By Talia Kalender
On August 11-18, 2018, the Annual Diocesan Summer Youth Camp “Ararat” was held under the auspices of His Grace Bishop Abgar Hovakimyan, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Canada.
Youth all over Canada including Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Laval, Mississauga, Hamilton, St. Catherines and Vancouver came together for a week to explore their identity and learn about the Armenian culture, language and faith. This year, we broke a record and had 170 participants including campers, counsellors and staff as part of the Camp Ararat family.
Every year Camp Ararat has a theme. This year, the theme was the Year of The Youth proclaimed by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. Our daily programming was built on this theme. In the mornings, our younger campers rotate among the religion, the heritage, and the sports programming. Religion class is prepared by the clergymen, Rev. Fr. Komitas Mirzakhanyan from Laval and Rev. Fr. Myron Sargsyan from Mississauga. Each day students were guided to engage in their faith via a number of different activities teaching them about the Armenian Apostolic Church and how to make a stronger relationship with God.
Heritage and Culture is another important part of a camper’s morning. Each day, different activities related to Armenian art, dance, language and drama are programmed for the campers to learn about their Armenian culture & heritage. Since some campers do not speak Armenian, we take pride in providing opportunities for these campers to learn and connect with their Armenian Identity in ways other than just language.
Physical activity is very important for youth, and Camp Ararat makes sure that the campers are active all day. Each morning, counsellors run different sports and games. They play traditional sports like soccer and basketball, but also other cooperative and team building games.
While the younger campers are spending their time in the mentioned rotations, the older campers have a very different morning. Campers aged 14 & 15, are part of a special program run by a very special group of people. The Camp Ararat “Challenge”. The Challenge is a race that the campers complete every day in special groups with a clear winner at the end of the week. Each day, groups undergo physical, cultural, mental, and academic activities against their peers to come out on top. Each year the Challenge has its own theme. This year it was Disney! Past themes include Harry Potter, the game of Life and Superheros.
After lunch, all the campers continue with camp-wide programming. Each day, counsellors run lectures teaching our campers about how Armenians have made a difference in the social, medical and business worlds.
Next comes the afternoon programming. Each day, campers experience a number of different activities, mostly related to water. There is a beach waterfront where campers can enjoy swimming in the lake, canoeing as well as kayaking. The large inground swimming pool gives our campers the opportunity to show off their dives, play water polo and go down the water slide! Another water activity the campers participate in during the week is the Camp Ararat version of “Jur Ashkhar”. Campers get to play water games on the field. The object of the game is always to get everyone wet and refreshed! In addition to the water activities, campers also can enjoy fishing, archery and BB gunning.
After some free time, it is time to eat dinner! After dinner, our evening program begins. Every night, counsellors create camp-wide activities. These activities relate back to our annual theme, this year being the Year of the Youth. Armenian Trivia Night, Counsellor in Training Olympics and Talent Show & Dance are just a few of the evening programs that have become staples at camp!
Camp Ararat also runs a program for those who are too old to be a camper, but too young to be a counsellor. These 16-17 year olds are part of the two year Counsellor in Training program. They work with experienced staff who train them on how to be a great leader in their communities and a great counsellor at Camp Ararat. Team-building, cooperation and role-playing activities are heavily incorporated into the program.
Every year, Camp Ararat is blessed with a great team of carefully selected counsellors from across Canada. Each year, there are a number of counsellors who have been coming back for years, and a number of counsellors who want to be part of the Camp Ararat family for the first time. The Camp Ararat doors are always open for who ever wants to be a part of it. Without this strong group, our campers would not be able to have such an unforgettable experience.
We are proud that the Armenian Youth of Canada have an opportunity like Camp Ararat. Thank you to everyone who makes every year special.