BY VAN DER MEGERDICHIAN
Vibrant rays of our sacred yerakouyn: red, blue, and orange radiated throughout the campground’s courtyard, coupled with the smiles on the faces of the campers and the thunderous hymns of heghapokhagan music helped create the setting. Our first jampar took place in Askeran, a remote village on the outskirts of Stepanakert, twenty kilometers from the border, where many of our campers’ fathers had played an instrumental role in the defense of Artsakh during the Four-Day War. With that being said, being a khmpabed in Askeran was no simple task. Not only were we supposed to run a camp in accordance with AYF principles and ideals, but we now had to provide counsel for underprivileged children who still endure the trauma from Azeri aggression.
As we went about our day, we noticed how happy the kids were, regardless of their current situation and circumstance. The glee on the faces of the children of Artsakh symbolizes a beacon of hope despite ongoing conflict in the region. These children represent the future of our great nation, the nation that has endured strife and turmoil for most of its history, the nation that will regain its prominence and prosper once again, because of these children.
The beaming grins that stretched from ear to ear, characteristic of essentially every camper, helped put things into perspective for me. Coming from Los Angeles, where hustle and bustle dominates on a daily basis, Artsakh was a positive change of scenery. Money, work, and school no longer became a priority. Taking a backseat and adopting a simpler lifestyle similar to the locals made us truly take time and enjoy life and live happily, without having to think about acing a final or making enough to support yourself for the next two weeks. Happiness was pivotal to the campers in times of war and political and socio-economic strife and it should be the same for us. What is the stress of school and work to those that have endured war and such trauma?
How can one be so happy without a family, struggling to reach ends meet? Things as small as playing futbol with the campers or singing with them helped take their mind off the negatives. The things we take for granted the children there yearn for. What we do on a daily basis that constitute as part of our routine in Los Angeles, the children would be lucky to do once a year, and that is why we have to make the most of our two weeks with Artsakh’s finest.
As Garegin Njdeh brilliantly stated, “If you wish to know the future of a nation, look to its youth.” The youth of Artsakh have their parents that have laid a solid foundation for themselves and now we play the integral role of ensuring they remain on the right path towards progression and development. Armenia is the ship lost at sea, stuck between a rock and a hard place, and the children of Artsakh and Armenia are the lighthouse providing direction and hope to ensure its golden return to prominence.