BY GAIANEH AVANESSIAN
LOS ANGELES—The Armenian Youth Federation rallied community support for its local programs and global initiatives at its 78th annual anniversary celebration on March 26th, raising money to help send Armenian American youth to college, fuel advocacy efforts in the United States, and build summer camps for underprivileged children in Armenia.
This year’s event, a modern take on the traditional dinner dance featuring Armenian singer Harout Pampoukjian, serves as a crucial fundraiser for the AYF’s various educational and cultural programs.
Central Executive member Anya Agopian highlighted the importance of the celebration, describing it as effective way to unite the community every year around the organization and it’s mission. Without the Barahantes, the programs of the AYF would be difficult to operate,” she explained. The Nanor Krikorian Scholarship, Haytoug Magazine and Youth Corps are just a few of the programs which benefit local Diasporan youth, as well as, youth abroad in Armenia and Artsakh.
The event attracts about 500 people annually and is the product of hundreds of hours of meticulous planning and organizing by a volunteer committee of the AYF responsible for raising the organization’s annual budget.
“Held at Casitas Studios, this year’s celebration was truly unique and it’s inspiring how the organizing committee worked tirelessly for months to plan the event but are proud that it makes a difference in the community,” exclaimed organizing committee chairperson, Maria Maadanian. “So many hours of planning and executing go into this event every year, but its reassuring to see the impact it leaves.”
Though the anniversary is a local event in Los Angeles, it attracts AYF members from across the Western United States, while its impact is felt far beyond the event itself. Attendees leave the event with great memories, as well as the awareness that they are simultaneously contributing to the preservation and advancement of their nation.
“The most important thing”, added Maadanian, “is that this event connects Armenian youth today to their past, present and future.” AYF Alumnus, Vatche Soghomonian echoed those sentiments, describing the anniversary annual event he anxiously awaits every year.
“Generations have passed but we still dance to our own traditional music and come together hoping to build a larger Armenian family,” said Soghomonian. “This event brings together hundreds of youth and provides them the opportunity to interact in a social setting, exchange memories, embrace their culture and make lifelong connections.”
Beyond the social and communal bonds this event creates are the educational programs it supports, key among them is Haytoug Magazine, the official publication of the AYF.
“Haytoug’s goals are to cover topics that are under reported in media and also provide critical analysis from the perspective of young, engaged minds,” explained Haytoug’s editor, Vache Thomassian. “We mail our quarterly publication free of charge to over a thousand subscribers and pass out thousands more to our communities. The AYF takes on this huge expense because it believes that stimulating thought is worth any expense.”
Another key initiative to benefit from the event is the AYF’s Youth Corps program, which sends groups of young diasporans to Armenia and Karabakh to run day camps for underprivileged children in Gyumri and Shushi. “Youth Corps provides an unforgettable opportunity to explore your homeland, while making a positive impact,” explained Sanan Shirinian, a Youth Corps alumnus. “With the funds raised from the AYF dance, this summer, the Youth Corps program will be able to expand, sending more youth to Armenia to impact more children than ever before.”
Youth Corps is a major focus for the organization this year, said Shirinian, stressing the challenge to funding the establishment of multiple camps in Armenia in the summer of 2011. Among the many fundraisers being organized throughout the year is a unique campaign to sell limited edition, retro posters of Harout Pampoukjian designed by professional illustrator and AYF alumnus Sako Shahinian and autographed by the legendary artist himself. This unique piece of art is $60, with proceeds benefiting the Youth Corps Program. To purchase an exclusive poster, visit here.
Founded in 1933, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian American youth organization in the United States, working to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of Armenian-American youth.