Youth Forward Scholarship Summer 2017 – Authentic Armenian Appreciation

Name: Melinda Gevorgian
From: North Hills, CA
Votes: 0

Growing up in a very close-knit Middle Eastern family, I have always valued
family. My grandma lead by example when she fed, listened to, and
loved my sister and I from the day we were born until her recent
passing. She never judged anyone and would support everyone around
her in any possible way. She passed down one of the core beliefs that
I live by now to my mom and my sister and I, which is to love
everyone unconditionally. She did so while instilling the Armenian
culture ultimately enriching our lives. From a young age, I didn’t
understand why I was forced to speak Armenian or learn about the
history of a second world country that is so tiny on the map, most
people miss it. My mom forced us to keep this culture alive by
attending meetings for a nonprofit organization called AYF.

Soon after joining AYF I made lifetime friends and fell completely in love
with the Armenian culture. However, learning and embracing my culture
from afar was not my ideal situation. I wanted to reconnect with my
homeland in a direct way, so my sister and I signed up for a summer
program within AYF known as Youth Corps. The program allowed eager
volunteers, like my sister and I, to travel throughout Armenia to
various cities and villages and open up day camps for the
underprivileged kids. For six weeks, from 8 am to 5 pm, my
co-counselors and I taught the kids basic English, patriotic songs,
arts and crafts, and taught them about the diversity of people like
my family who were forced to leave the country during the Armenian
Genocide. Coming into the program, I expected to teach the kids
language skills and history knowledge while showing them the
unconditional love I learned from my grandma. Little did I know, I
would be the one that was about to learn. The beautiful thing about
these children was that even though the dialects of Armenian that we
spoke varied slightly from counselors to natives, the kids were
willing to share a small snack even if it was all the food they had,
just to spend the time together. Most of the kids didn’t have basic
necessities, but were still ready to give up anything they had for
our time.

Living in Armenia taught me a level of humility I didn’t know existed. In
the far future, I will know volunteering made a difference because
the natives’ people and my group were able to foster genuine ties
and real relationships with kids who didn’t even realize that there
are unassimilated Armenians out there in the world who care about OUR
free, united and independent Armenia.

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