Armenian Volunteer Corps

Welcome to the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) blog. Here our volunteers and alumni reflect on their experiences living and volunteering in Armenia. For more information about our programs, visit our website, follow us on Facebook or drop us an email: .

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Dancing in Gyumri

Sevana Naaman
La Crescenta, CA

At the end of my first week of volunteer work at Pyunic in Gyumri, I had a clear cut goal of how I wanted to spend the following ten weeks of volunteer work. I was going to teach the children of Pyunic dance...Hip Hop and Latin American Dance. Pyunic is an organization serving disabled children, children who have disabled parents, and children whose families have a low socio-economic status. The Pyunic Center of Gyumri is a drop in center designed to provide the children of Gyumri a safe place to call "home," improve their talents, and social skills. At first, I felt that my position at Pyunic was replaceable and unnecessary but after two weeks things began to change. My dance class was scheduled three times a week from 12-2 in the afternoon...however, that soon changed to every working day. My students would show up an hour before class began and I would have to force them to leave. I taught my class of 15 kids, ages 6-19, four dances. The first was to Jennifer Lopez's "Let's Get Loud," the second was a Hip Hop dance to Chris Brown's "Run It," the third was a modern ballet to Dave Matthews' "Satellite," and finally one last Hip Hop dance to Timbaland's "The Way I Are."The most important part of this experience for me was noticing the evolution in my students. For example, the first two weeks of class my students would not smile, would not enjoy the music, and seemed like they were being forced to dance. But after some long classes, that at times seemed never ending, my students began to actually have fun. I think they began to trust themselves and finally trust me. Soon after, my students would often brag to me about how much they practiced the dances the night before at home and sometimes they would show me short combinations that they had created. One student's mother found me on the street on my way home from Pyunic and explained that whatever I was doing was really working because she had never seen her daughter so happy and excited about life. We held a dance concert at the end of July. Pyunic gained news coverage and lots of praise. My students felt like superstars... however, I always knew they were. They started to walk around with pride but most of all with smiles...something that the new generation living in Gyumri truly needs.My background is in Social Work, specifically working with youth and in an organization like Pyunic where the struggles of youth are plentiful, fun is what was needed. And through dance and music and humor, fun is what these kids got.I never expected to make a large impact in Armenia. I never expected to change the way the country works. But I dreamed that I would make one child smile. I dreamed that my presence and my work would bring a sense of normalcy to a child. I feel that I did create smiles. I feel like I have instilled a sense of pride in my students. I know that I accomplished what I wanted during my stay. And I know that I will return to Armenia.


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