AYF Khanasor’s Second Members’ Camp

After the enjoyment of our first Members’ Camp back in February, we could hardly wait to do it all over again. To that end, unable to wait until next year, we held our second one at the beginning of October.

The camp’s theme was ‘Armenia and the Diaspora’, and concepts surrounding this were explored in every discussion that came to be presented over the weekend: all things were approached from the angle of the Diaspora, from our input to the impact on us.

We set off together on the evening of Friday 4th October. Joining us this time were members of a foreign chapter – something that is unprecedented for us. Three comrades from the Garegin Njdeh chapter of the Netherlands had made their way over to participate. Their presence and input brought additional dimensions to the camp both socially and intellectually.

Settling in that evening was followed by a talk from a special guest, Counsellor Ara Margarian from the Embassy of Armenia in London. He gave a casual talk about Armenia’s journey since its independence from the Soviet Union. As his specialty is foreign affairs it was geared more in that direction, but he also described internal issues wherever possible. Particulars discussed included Armenia’s emigration problem and its dependence on Russia for so much.

The following evening Raffi Sarkissian indulged us on the topic of the Diaspora itself since the formation of the current Republic. He discussed, among other things, the shift in the spread of Armenians from the Middle East to the West. The final thought taken away from this session was that, as many of us are already aware, our aim must be to return to our homeland within our lifetime – the reasons for this are multifold.

Our third guest speaker came on the Sunday. Enger Vahan Krikorian, a member of the ANC UK, enlightened us on how Armenia can attract foreign investment. This went far beyond investment only from the Diaspora – we were presented with the possibilities of several emerging industries in Armenia: most interesting to this attendee was the feasibility of Armenia becoming a Silicon Valley-esque technological hub of the Caucasus – an industry which has virtually no implicit dependency on open borders but rather requires a laborious and driven population from which to recruit, which Armenia can indeed provide. To complement the ideas we were also given references to relevant business laws in Armenia and cogent parallels were often drawn with other countries, all of which amounted to a keenly received topic. A lively Q&A session followed, where Armenia’s potential as a regional business centre was further entertained.

The rest of the weekend was filled with less formal discussions – for example, ideas as to what AYF can do to mark the centennial of the Armenian Genocide were explored – as well as games and activities. Of course a football match was thrown in too, for good measure. One of the most crucial aspects of such camps though, in terms of togetherness and bonding, are the nighttime campfires. Both evenings we circled around a healthy fire for hours entertaining ourselves, sharing anecdotes and of course breaking out the traditional songs. It was a much-savoured setting that heightened the sense of commonality between us.

The AYF aims to advance the moral, social and intellectual values of Armenian youths, and this camp didn’t lose sight of these points for a moment. With thought-provoking discussions, real peer-learning, a lively and relaxed atmosphere, you should really consider joining us at our next one.

— Heros Jojaghaian

See all the photos here.

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