If you are Armenian, whether in the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) or not, you should work at Camp Haiastan. AYF Camp Haiastan is a two-week sleepaway summer camp in Franklin, Massachusetts where children participate in athletic, educational and cultural activities to help bring them closer to their Armenian heritage. It’s where I spent two months of my summer and built so many memories that I’ll cherish for years to come. I learned how to work as a team, and I felt like I was an important part in making a child’s summer fun.
Coming into camp, I knew a good amount of people, but I didn’t feel like I had much of a connection with most of them. I was afraid that the summer would not be enjoyable because I would have no one to talk to or share experiences with. Once the summer came to an end, I realized that this could not have been further from the truth, as I’ve met people who I know will be my friends for the rest of my life. The best way that I found friends was through common interests. Nathan Kefeyan and I became very close through our shared interest in Armenian music and dance. Our favorite song was Mal Barsamian’s “Pompourig.” We danced to it every Saturday night, and it was one of the highlights of the summer. It’s important to me that I surround myself with more like-minded people who are involved in the Armenian community, and Camp Haiastan provided just that.
While Camp Haiastan was a fun experience, it was also a professional environment. You will have many different responsibilities, whether you are a Staff In Training, counselor, lifeguard or Armenian school teacher. It is essential that you work with the people around you to carry out the tasks well and in a timely manner. In addition to your daily responsibilities, keep in mind that being an AYF Camp Haiastan staff member can be challenging at times and even stressful, but it is important that you seek help when in need because the administration will accommodate whatever needs you might have. The head counselors and the summer director also provide guidance and leadership throughout the summer.
Seeing the kids run around throughout the camp with smiles on their faces is a joyous sight. It reminded me of the seven years I went to camp and how it was the perfect bubble to get away from real life. This summer, I got to be on the other side where I was able to create that bubble and shape the experience for my campers. I even served as a coach during the Olympics at camp this summer. Campers get divided into three teams: red, blue and orange. Then they compete and collect points by participating in various team and individual events like basketball, volleyball and swimming. Coaching taught me about how to lead young children who all have different ways of coping with winning or losing. Next year, I plan on coaching again as it was a rewarding experience.
All in all, I am very blessed that Camp Haiastan provided me with the chance to have a truly immersive summer. Though our workload was stressful at times, we were happy to do anything for the enjoyment and wellness of our young campers. I know that I will cherish all the memories and friendships that I made along the way. These experiences can all be credited to the one and only AYF-YOARF Camp Haiastan.