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 July 25 , 2003 

Sports and Culture Conference: Panarmenian Youth Foundation sets up camp in Dilijan

Putting out the flags for Panarmenia

Beginning Monday and continuing through next week, some 550 youth from Armenia and Diaspora will gather in Dilijan for the second Panarmenian youth conference.

Over the next eight days, the youth, ages 18 to 30 will be divided into three teams (wearing team shirts in red, blue, orange) to compete in athletic and intellectual competitions.

The Panarmenian Youth Foundation (PYF) organized the conference. Over the past five years PYF has been financing programs aimed at creating connections among students from different universities.

"First of all this meeting promotes patriotic education among young people and unites them around the country," says PYF executive director Artur Poghosyan. "And after all we could say this is a rest and good way of spending time."

Fifteen students from every state University of Armenia and of several private Universities were invited to participate at this year's camping of "hawks". Participants are chosen by special commissions at each university, who select the candidate most likely to excel in the name of their university.

Last year's meeting of "hawks" was deemed a success as it formed bonds among the youth that have held over the year.

Poghosyan says the meeting has no political orientation (though participants from last year's event were actively campaigning for Robert Kocharyan in last spring's presidential elections).

Eight days of games, networking, socializing, will cost about $114,000, with about $74,000 (42 million drams) of that coming from the State budget.

Teams that competed in last year's games must change their membership by at least 70 percent for this year's camp. And each squad of 15 must include at least five girls.

Last year's conference in Dilijan attracted young students from all over Armenia.

Diaspora is presented by groups from France, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Russia as well as one joint group of USA and Canada. According to the executive director of PYF, young people from Diaspora must only pay for their travel expenses.

State Engineering University student Edgar Paityan is among participants who'll be returning from last year.

"The days in camp are full of activity," Edgar says. "We used to play football, then take a bath and go play chess."

This year's games will have a particular emphasis on intellectual games with Armenian themes.

Students will also have an opportunity to meet political and cultural figures of Armenia. It is expected that President Kocharyan, Minister of Defense Serzh Sarsgsyan and Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan will again attend, as they did the inaugural camp.

"After last year's meeting young people were actively keeping in touch with each other," says Poghosyan. "Some of them created non-governmental organizations and now they prepare mutual programs and present them to us. Being a grant structure, the foundation tries to assist them as much as it is possible."

And it is not only games, culture, patriotism that flourish during the conference. Over the year, three marriages have taken place, growing from sparks of last year's camp.


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