By: Maria Martirosyan
A pleasant surprised awaited all of the ANCA-WR Executive Intern’s when we took the Hye Votes project to the streets of Little Armenia. The Hye Votes project, which was launched with the goals of getting all eligible Armenian-Americans to become registered voters and participate in elections, has been one of the main focuses of the summer 2012 Executive Interns class. Since the commencement of the internship, all of the interns have put in much effort and work into coordinating and organizing different strategies and methods of registering Armenian individuals of all ages.
However, nothing comes as easy as planned on paper. Attending all 5 days of the Navasartian Games and Festival, the interns expected to register a lot of people, but as it turned out, our optimism was faced with a setback. Going into the event, we all were enthused, and had every reason to be. We would have the chance to try to convince thousands of unregistered voters to register. A goal of a few hundred seemed somewhat humble. However, competing with the blaring music and frenzy of the event, we faced a greater amount of voter apathy then we could have ever expected. Every turn down was a blow to our psyche, but if you were to ask any person we approached, they would have said we seemed unphased. Despite the great voter apathy that we faced, we all were able to keep ourselves level headed enough to continue trying to approach as many people as we could and ultimately registering a good amount of people.
Nevertheless, following such an event, we were hesitant toward starting the next project and worried we would get the same responses. However, despite the fact that we had been discouraged and heartbroken, we were still able to muster the courage to go door to door in Little Armenia. Lucky for us, the effort we put forth was not lost, instead we were pleasantly surprised at the responses we received from the people in Little Armenia. More often than not, most people were very happy to see us as they immediately invited us inside their home to take a seat as they and other family members filled out the voter registration forms. As Armenians are known for their hospitality and their love for Armenian coffee, every house we entered people would offer us Armenian coffee, sweets, fruits, pastries, and even full meals. Naturally, we tried to be as professional as possible in accepting to take a break sometimes, yet each family insists that we eat at least one candy bar and drink a cup of juice and take one more candy bar to go. The interns and I are certain that by the end of this internship, we will have gained at least 15 pounds if not more. In addition, at the end of each visit, people applaud us for our work, express their gratitude, wish us luck, and pass upon us their blessings commending us on our work for the Armenian community.
Going to multiple houses, we had the opportunity to meet and register many different people. We met families and individuals of all walks of life – families who just migrated to the United States, families who have lived and worked for the Armenian Cause, individuals who wanted to get involved, elderly couples, and ill people who nevertheless were willing to register to vote. Among our time canvassing, we had the honor of meeting some very interesting individuals, one of which was a 93-year-old Armenian veteran who fought on 3 different fronts including WWII and the Polish-Soviet war. During our time in his home, he told us of his past and he shared with us his medals and awards as proof of all he has done. This was a very humbling moment for me, as I met someone who had done so much for his people.
Going out and meeting the people in our community reminded us the importance of what we do and working towards the greater good for the Armenian diaspora. Going door to door and educating people on the importance of voting and the process of doing so, is rewarding knowing that they now have the opportunity to participate in the civic duty of voting. The positive feedback we receive from the people is what makes our efforts worthwhile. Our faith was restored in ourselves and our goals following the pleasantly surprising results of our work in Little Armenia. The interns will continue knocking on each door in the Little Armenia making sure every eligible Armenian-American is registered to vote, because your vote is the voice of your community.
Learn more about the Hye Votes initiative!
Register to vote, today!