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: .

Monday, August 10, 2009

Coming and Going

Sophia Shahverdian
Maryland, USA

I am at the tail-end of my first visit to Armenia. I had tried to come many times before with friends, but each time, plans fell through and I never made the trip. I decided that if I was going to come to Armenia, I couldn’t depend on anyone else to make it happen and I just had to figure out a way that I could go on my own. After some research and talking with past volunteers, I discovered Armenian Volunteer Corps. I knew that Armenia would always be here for me to visit as a tourist, but this was a chance for me to live and work among Armenians, and try my best to understand the history, life today and possibilities for the future. So after one month of planning, I boarded a plane from Washington, DC headed to Yerevan to begin my five-week adventure.

I didn’t come to Armenia with too many expectations. I knew my time was rather short to make a real impact, but I was excited to do something other than tour churches and eat khorovatz (both of which I highly recommend). My volunteer placement is with the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia, a public-private partnership which strives to enhance Armenia’s global competitiveness through sustainable projects in tourism, healthcare and education. I wasn’t really sure what that meant or what I would be doing with them, but here I was, ready and willing to help in any way that I could. The assignments I have been given are mostly research-based, like how to develop specialty clinics in oncology and cardiovascular care. This is slightly out of the realm of my process-oriented, logistical coordination and management job back home as a Project Analyst at Johns Hopkins Medicine International in Baltimore, Maryland. However, I figured this was an opportunity to do something different by working on the more conceptual and developmental end of projects. After a few bumps in the road (renovations at the office, no internet to do “internet research”), I began to understand the overwhelming amount of work my colleagues did and how the research I was doing would fit into possible future projects the Competitiveness Foundation has in mind. I looked things up online, read articles, talked with locals and did my research. Turns out that what I did in the short time I was here was useful, and one of the documents that I drafted was used as the basis for a policy accepted by the Board of Directors.

There is a wave of change building in Armenia. There is so much possibility in a developing economy. Creativity, opportunity and ideas abound. The network of ‘movers and shakers’ includes some really amazing people that are trying to put things into motion in Armenia. I am lucky to have met and worked with some of those people, and AVC gave me that opportunity. I have built connections in Armenia that I am sure will help me in my own personal and professional development.

There is a wave building. Hold tight. I think it’s going to be a tsunami.

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