followed by ‘yogurt-time’ which is basically snack/recess time.
The day continued with an English period where we separated the kids into three different levels based on their English language speaking ability. After English, we had song practice; we handed out songbooks to the kids and taught them “Akhperus Oo Yes”. I was pretty surprised to see how fast the kids learned the song… I mean the melody and tune are pretty hard to pick up in a short amount of time, but somehow, these kids had the ability to grasp it very quickly! Later we had some lunch.
The next part of the agenda was probably my favorite. We went down to the field to play ‘Steal the Bacon’. Serop and I were standing at two different corners and Berj told all the kids to separate into two groups – to go toward either Serop or me.
It was really funny to see all the girls run toward me and all the boys run toward Serop. We decided it would be cool to leave the teams like that and play Steal the Bacon with an added twist, girls vs. boys. Sad to say, the boys beat the girls, but it was a very very close game! I am more than positive that the girls will win the next time we play. Our first day of camp ended at 4:00 – some of the kids walked home while others waited for their parents to come pick them up.
Having this amazing opportunity to be a counselor to a group of underprivileged kids in my own homeland is truly a gift. I have been a counselor at AYF Camp for quite some time now, but it is different here. It is very hard to explain with words but there is this self-satisfaction you feel here, because you realize that you are truly making a difference in these kids’ lives. Needless to say, this self-satisfaction is worth more than anything in the world, because you know that it will shape your own life and you will carry it on with you for the rest of your life.
On another note, it was Kevork Kebabjian’s birthday today!! Not a lot of diasporans have the chance to celebrate their birthday in their homeland, so he was extremely grateful for this opportunity!