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: .

Friday, September 21, 2007

Kapan's first Model UN

When my family left Armenia, the country was recovering from the aftershocks of the soviet collapse: economic devastation, a complete lack of governance and war. Not too many positive memories to hold on to but always with the yearning to go back. 12 years later, I was back in Armenia, reacquainting myself with a new and old country and most of all, trying to figure out where I belong and how I can contribute most. After having been there for almost three months, it is still difficult to figure out what works and what doesn’t. One thing was certain, however, any positive contribution makes an immediate difference because there’s such great need in almost every sector of life. This, needless to say, is encouraging for all initiatives that anyone ever undertakes. I wish I could have stayed longer to expand my scope into mock trials and moot courts as a way of promoting critical thinking and leadership. Next time!

I had been planning to come to Armenia in the summer of 2006 but I had just started a new job in Washington, DC and decided to wait another year. I finally took a leave of absence for two months so I could do an internship through AVC. I wasn’t certain as to what specific internship I wanted but my big goal was to witness development first hand and hear from the people meant to benefit from these efforts.

I interned at the Armenian United Nations Association (AUNA) where I lead a Model United Nations in Kapan, in southern Armenia. AUNA is an NGO established in 2005 to serve as a two-way bridge for cross-sharing values, principles and programs of the UN in Armenia and of Armenian values, traditions and cultural heritage through UN structures and programs. The staff was small but amazing to work with and I couldn’t have asked for better mentors. For a young organization, they have been active in mobilizing and engaging youth. They were first to introduce Model UNs in Armenia and several universities have started using the game as a practicum requirement for certain international relations faculties. In 2005, they helped organize “Gamats Gamats—Yavash Yavash,” a summer school program meant to build confidence between Armenian and Turkish youth through workshops and group work aimed at deconstructing history and discussing innovative ways of solving issues facing both nations.

My assignment was no random pick. As a native of Kapan, it was a perfect way to go back and experience my birthplace in a completely unfamiliar way. I was nervous, excited, a bit overwhelmed as my Armenian had suffered over the years and I’d have to learn the language of the UN in Armenian. I had heard of Model UNs but never participated or seen any. Not only that but I had to recruit 30 participants to represent the UN Security Council. With the help of the Ministry of Youth and Culture branch in Syunik, I was able to gather around 20 enthusiastic participants who brought fantastic energy and enthusiasm for the game. To my surprise, one of the participants was Gayane Grigoryan, a young and witty girl who was the daughter of my music school director who always gave my brother a hard time with his violin lessons. Shy at first, the participants slowly felt themselves to actually be delegates of their chosen countries. The debates became more heated, strayed from the script a bit and I kept asking questions just to provoke them and force them to think on their toes. To witness their passion and enthusiasm was my proudest moment. Most everyone had initially joined with a lot of uncertainty and apprehension and we lost some of them throughout the training seminars but it was beautiful to see those who stuck it through the end and shined gracefully.

It was amazing to get to know young people outside of Yerevan, connect with them on a personal level and give them the opportunity to engage in a game played all over the world as a way of practicing diplomacy and stepping into the shoes of ambassadors. Most importantly, it was a way for students to think critically and test their own skills in debating, consensus building and conflict resolution. I’m hoping that at least some of the participants will become more involved in government and civil society in the future. But at the very least, I’m hoping that they will become more confident representatives of themselves and Armenia at large.
Mary Vardazarian, Washington, DC, Spring/Summer volunteer 2007


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