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 03, 2010

Picture a Day: Family

Zach Dyer

My first day at Gyumri Healthy Centre, like many 'firsts' I've experienced in this country took me by surprise. After cramming five people into a taxi, we drove away from the city center and rather unexpectedly took a turn down a road that at first glance looks almost nothing like a road. In the time it took for the taxi to navigate the ditches, potholes, trenches, and puddles that lead to the Healthy Centre, my expectations of what lie at the end fell significantly.

Once in the building, they explained to me that the center was a renovated garage that had once served as temporary housing after the earthquake. With only the front office and a modest "fitness center" in the back, the center was what was to be expected at the end of such a road. But what was not expected was the immediateness with which the three ladies of the Healthy Centre accepted me as if I grew up in the neighborhood, was a member of the family.

From my second week working with them, the two younger women referred to me as their brother and the older woman would introduce me as her son. After long weekends when I walked into work, Noune, the oldest of them would exclaim, "Zach-jan! Your second mother has missed you!" But the sense of family did not end there in the Healthy Centre. From the patients' families to the neighbors, after two months here they all greet me like we've known each other our whole lives. Not a day goes by where I don't feel completely comfortable sitting down for lunch with my coworkers and discussing anything from politics and religion to what "Starbucks" is and why I keep saying that I miss it.

When I went to other sites to volunteer, I found the same thing. At the day-camp where I teach English, my boss's son invites me out after. At the YMCA where I teach first aid with another volunteer, they suggest taking sightseeing trips with us. Even after an hour at the ambulatory center they offered me a bed in the office.

And while I cant necessarily say that every volunteer's experience has been exactly the same, for the most part, when the people here see someone opening up and trying their best to help, they try to offer the same in reverse.

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