ASP Participants Return from Homeland
The Armenia Service Program (ASP) is one of the most longstanding and successful ACYOA programs. Every summer young adults throughout our Diocese spend a three week pilgrimage experiencing the culture, history and faith of our homeland. This year, the group of 17 participants was led by Rev. Fr. Tateos Abdalian, a veteran ASP leader. He was assisted by Katrina Shakarian of Bayside, NY.
ASP participant Liana Kurkjian of White Plains, NY, shares her experience.
Throughout my life, I’ve had the opportunity to experience and witness many eye opening occurrences. However, nothing has been like traveling to Armenia. Growing up, I attended weekly classes of Armenian and Sunday school where I learned about my heritage, faith, and people, but seeing our motherland and Mount Ararat outside of the textbooks does not compare. Given the ability to voyage through Armenia on the 2010 Armenian Service Program was more than eye opening, it was spiritually enlightening. Not only did it open my eyes, but even more so my heart towards my faith and love for who I am and where my ancestors came from. On the expedition, the group and I had the opportunity to visit and observe many historical and important monuments that have molded we Armenian Christians into who we are today. Although every site that we visited were important, there were two places in experiences that have and will continue to stay in my heart: visiting Tzitzernagapert (the Genocide Memorial) and working at the FAR soup kitchen.
Visiting the Genocide Memorial was one of the most touching moments I have ever felt. As we entered, the Badarak hymns began to play and the fire continuously lit, the group became very emotional. As the group placed our flowers down and began to pray in remembrance, our leader Father Tateos told us that if we did not feel some sort of emotions, we were not Armenians, but that we were tourists. Everyday Armenians fight to hold onto their identity that was once almost lost and it still amazes me to think about where we would be without our courageous ancestors who fought for us. Standing in the memorable I thought in depth about what it means to be an Armenian and how proud every Armenian should feel.
Working at the soup kitchen was a very life altering experience for me as well. After witnessing and speaking with the elderly men and women that attend, it’s very clear to see how badly they each struggle on a day to day basis. The soup kitchen is their only source of food for the day, or shower for the week. There was one woman we met who shared her story with us. She had been an orphan for all her childhood, however once she turned 18 she had been released. This woman still had no family and nowhere to go, and in result grew up alone and in poverty. The elderly women walked over four miles every day to and from the soup kitchen under the beaming sun, wearing the same thick socks and clothing. Not only seeing, but feeling how thankful all those people were truly touched me.
Knowing that the little things we had done meant a tremendous amount to these people is, what I believe, ASP is about. Being able to not only see, feel, smell, and taste the motherland that our people have fought to hold onto, but to also influence those who still fight to leave everyday as Armenians there was a true and unforgettable experience. I would like to thank all those who took part in allow me to venture through the most memorable experience of my lifetime and those who experienced the journey with me.