Once again, members of the Armenian Service Program (ASP) spent a few days at FAR’s summer camp in Hankavan, and it was a joy for everyone involved.

A part of the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America (ACYOA), the ASP group visit includes a tour around the country, as well as a service stint with a FAR project. This was the fourth time group members spent time volunteering as counselors at FAR’s summer camp in the Kotayk Region.

For four days they organized different sports games, including military-style drills, while trying to coach and teach by example the lessons of good sportsmanship and determination. They also helped camp staff to serve meals and spruce up the campus by painting fences and the dining area.

Andrew Movsesian, 18, from Philadelphia, didn’t miss the chance of joining ASP in 2018 for his first visit to Armenia. “I love it—seeing the country and providing some service—everything seems amazing to me. The people are extremely welcoming and nice. They greet us with open arms,” he said. “Children met us with songs and dances. They loved that we were coming and we genuinely loved that they were happy about it. I was just impressed. Children are very energetic and it is fun playing games with them.”

Andrew said he also liked the nature and the landscape that he’d been able to see, specifically in Yerevan, Goris, Tatev and Tsaghkadzor. “A lot of it is untouched and, as a whole, it is just beautiful as is.” He can’t wait to return.

While this was Valerie Russell’s second trip to Armenia, it was the 19-year-old Ohio-native’s first time to the country with ASP. She is fascinated with Armenia’s culture and the people’s welcoming attitude. “Children in the camp are awesome. They are good listeners. They want us to feel welcomed, and playing with them is so easy,” she said.

Despite all of their hard work for the camp, the ASP guests managed to find some time to sightsee around Hankavan as well with visits to the nearby 13th Century church of Trdatavanq and Hankavan’s mineral waters.

ASP group leader Father Hratch Sargsyan of Cleveland’s St. Gregory of Narek Armenian Church said that for the majority of ASP’s youth, this was their first time in Armenia. Some were a bit anxious at first. “Now they are in love with Armenia. We have been to Sevanavank, Harichavank, Kecharis, Haghartsin and Tatev. Although the facilities here are not like the ones they are used to, they never complain about the modest conditions.”

He emphasized that the ASP 2018 group members interacted with the campers despite language barriers. “The campers welcomed us so warmly that the young ASP members were literally amazed by their cordial attitude,” he said.

The group’s last day at the camp was very touching; everyone was moved during the good-byes. Both the kids and the group members loved the time they spent together.