2010 FAR summer camp for orphans was made possible thanks to the generous support from CASP USA.
By Erin Henk
It's about 2.5 hours to get to Yeghegnadzor from Yerevan, during which the ride takes one across those beautiful wide-open fields that fold into the sloping Armenian peaks I've come to love. The reason for this particular trip was to see Camp Siranush where kids enrolled in the Children of Armenia Sponsorship Program (CASP) come each summer to breathe fresh air and play for 20 days. Raised by their single mothers, each of these children receive monthly stipends from donors in the Diaspora, which not only help them to buy clothes and shoes, but can also enable their entire family to purchase necessities like groceries. Just like FAR's other programs, I'd heard about this one but couldn't really picture it. And just like the other projects, I was so happy to finally have a chance to witness it. (That's becoming my mantra, I think.)
Tucked between mountain peaks and nestled alongside a river with plenty of playground equipment and outdoor space, Camp Siranush is a wonderful little respite from the rest of the world. I traveled there with FAR's director of educational programs and press secretary, along with a youth trainer who came to work with the counselors. I didn't exactly prepare myself for a day and a half of activities, which included a beauty, food and writing contest, along with relay races and the like. I also didn't expect to have to judge the contests or have to participate in the relay races myself. It was a pleasant surprise however, and by 10 pm I was thoroughly immersed in the children's dance party.
The entire time I was continually delighted by the inquisitive and enthusiastic nature of each of these kids. They always wanted to talk; they always wanted to engage. They seemed so happy and caught up in the joy of the atmosphere that I kept having to remind myself that they come from homes where they struggle every day. Some have to work constantly throughout the year to collectively help their family survive. They need an outlet like this where they have the chance to be creative and to laugh and forget about everything else for awhile. I'm happy to say that they have a great summer ahead of them.