Anoush Tatevossian
Executive Director
Armenian Volunteer Corps
62 Hanrapetutyan St. Apt 108
Yerevan, Armenia

Phone: (374 10) 540037
For information: www.armenianvolunteer.org
For contact: [email protected]


Here I am, in Armenia
By: Laurence Manessian

YEREVAN September 15, 2006. I grew up in France, both my parents are of
Armenian origin but I have never been really much involved in the Armenian
community there. I work in finance in London, I have quite a demanding job.
Last spring I felt the need to take a break from my professional and private
life and to reflect on which direction I wanted my life to take. I obtained
a 3-month career break from my work and decided to apply to become a
volunteer with the Armenian Volunteer Corps.

The choice of coming to Armenia came naturally. I had been there briefly 10
years ago, I had spent most of my time in a small village in the North of
the country. Since then I wanted to go back, get to know the country more in
depth and understand what it meant to me.

Through the AVC I got a volunteer placement at the French Armenian
Development Foundation based in Yerevan. They finance projects all over
Armenia for the long-term development of the country. The types of projects
they finance are: equipping hospitals, renovating schools or working with
handicapped and deaf people to improve their living conditions in Armenia
and help them find jobs. I help in the monitoring and co-ordination of
existing projects and also in finding funding for new projects, asking for
grants from international organizations.

I find that it is such an advantage to be of Armenian origin here. It makes
the experience so much more profound. I was accepted as one of them from the
start, I could really experience everything from the inside, and I never
felt like an intruder.

I am so glad I came to Armenia for an extended period of time. The
experience is so much more complete that any I could have in any other
country. I learn and see things on so many different dimensions.

Of course there is a linguistic and cultural dimension to the experience. I
get to know the country, its history, its specificities and customs- who
were Parajanov and Komitas, what is Borsch, who are the Armenian Navy Band,
how to do a proper Genatz.

But I also find there is a very strong human dimension to the experience.
You meet so many different people, have so many different interactions. You
meet of course other volunteers, Diasporans from all over the world with
which you can share your experiences. You also interact with Armenians from
Armenia. I found that they are very easy to talk to, they let you come into
their lives straight away, they confide in you very quickly, tell you about
their life, their problems.

I also found that there is a strong artistic dimension to the experience.
Armenia is a country which is very orientated towards arts and I have never
had such a close artistic experience than in this country. I met painters
who brought me to their studios and explained me their arts, I met ballet
dancers who took me to their rehearsals. It is so easy here and cheap to go
to classical concerts, operas or ballets.

Somehow I also found my experience here spiritual, even though I am not such
a devoted Christian. The journey through the forest to the Arekolov church,
the frescos of Kobair and the sceneries from Gandzasar are all conducive to
spiritual thoughts, I found.

Being a very city person, I found that my trip to Armenia brought me back to
nature. Through various hikes around the country, I discovered its very
diverse sceneries- the vast and dry hills of the surroundings of Yerevan,
the green forests of Dilijan and the North East or the moonlike landscape of
Aragatz.

Through my experience here, I have also discovered the world of NGOs and
international organizations, a world much of its own, with its own rules.

I also found that this trip opened my mind to a number of issues and
concepts that I had never given a proper thought before. Through the forums
organized by Birthright Armenia, talks with people and my own observations,
I got to think about a number of different world issues, such as: the
influence and impact of communism, the place of Armenia in geopolitics, the
economy of developing countries or humanitarian aid versus private
investment.

All in all it is quite a complete and certainly amazing experience and one
that I would recommend to any Diasporan Armenian. What is more, with AVC
facilitating the transition and sponsorship and support from Birthright
Armenia, it is a possibility for anyone.


For those interested in learning more about the Armenian Volunteer Corps or
Birthright Armenia , please visit www.ArmenianVolunteer.org and
www.BirthrightArmenia.org.

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