BY SHAGHIG TCHAPARIAN
As our final days in Arstakh came to an end, I began to look back at what my group and I have accomplished and experienced in just these two weeks of Jampar (Camp). Personally, many emotions emerged throughout my journey thus far, one of which was my genuine desire to help educate the campers about our AYF program and about the meaning behind the goal of “Tashnagtsoutiun” (the Armenian Revolutionary Federation) and what it represents.
I recall that the first day I felt nervous yet excited. I was prepared to familiarize myself with the school, the Arstakh parpar (dialect) and culture, and the campers. I was placed in the dzeeranakouyn (orange) group. I could tell the children were impatient to learn new topics!
As the days went by, I began to form close bonds with each of the campers. It was here at Jampar, where I realized that I love working with children. To see their smiles and eagerness warmed my heart. The girls also viewed me as their role model. That encouraged me to take on the responsibility to maintain that position.
Jampar is not only about educating the children, it is also about creating and offering an optimal environment for them to express their beliefs freely. This will permit the children in Arstakh to become open minded and to lead the future of Arstakh. Not only were the campers educated, I also confess that the campers of Artsakh have taught me even more than I have taught them. They have taught me to be patient, selfless, and giving. They have also instilled in me the desire to remember my own childhood and realize that from the outside it may look vastly different but deep beneath the surface we have much in common. It made me realize that yes, there will always be a barrier (social or otherwise), if we chose to view our lives in that sense. However, if we opt to break the barriers we can develop a wide network of Armenians in Artsakh, Armenia and the Diaspora. An open mind and communication is so necessary for Armenians today.
Another important lesson that the campers taught me was to strengthen my ties with my Armenian culture and identity. Before this time, frankly, I had lost a close connection with my identity as an Armenian-American. However, this trip has truly reassured my goal and desire to maintain, preserve and expand upon my Armenian identity and heritage. I look forward to the next three weeks of jampars where I can learn more about myself, my culture and grow in unison with my new friends participating in the program as well. I am sure I will create even more memorable experiences in the coming week.