When I came to Armenia I never imagined what sort of impact it would have on my life, how much it would change my perspective, how much it would make me learn about myself, my history, my culture, and my family. After spending 8 months in the motherland I can definitely say I have become a better version of myself. Before I began my journey with Birthright, I was so careless with regards to anything related to my cultural heritage. I never asked myself what it meant to be an Armenian. And I honestly did not care.
Following my experience I started to question what being an Armenian was. I came to realise that being Armenian is not a percentage (‘’His mum is Italian and Dad is Armenian, for example) as I once thought. Being Armenian is not just speaking the language and lobbying the local Turkish consulate on April 24. Being Armenian is taking time to understand the culture, history and language. It is about living in the homeland, becoming embedded in the daily lives of locals. It is about working with them, eating dolma with grandparents, getting lost in the streets of Yerevan, and eventually spending so much time in Yerevan that you are giving locals directions! But most of all it is about learning about the CURRENT struggles of our people and directly doing something about it.
During the course of my time as a Birthright Armenia volunteer, I was able to work with five different Non-Government Organisations that are involved in very different areas of work. This showed me five different social issues in Armenia, Human Rights, socio-economically disadvantage in villages, Domestic Violence, Public Health, and War. It was as if a blindfold had been lifted off my eyes and I could see the truth. Everything I once thought about Armenia and myself (the mountains, the churches and the patriots) was wiped away and this was the real thing. Everything unromanticised. I saw the struggle. I saw beauty in the struggle. I saw people surviving, and helping each other to survive every day. I saw opportunities for progress. And I saw progress taking place every day through the work I was apart of.
Now, at the end of my 8-month adventure in my homeland, I can look back at an unforgettable and transformational experience. I have grown and learnt so much about myself, my country and all the wonderful people I met here. Being a volunteer takes lots of patience, courage and understanding. And I am so grateful to have become part of such an amazing group of unique and incredible people that are contributing so much to our Motherland (Հայրենիք).
It is so encouraging to see that through this one element of ‘Armenianess’ that we have, no matter where we are from – Sydney, Los Angeles, Montreal, Bona Sires, Paris, or Moscow…there is always that one thing that unites us. And as long as we have that we are connected, we are together and we are strong.
I can say for certain that I have made lifelong friends from different corners of the world and become part of the Global Armenian network. Words cannot explain how shattered I am to be leaving it all behind, but I can say for sure it was the first of many trips to come.
Till next time...