By Fidan Avedikian
Camp Zavarian, a cherished summer institution, has been enriching the lives of Armenian children in America for the past 16 years. What began as a humble initiative by three friends has evolved into a thriving camp that fosters cultural education, creativity, and social skills. Through a wide range of activities, including baking, art, dance, animal encounters, swimming, zumba, yoga. Camp Zavarian creates an immersive environment where children can celebrate their Armenian heritage while forging lifelong friendships.
Sixteen years ago, Mike and Nora Keleshian, alongside Arpi Dabbaghian, joined together to establish a summer day camp at the La Crescenta Armenian Community Center with the intention of providing an avenue for Armenian children who do not attend private Armenian schools to connect with their culture during the summer. Recognizing the importance of preserving their rich heritage, the founders aimed to offer an educational and fun-filled experience that would enable these children to develop a deeper understanding of their roots. This modest day camp has now grown from 35 campers to a vibrant community of 200 children eagerly awaiting another week and another summer of fun.
Each day at Camp Zavarian begins with a prayer and the singing of the Armenian national anthem, setting a reverent tone for the day’s activities. From there, the campers delve into various endeavors that help them explore their Armenian identity. Through baking, art projects, meeting the artists behind the stories, culturally-inspired dances, drama lessons and character-building activities, the children learn about compassion and their heritage in a hands-on and engaging manner.
Among the camper’s favorite activities is swimming in the camp’s pool. The refreshing water provides a perfect backdrop for laughter, splashes, and unforgettable memories.
Camp Zavarian owes its success to its dedicated staff, including the founders, cooks, teachers, and volunteers, who pour their love and passion into every aspect of the camp. These individuals ensure that each child feels valued and supported, fostering an environment of growth and self-confidence. Lifeguards diligently keep watch, ensuring the safety of all campers during pool activities, further enhancing the overcall camp experience. The campers showcase their talents through talent shows and tap into their creativity, all while being cheered on by an enthusiastic audience. From engaging in Zumba sessions with an Armenian flair to enjoying peaceful moments of yoga, the children are encouraged to express themselves fully.
At Camp Zavarian, learning the Armenian language is seamlessly integrated into everyday activities. During cooking sessions, teachers employ Armenian words for ingredients, guiding the children to embrace their language while discovering the joy of the culinary arts. The experience extends beyond the camp as children gather ingredients to recreate recipes at home, fostering a deeper connection to their culture outside the camp’s confines. Camp Zavarian stands as a testament to the power of bringing Armenian children together in a nurturing environment that celebrates their heritage. For 16 years, this beloved camp has empowered children with knowledge, self-expression, and a strong sense of community. Through engaging activities, dedicated staff, and a commitment to cultural education, Camp Zavarian continues to shape young lives, fostering pride in Armenian heritage and creating lifelong memories for each and every participant.
As one parent commented, “my kids have developed strong ties to their heritage and lasting friendships through the fun and educational activities they experience daily at the Armenian community center. It is an unparalleled experience.”
Camp Zavarian is in session through August 4, 2023 for ages 5 to 13 years old. The summer day camp hours are 8AM to 5PM and tuition fees are $380/camper weekly, or $100/day (meals and snacks inclusive). For more information about Camp Zavarian and to sign up, visit: http://cvarmeniancenter.com/camp-zavarian/