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, January 24, 2011

Philanthropy, not Charity

Rubina Shaldjian

I have been in Armenia for nearly three months. During my time here, I have been volunteering at the Civilitas Foundation. Many people think that Civilitas is a political organization. After all, it was founded by Vartan Oskanian, who was the Armenian Foreign Minister for 10 years. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Though Civilitas does try to impact policy in Armenia, it has no official political affiliation. The Civilitas Foundation supports a variety of projects ranging from strengthening civil society in Armenia to providing micro loans to fighting human rights violations. However, the question that always comes up is: what’s next?

To explain Civilitas, I would say that their goal is philanthropy and not charity. It’s something I observed over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, Armenia receives a lot of outside aid. Often, people here don’t think about the money well running dry. The great thing about Civilitas’ projects is that they are sustainable. They are not offering any handouts. Rather, they provide the tools for success.

As an example, Civilitas recently completed a project that renovated a number of libraries in rural Armenia. The goal was to take these cold, bare shell buildings and transform them to community centers. By changing the windows, adding insulation, adding heat, new bookshelves and books, these libraries are transformed to a place where people can gather, learn and share ideas. By adding a computer and an Internet connection, you open up an entire world to these folks. You remove their isolation!

The thing I like the most about these library-related projects is that it’s really up to the locals to use the books and educational tools we give them to better themselves. And this is exactly what has happened. In the short time since they were renovated, the libraries themselves have already organized a number of events, including cultural nights dedicated to Armenian writers, educational events for both adults and children, and book drives to help the libraries grow. It has been really amazing for me to watch the videos of the events held in these community libraries. They are packed full of people! I think with modern technology, many people living in developed countries have forgotten how important a community library can be.

Civilitas has also been soliciting other sponsors to help purchase books and materials. They have gotten corporate sponsors and also have a project called Angel Tree. Angel Tree is a book collection effort to keep filling the libraries. They are also collecting puzzles and educational games for the children’s sections of rural libraries throughout the country.

Overall, my experience at Civilitas has been incredible. The staff is made up of both Diasporans and locals, and many have studied at least a year abroad, so the perspectives are different and interesting. The people are bright and friendly. There’s a lot of laughter in the office, and we eat lunch together 3 days a week. I am also impressed by the amount of passion and creativity. It’s incredibly fast-paced, and in one day, the topics can range from A to Z. So it’s rarely boring, and the days just fly by. Best of all, at the end of the day, you feel like you’ve contributed something.

Labels: , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home