MY THREE WEEKS AT THE HAMAZKAYIN FORUMBy: Ardziv Magazine | Posted on: 12.02.2014
A message from the Hamazkayin Regional Executive Board of Canada:
The Hamazkayin Student Cultural Forum is heading into its 20th anniversary, in 2014. The forum has its roots tied to the Hamazkayin General Assembly held in Dzaghgatsor, Armenia, in 1994. Its main goal is to create a bridge between Armenian youth, to bring them closer not only to each other, but to our fascinating cultural heritage as well. Suffice it to say, this virtuous initiative has left lasting memories in the hearts and minds of participants and organizers alike since its inception; and the relationships that have been formed as a result, are strong and everlasting. It is an experience that is unique in many respects. If we can sum it up in four words, here is how we would describe it:
Intimate. Informative. Inspirational. Invaluable.
Descriptions aside, the best testaments come from those who have experienced it. We would like to share with you the heartwarming words of two of our participants from Toronto, Chris Joly and Garen Hasserjian, who have taken the time to share their story
By Chris Joly, Toronto
During a stretch of 3 weeks, 34 participants and 8 counselors, from 10 different nations came together in Armenia for the Hamazkayin Youth Forum. Going into it, I didn’t really know what to expect, or how the events would unfold. Today, I can honestly say it was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. I wanted to go to the Forum because I believed it would be a great opportunity to learn more about Armenia, its culture, and make new friends. I can say with certainty that the Forum has exceeded my expectations, and I went home with many wonderful memories and made lifelong connections. It was truly an unforgettable experience.
At the Forum, we learned a lot about various topics. We learned that Repat Armenia is an organization that helps people repatriate to Armenia. A workshop that we took part of touched on the topic of what it means to be Armenian. There, we learned about how subjective it is to determine who has the right qualities to be Armenian, and how we are all Armenian despite where we were born. A different set of lectures that we took part of included general descriptions of different churches on our excursions, given by various lecturers, such as Samvel Karapetian at Saghmosavank and Ampert’s church. All the lectures and workshops were very well executed.
During the Forum, we were given the opportunity to go on different trips, all of them being enjoyable. Three of the most memorable moments that I experienced on those trips were swimming in Lake Sevan, visiting the Tumo Center, and exploring the history of Artsakh. I remember Lake Sevan’s water quite well. Cold. Yet if you show resilience and stay in, the whole things becomes quite relaxing. Visiting the Tumo Center made me feel proud. We got to see how the students learned about animation and graphic design, and how they applied those skills into creating art. It was a very innovative building with a very noble goal. Lastly, we took the Forum
to Artsakh. It was the first time in the Forum’s history where the participants went to Artsakh as part of the scheduled events; until this year, a visit to Artsakh was an elective that participants could add on should they wish to. There, we saw many structures, such as Kantsasar, St. Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, and the museum of Dikranagerd. We also ate at Nigol Touman’s home and visited the barracks of the Artsakh military. The trip to Artsakh was remarkable.
Overall, I had a wonderful time during our three weeks at the Forum. I highly recommend the Hamazkayin Youth Forum to all my peers, and hope that they take part in this experience at least once in their lifetime, because they will simply not regret it.
By Garen Hasserjian, Toronto
When I had arrived in Yerevan, only a couple of days before the start of the Forum, I didn’t know what to expect from many of the people I was about to meet. It was my sixth time in Armenia, but my first time meeting over thirty Armenians living outside of the homeland. I imagined the experience to be the same as any of the other five trips to Armenia. See monuments and landmarks, eat a lot of khorovadz, and go out during the night.
I was wrong. I mean, all of those things did happen, but at the same time, I became friends with people I had never even known about, and the only thing we had in common was our ethnic background. From the very first day, I realized even though I’m meeting people from Australia, Cyprus, Syria, Dubai, etc., I was never expecting them to be so similar to any of my friends back in Toronto. After the first couple of days, I already felt a certain bond with every person in the forum. That’s when I started to realize why I was even here.
To me, the forum is not about the sites, monuments, and amazing mountain views. Instead, it’s about meeting all of these people that live away from the homeland, just like me. It is about unity. We are always told that we, the youth, are the future. This forum shows each one of us that the only way to move forward is to move together. In only two weeks, I managed to learn why I, as a member of the Armenian youth, was so important. Every one of us that are a part of Armenian youth organizations learned how there is so much we can do together to change the future of Armenia.
As we approached the final days of Forum, and the final days in Armenia, we spent our last moments together, and realized what a great opportunity and experience our parents and elders had given us .We will all go back with different memories, stories, and impressions of one another, but we will always remember what a difference this trip has made in our lives, and what a difference we can make if we come together and unite in our homeland, Armenia.