San Rafael, California
Coming in to my internship at Society Without Violence NGO, I didn’t know what to expect. I arrived for a meeting on the first day with Ruzanna, the Jobsite Coordinator from Birthright Armenia, both nervous and excited about the four months ahead.
I sat down with a couple members of the staff and their warm smiles immediately made me feel welcome. They explained to me the pillars of the organization and some of the projects they’re currently seeing out. I learned about the large research project they were completing on LGBTI rights in Armenia as well as the gender equality curriculum that they’re implementing in the high schools of Armenia this year. I was thoroughly impressed. Their worked really seemed needed in Armenia and I couldn’t wait to learn more.
As the weeks progressed, I helped with small projects here and there, mostly proofreading translated documents in English and reformatting other documents. I also spent a lot of time reading publications from their websites of research projects from years past. These readings sparked a lot of questions in me that I would often ask staff members about: What do you think is the cause of gender inequality in Armenia? Do you think that the situation will change in 5 years? 10 years? What makes you a feminist? By asking these questions, I was able to get a better understanding of the reality of gender inequality in Armenia.
As time progressed, I gained more responsibility at SWV. After a few weeks, I began to teach an English course. The Business English Course for Women was an 8 week long intensive language course. There were 5 students in total, all women ages 35 to 55 who were learning basic English, business etiquette, and workplace related writing and conversation skills. The course was taught three times per week for 90 minutes per class. Teaching this course was an absolutely rewarding experience. Of my five students, three were teachers, one a school principal, and one a businesswoman. They are all mothers and they are all inspirational. My students would often discuss how they were taking the course for their children, to show them that you can learn at any age and to be able to help them with their English homework. I often felt that I was the only one doing the learning in this course, as my students taught me so much about what it means to be a strong woman.
Some other activities I got to take part in included attending domestic violence court hearings, observing teacher trainings for the gender equality curriculum training, and attending a leadership training in Tsaghgadzor as a representative of the organization.
Being an intern at Society Without Violence NGO has been a tremendously rewarding experience and one of the highlights of my time in Armenia. With the help of Birthright and their internships that are catered specifically to the needs of each volunteer, I was able to have an incredibly gratifying internship. I have learned so much from the staff and the work that they do and I hope to return to this organization as either an intern or an employee in future years.