Back Home: Our Lady of Armenia – Summer Camp in Tsaghkadzor

By: Christine Soussa
Lady of Armenia_IMG_0773

While in Armenia, I experienced some of the greatest hospitality and met people who have become dear friends.  Upon arrival we were welcomed warmly by Siranoush who picked us up from the airport.  A wonderful woman, Siranoush works closely with many organizations including Mer Hooys and SOAR.  During my time in Armenia, we had planned to visit Sister Arousiag’s Summer Camp in Tsaghkadzor.  Although I was advised that the experience would be awe inspiring and very memorable, nothing could have prepared us for the experiences of the day.

Upon arrival we were welcomed warmly by the children; I was instantly moved to tears as my heart rejoiced. The children were lined up along the walkway chanting “Pari Kaloust” meaning “Welcome” and quickly gifted us flower bouquets of dried camomile.  Spending the day with them was probably one of the best experiences ever!  My 5 year old daughter felt instantly comfortable and spent the day making friends, taking classes with the children and participated in their daily activities. She engaging with them across all taught subjects from English, French, Music, Art and Computer Science. The school is also instrumental in preserving the historic Armenian arts as children learn how to sew and learn the beloved needlework from Marashi along with various types of embroidery. 

Under Sister Arousiag’s leadership the children learn history, culture, religion, manners, communication and healthy conflict management. We were invited to enjoy lunch with the children.  Together, we prayed, this was an incredible time of worship. Hearing over 200 orphan Armenian children perfectly recite the prayer before meals was spectacular.  I was impressed at how lovingly the children serve one another and I will always remember the image of a 7 year old boy serving his fellow friends a large bowl of hot Borscht soup. This was our favorite meal while in Armenia because of the extraordinary space that is created. I walked around as the children chatted, laughed and ate, trying to take it all in.  The energy and heart of our Armenian children is spectacular and a promise of a bright future. 

In a world of turmoil and insurmountable challenges, Sister Arousiag’s Summer Camp, Our Lady of Armenia, is a magical place that gives the spirit peace so engaging work can be done to better the future. With the help of her incredible Sisters, devoted personnel and dedicated volunteers, Sister Arousiag and her team are able to provide a haven of love and hope to the children.  Humbly, with a Mother’s-love, Sister Arousiag says, “We are doing God’s work and thank Him for trusting His children in our care.”  One child at a time, they are making the world a better place.

Established after the earthquake in Gumri, she has touched the lives of tens of thousands of children. She is probably the strongest advocate for education and children in Armenia. A multilingual educator and formal principle, Sister Arousiag speaks Armenian, Arabic, English, French, Turkish and Italian. 

A women of deep faith, abundant love and an incredibly dynamic presence Sister Arousiag is constantly promoting and protecting the rights of children while challenging those who jeopardize those rights.  We are looking forward to going back this summer and spend more than just one day at the camp.

 

To get involved with the AIWA-SF affiliate, please visit www.aiwasanfrancisco.com or send an email to aiwasanfrancisco@gmail.com.

 

 

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