With the deadline for Camp 2012 counselor applications less than a month away, IAAB's camp planning committee member Sara Mokhtari-Fox spoke with a returning counselor about what the Ayandeh experience means to him.
Mazyar Kahali's relationship with Camp Ayandeh started in 2007 when he signed up to be a camper. After growing up in Iran and coming to the US at the age of 12, Maz had to learn a new culture in a new country while navigating the challenges of identity formation that all young people face.
At 16, Maz assumed that he would have to choose between being Iranian and American and felt alone when trying to figure out how to identify himself. When he saw a promotional video about IAAB, he heard the term "Iranian American" for the first time and saw people like him addressing issues he was facing. Maz knew instantly that he wanted to be a part of Camp Ayandeh.
"Before camp I thought I was the only one going through an identity conflict as an Iranian American, but after camp I realized an entire community exists that I could be a part of shaping and forming it."
By the end of his first year with Ayandeh, Maz had a family of other Iranian Americans spanning across the country and felt more secure in his own identity - sentiments that have only continued to grow. In 2009, Maz once again joined Ayandeh in a new role as a counselor and found the experience extremely rewarding.
Maz has continued to volunteer for the past four years and comments on the ways in which he has been able to apply his experience beyond camp. "Being a counselor teaches you communication and facilitation techniques you can use at work, at school, in all aspects of life" - skills that helped him acquire a Student Representative position while studying at University of California, Los Angeles.
For Maz, camp created a space where youth of the Iranian diaspora can coexist across political and religious beliefs - a community he did not know existed before Ayandeh. "We've built a close community over the years, but it continues to grow and welcome new members and I feel a responsibility to keep that going and nourished to provide for others." Over the years, Maz has grown to be an outstanding counselor.
When asked what it takes, he advises, "You need to really want to be there and be part of the community, be open to taking constructive criticism to grow as a counselor, be able to follow directions but also take initiative, and be respectful of IAAB's history and traditions but bring your own new ideas too." Mazyar encourages anyone interested to give camp a try and promises that they will not be disappointed.
Interested in being an Ayandeh counselor this summer? Apply Today
For information about Camp Ayandeh 2012, including camper applications, please visit IAAB's website.
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 www.iranianalliances.org.
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