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Camp Ayandeh 2009: Agree. Disagree. Don't Know

By Taraneh Aminian, IAAB

Camp Ayandeh
2009 is the fourth installment of IAAB's Iranian-American high school leadership camp. 2009 camp is being held at Duquette Academy in Western Massachusetts, June 28- July 5.

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

"Racism is still a major problem in America today."
"Gun control in the United States is far too tight."
"An allocated time for prayer in school is acceptable."
"Experimenting on animals is just for human research."
"To be truly Iranian, you must be able to speak Farsi."

Camper Shayon Imani particpates in the Human Barometer Activity

At the dinner table or when in the company of new acquaintances, these are the kind of topics and statements that are rarely spoken of due to the controversy they provoke in our society. Camp Ayandeh is a safe haven for campers to express their opinions freely and gain insights into the opinions of others, and the Human Barometer activity is one way to gauge the social pressures surrounding such hot-button topics.

Three yellow signs were hung across the wall. On the far left: "Agree." On the right: "Disagree." And somewhere in between, "Don't Know." Statements of opinions such as those written above were read aloud while the campers physically moved to stand beneath the sign that best fit with their opinion. The areas between each of the signs were popular areas for participants, indicating just how complex these issues are - few could choose positions as simply black or white.

After taking a stand, a few campers volunteered their reasons for choosing their positions. Having to verbally justify their choices in an objective manner meant our campers had to question themselves and outline their beliefs while simultaneously respecting and recognizing the wide array of subjective ideas that exist even within their own peer group.

Human Barometer became a very active exercise and inspired passionate dialogue. It forced each person to think independently about the issues that affect society. After each camper presented their argument, volunteers from the opposite side eagerly raised their hands to throw in their thoughts in the collective pool of opinions. Presenting new ways of looking at the same issue showed us that there is not always a right and wrong answer to the unsettled questions of society. Taking the arguments of their peers into account, campers could choose to change where they stood on the spectrum after hearing a convincing argument from a different position. Campers became so engaged in this activity that they almost missed out on their time to play vasati (and we all know how much Ayandeh loves vasati!).

It's activities like these that show the diversity of opinions and experiences at Camp Ayandeh, and which contribute to making camp such a rewarding experience for all!

Tavalod, Tavalod, Tavalodet Mobarak!

The second evening of camp was filled with thrilling celebrations: Shabeh Yalda, three birthdays, and well-loved tunes sung around a crackling campfire by a moonlit lake! Nestled close to one another around the fire and trying to keep warm during this crisp New England night, the festivities began with counselors Omeed Askari and Dana Mashayekh sharing with our campers the significance of Shabeh Yalda; its history, meaning, and traditions. Tonight, Laudan Imani turned 18 and Nicki Sadeghipour, 16, and they both shared their birthday with Taher Modaressi a beloved counselor, who's age we have been asked not to mention! As a Shabeh Yalda custom, we read the "faall's", or fortunes, from a book of Hafez opened to a random page as is the custom during Shabeh Yalda. The night was filled with birthday songs, sung in both Persian and English, candles were blown out, and, as we enjoyed s'mores , we eagerly awaited the beautiful musical talents of Camp Team Associate Sepanta Mohseni and counselor Idin Zhalehdoust.

Camp Fire and Birthdays

The night drew to a joyful close when Sepanta and Idin performed both Iranian folk and popular songs, while campers and counselors alike offered their vocal talents singing favorites like "Ageh Yeh Rooz" and Rufus Wainwright's "Hallelujah". The excitement of the brisk evening air in the company of friends was so invigorating that, one after another, campers and counselors stood together in a circle, arms linked, swaying to the music. On the second night of this fourth annual camp, it was hard to believe that many of us; campers, counselors, and staff; had just met days ago. And with six days to go, there are plenty more friendships and excitement in store for us all!

About Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) -
IAAB is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan, non-profit volunteer organization with a young, dedicated staff spread across the United States, Europe and Iran.  The mission of the organization is to address issues of the Iranian diaspora community while raising awareness of the Iranian community, promoting leadership, and connecting Iranians across borders. For more information about IAAB, please visit

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