While being Armenian has always been important to me, over the last six years, I have become increasingly more involved in the Philadelphia Armenian community. I am also very passionate about helping Armenia. When I heard about Birthright Armenia from a friend, I immediately knew that I had to participate in it.
This spring, I was very excited to actually visit and stay in Armenia for the first time as a Birthright Armenia volunteer. I was also nervous as I was traveling alone and did not know what to expect.
My favorite part of being in Armenia is the connections that I have made. I even unexpectedly met my fourth cousin for the first time here, which is incredible. The Birthright and AVC volunteers are so friendly and welcoming, and I have met people from all over the world. I also love interacting with local Armenians, especially in villages on our excursions. Many people are exceptionally hospitable.
I am learning to speak Eastern Armenian while I am here through Birthright Armenia’s classes. I feel proud when I am able to say a sentence to my host mom or order food or coffee in Armenian at a cafe, and they understand me. I genuinely enjoy my language classes and being able to speak and understand Armenian more. When I go home to Philly I intend to continue my Armenian studies.
When I first got to Armenia, I volunteered for Kooyrigs, an Armenian NGO. I loved the work they had done in Armenia, and I was already raising money for them through my Etsy shop Mado Prints. I am currently volunteering for SafeYou, a company, and app that helps prevent and report Gender-Based Violence. They are making a difference in the world and I am thrilled to be part of their team. I am passionate about women’s rights and both Kooyrigs and SafeYou do great work in this area. I have also been helping Birthright and AVC with social media.
STAYING OPEN AND LEARNING ABOUT ARMENIA
My advice to future volunteers is to try to experience as much as you can and stay open and try new things. Be prepared to go outside your comfort zone, and try not to have any expectations. There will be hard times, but the good times make it worth it.
By living here long-term, you truly do learn about Armenia and learn about its needs. I am learning about the country and people every day, with every conversation and interaction I have. I have to get back home soon for graduate school, but I fully understand why many volunteers extend their time at Birthright. I am going to miss Armenia, and I hope to be back again very soon.