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 18, 2009

From Arizona to Yerevan

Gabrielle Kaprielian
Arizona, United States

As an American trying to start a career in international relations, I had been attempting for some time to live and work abroad in a developing country. After a few other options fell through I finally found Armenian Volunteer Corps. What could be better than to get great work and life experience and to do in a place that I have a connection to? I was looking for something more long-term and AVC gave me the opportunity to stay for an entire year.

I was placed with an organization called Counterpart International, which works towards developing Armenia’s civil society and improving democratic governance through grants and other support for local Armenian non-profits. I feel so lucky to have been given a volunteer position at Counterpart. I have wonderful co-workers, have learned so much about working in development, and feel that I have made a real contribution. While there remains much work to be done here, I am proud to work for an organization that is making a difference.

Living in Armenia offers great opportunities for learning and personal development. You just have to look for them and take full advantage of what is here. I have been able to meet incredible people and take part in very interesting events that I would never have the chance to do in the US. I feel that I learn something new and important every day I spend here. Perceptions that I arrived with have been changed, and this knowledge will help me in my future career and in life. It’s one thing to read about how a society works, and a completely different thing to come and actually experience it. And I know that there remains much more for me to experience while I’m here. For that I couldn’t imagine leaving any sooner.

While there is much to be pessimistic about in Armenia, there is also a lot of room for optimism. Each time I have a negative experience on a bus or read a depressing story on human rights, it always gets counterbalanced with something that gives me hope for our future. Sometimes it comes in the form of a project that my organization funded that helped get a law passed to protect the rights of mental health patients. Other times it’s meeting local people who are working hard to ensure a better future for Armenia. I’ve met amazing young people here who have the same desires for a better Armenia that I do.

When people back home ask me what it is that I love about living here, it’s hard for me to come up with a simple list of what keeps me here. Living in Armenia is difficult to describe, but amazing to do. I have recently been given the opportunity to stay on for an extra five months, working with Counterpart, and I’m very excited for all that I will discover in my next chapter here in Armenia.

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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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