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 22, 2006

Armenia Diaspora Conference

The Third Armenian-Diaspora Conference

Through September 18th- 21st, the 3rd Armenia Diaspora conference was held in Yerevan, and AVC along with Birthright Armenia took part in this very successful event.

Organized by the Foreign Ministry, the event brought together important individuals, businesses and organizations that strengthen ties between the Diaspora and Armenia, while the conference dealt with important issues regarding Armenia’s development and future homeland- Diaspora relations. Seeing how AVC and Birthright have created opportunities to bridge the gap that exists between Armenia and the Diaspora, we were present at the conference’s business fair. With a great info booth, we did a great job promoting AVC’s interests and services to the hundreds of local Armenians and Diasporan's who were present. It was a fantastic way for AVC to get its word out within the community, and to build new contacts with Diasporan representatives throughout the world, specifically in those communities that are unaware of the great opportunities offered by AVC and Birthright Armenia.

Laurence Manessian

Name: Laurence Manessian
Age: 31
Place of Birth: Paris, France
Place of Residence: London, UK
Placement in Armenia: French Armenian Development Foundation
Length of Stay in Armenia: 10 weeks

I grew up in France, both my parents are of Armenian origin but I have never been really much involved in the Armenian community there. I work in finance in London, I have quite a demanding job. Last spring I felt the need to take a break from my professional and private life and to reflect on which direction I wanted my life to take. I obtained a 3-month career break from my work.

The choice of coming to Armenia came naturally. I had been there briefly 10 years ago, I had spent most of my time in a small village in the North of the country. Since then I wanted to go back, get to know the country more in depth and understand what it meant to me.

Through AVC I got a placement at the French Armenian Development Foundation based in Yerevan. They finance projects all over Armenia for the long-term development of the country. The types of projects they finance are: equipping hospitals, renovating schools or working with handicapped and deaf people to improve their living conditions in Armenia and help them find jobs. I help in the monitoring and co-ordination of existing projects and also in finding funding for new projects, asking for grants from international organizations.

I find that it is such an advantage to be of Armenian origin here. It makes the experience so much more profound. I was accepted as one of them from the start, I could really experience everything from the inside, and I never felt like an intruder.

I am so glad I came to Armenia, the experience is so much more complete that any I could have in any other country. I learn and see things on so many different dimensions.

Of course there is a linguistic and cultural dimension to the experience. I get to know the country, its history, its specificities and customs- who were Parajanov and Komitas, what is Borsch, who are the Armenian Navy Band, how to do a proper Genatz.

But I also find there is a very strong human dimension to the experience. You meet so many different people, have so many different interactions. You meet of course other volunteers, diasporans from all over the world with which you can share your experiences. You also interact with Armenians from Armenia. I found that they are very easy to talk to, they let you come into their lives straight away, they confide in you very quickly, tell you about their life, their problems.

I also found that there is a strong artistic dimension to the experience. Armenia is a country which is very orientated towards arts and I have never had such a close artistic experience than in this country. I met painters who brought me to their studios and explained me their arts, I met ballet dancers who took me to their rehearsals. It is so easy here and cheap to go to classical concerts, operas or ballets.

Somehow I also found my experience here spiritual, even though I am not such a devoted Christian. The journey through the forest to the Arekolov church, the frescos of Kobair and the sceneries from Gandzazar are all conducive to spiritual thoughts, I found.

Being a very city person, I found that my trip to Armenia brought me back to nature. Through various hikes around the country, I discovered its very diverse sceneries- the vast and dry hills of the surroundings of Yerevan, the green forests of Dilijan and the North East or the moonlike landscape of Aragatz.

Through my experience here, I have also discovered the world of NGOs and international organizations, a world much of its own, with its own rules.

I also found that this trip opened my mind to a number of issues and concepts that I had never given a proper thought before. Through the forums organized by AVC and Birthright, talks with people and my own observations, I got to think about a number of different world issues, such as: the influence and impact of communism, the place of Armenia in geopolitics, the economy of developing countries or humanitarian aid versus private investment.

All in all it is quite a complete and certainly amazing experience and one that I would recommend to any diasporan Armenian.

Zatik Orphanage Summer Festival

Zatik Orphanage Summer Festival Organized by Armenian Volunteers

YEREVAN August 28, 2006. This Saturday, September 2nd, the children of Zatik Orphanage will learn that their friends in the Armenian Diaspora do not forget about them. For the third year running, Richard (Ric) Gazarian from Chicago, and the Armenian Volunteer Corps, is hosting a full day Festival, complete with face painting, popcorn, cotton-candy and a pony ride, for the 136 children at the orphanage!

Numerous businesses have made promises to make generous donations which will make this day successful. Tumanian Shaurma will provide food and Grand Candy will provide ice cream, for the third year running Luna Park has donated it’s Moon Bounce for the day, and Cheers Disco Pub is supplying speakers and a DJ to kick off the fun!

Additionally, many other friends will participate to make the day as eventful and memorable as possible. Roughly 20 volunteers from the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC), and also the Birthright Armenia/Depi Hayk Foundation, will be in attendance to help run the carnival games and do face-painting. The Zeytun dance group will put on a small performance, and professional clowns will provide amusement.

And why does Richard return every summer to host and sponsor this event for the children of Zatik? He simply says, “They are like my extended family.”

This relationship began in 2004 when Ric volunteered as an English teacher and mentor at Zatik Orphanage through the Armenian Volunteer Corps, an organization devoted to facilitating Diasporan Armenians with the opportunity to live and work in Armenia for long and short term volunteer service in hopes that those Diasporans will establish a life-long relationship with their countrymen and women in Armenia so that they can together build a stronger future.

Ric developed a strong attachment to his new found friends at Zatik, and they with him. Upon the end of his AVC service term in the summer of 2004, Ric decided he wanted to organize something special, something to bring happiness to the children in a memorable way. He organized the first “Zatik Festival” and like a true friend, Ric and the AVC volunteers try to play a continuing role in the lives of the children, and so are once again organizing the Festival fun this year.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Habitat for Humanity, Part 2

On Wednesday, September 6, AVC volunteers had an opportunity to return to Gavar and once again partner with Habitat for Humanity. Here, we worked on the same apartment building as before. Once finished, the building will house 24 families and close to 100 people.

We arrived at the site at 9am and, after a collective morning prayer, we recieved our day's placement. We worked side-by-side in one particular apartment with the man who would soon live in it: his first new home. For the entire day, AVC volunteers plastered and sanded the walls of the apartment in order to prepare the walls for painting. It was interesting to see how meticuluous the man's work was and how proud he felt to be working on his home. The smile that erupted on his face everytime he walked onto his balcony attested to his appreciation.

My second time on the worksite, I was amazed to witness the abundance of progress that Habitat has made on the building in only two months. When I first went in July, the building was a mere skeleton. Now, however, the apartments have tiled floors, beautiful wooden doors, and more. The humble works of every person that volunteered with Habitat for Humanity will greatly and directly influence these people.

-Stephanie Johnson

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Welcome to the Fall 2006 Season

move mountains
1. if someone or someone's beliefs or feelings can move mountains, they can achieve something that is very difficult.
Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms © Cambridge University Press 1998

A message to the departing Summer volunteers, and the incoming Fall volunteers:

AVC's motto is "come move mountains" because living and working in Armenia is an act of faith and an investment of hope in the future of our homeland and nation. On behalf of the AVC family I thank you again for making that commitment.

With great love and respect,

Anoush Tatevossian
Executive Director
Armenian Volunteer Corps