Happening on Summer Street

AYF Camp Haiastan establishes new tradition with Armenia Tree Project

Camp Haiastan Wishing Tree

Franklin, Mass.—Since 1951, AYF Camp Haiastan has welcomed campers to the shores of Uncas Pond for an enjoyable experience. Campers experience all the fun activities of summer camp while learning about their Armenian heritage, making friends from all over the Armenian diaspora and creating lifelong memories. This summer, Armenia Tree Project helped campers create a new memory by creating a wishing tree tradition.

Campers in the Teen Session, ages 15 and 16, learn about organizations working in Armenia and the diaspora. Armenia Tree Project’s (ATP) team was invited to join the campers and discuss ATP’s work. ATP was founded in 1994 but is part of a strong tradition in Armenia’s long history of valuing trees and nature. Armenians have always cherished their connection with trees. Pre-Christian and early Christian Armenian art prominently features the tree of life and pomegranate trees. Ancient kings of Armenia, notably Anushavan Sosanver, were dedicated to a cult of plane trees and believed that sounds made by the rustling of the leaves were messages from the divine.

Throughout Armenia to this day, a visitor may find trees or shrubs near churches which are covered in strips of cloth. These are wishing trees, an ancient practice which has continued throughout the Christian era. Each cloth tied to a branch represents a wish or prayer. For example, a piece of clothing belonging to a sick family member may be tied to a branch along with a wish for restored health.

After explaining the work of ATP and the wishing tree tradition, the ATP team gave each camper a ribbon and asked them to write their wish or prayer on it. The wish could be for themselves, their family, Camp Haiastan or Armenia. Some campers shared their wishes with the group, while others preferred to keep them private. A few wishes shared were “for the safety of the soldiers in Armenia;” “that I might visit Armenia someday;” and “for my family to be healthy and happy.”

The campers tied their wish ribbons to the branches of the designated tree, each taking a moment to silently share their wish with the tree. They were reminded that each time they visit Camp and pass by the tree, they should reflect on their wish, allowing the tree to serve as a reminder of hope and the importance of following your dreams.

“This was an especially meaningful activity for the Teen Session campers. For many of them, this is their final summer as campers and they are thinking a lot about what the future holds while reflecting on the great memories they’ve created at Camp Haiastan,” Camp director Nairi Koroghlian said. “We look forward to continuing this tradition with ATP every year.”

This article was original published on The Armenian Weekly.


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