Embarking on a journey to make a meaningful impact in the world of human rights and social justice is a powerful endeavor. Luckily, Armenia offers numerous volunteer and internship opportunities for passionate individuals looking to do just that. Through the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC), participants work with renowned institutions like the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, Women’s Resource Center, Helsinki Association for Human Rights NGO, and may others. Let’s explore some of our volunteer stories, experiences, and the transformative organizations they’ve been a part of, showcasing the power of collective action in shaping Armenia’s human rights landscape.
Path of Law NGO: Safeguarding Human Rights and Promoting Legal Culture in Artsakh
Path of Law NGO, founded in 2019, is a non-profit organization committed to safeguarding human rights and promoting legal culture in Armenia and Artsakh. They conduct extensive monitoring, research, and advocacy work to protect fundamental rights and eliminate barriers to their realization.
Through partnerships with public administrative bodies, local self-government entities, and international organizations, Path of Law plays a crucial role in advocating for human rights and combating corruption. Their reports and assessments have garnered recognition from esteemed institutions like the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission.
In addition to their advocacy work, Path of Law provides legal advice to socially vulnerable individuals. By reaching out to Path of Law, citizens can exercise their right to be informed and receive answers and solutions to their legal questions.
Alex Faurot (United States, 2022-23) joined AVC’s Junior Corps in November 2022 and will volunteer through July 2023. “Working with Path of Law has been profound. I was able to contribute to protecting human rights and promoting legal culture in Armenia and Artsakh. The organization’s dedication and collaboration with international bodies have truly inspired me,” Alex explains.
Alex had the privilege of representing the Path of Law NGO at a conference organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). With a primary focus on grave breaches of international humanitarian law and violations of human rights, the conference provided a platform for Alex to articulate the concerns of Armenian civil society. “I had the honor of attending all three general sessions as a representative of Path of Law, where I delivered a statement based on extensive research and the work I have been conducting prior to the assembly,” Alex elaborated. “Moreover, I had the invaluable opportunity to participate in various side sessions covering a wide range of topics. During these sessions, I engaged in meaningful conversations with representatives from diverse OSCE member states, alongside other delegates from Armenian civil society.”
The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute (AGMI): Commemorating History, Inspiring Reflection
The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute (AGMI) is a solemn tribute to the victims of the Armenian Genocide, serving as a vital institution that preserves their memory and encourages deep reflection.
Dr. Stacey Vorster (South Africa, 2022), a curator and lecturer with a PhD in Cultural Analysis from the University of Amsterdam, contributed her expertise as a volunteer through AVC. During her two-month involvement, Stacey edited articles, conducted research on the museum’s extensive collection, and delivered a workshop on “object-led” research. She also developed a valuable resource on teaching genocide to children, aiming to bring peace amidst the overwhelming sadness of the museum. As Stacey beautifully expressed, “It’s not my sense that it should be ‘easy’ to remember and memorialize such atrocities but rather that visitors can find a sense of peace in that trauma.”
Just two months after completing her service with the Institute, Stacey was presented with an intriguing opportunity: to be part of a team applying for a research grant from the Science Committee of Armenia’s “Foundation of Remote Laboratories.” This 5-year research project revolves around the crucial topic of Armenian Genocide reparations, focusing on its historical and legal aspects. Excited to contribute to this meaningful endeavor, Stacey is now part of the team.
Through the dedicated efforts of individuals like Stacey and the AGMI’s commitment to preserving history, the institute serves as a powerful reminder to shape a better future through remembrance and understanding.
The Women’s Resource Center of Armenia (WRCA): Empowering Women, Fostering Change
Founded in 2003 by Armenian women from both Armenia and the diaspora, the Women’s Resource Center (WRCA) is a pioneering organization in post-Soviet Armenia, dedicated to empowering young women. WRCA focuses on women’s human rights, reproductive and sexual rights, combating sexual violence, and promoting women’s roles in conflict resolution and peacebuilding in the South Caucasus.
Originally located within the Yerevan State University campus, the center initially served as a drop-in center for female students. In 2006, it relocated to downtown Yerevan, expanding its services to women of all ages, educational backgrounds, sexual orientations, and social statuses.
Amenis Gerin (France, 2022), volunteered at the WRCA and contributed to its advocacy efforts. She provided invaluable support by conducting extensive comparative analysis and developing strategy papers for Armenia’s gender equality and anti-discrimination laws. Her work served as a foundation for the advocacy team’s strategy development.
WRCA creates a safe environment and equips young Armenian women with the necessary resources to develop their personal and professional abilities, actively engaging them in social, political, and cultural processes.
The International Center for Human Development (ICHD): Advancing Societal Engagement and Democratic Values
Founded in March 2000, the International Center for Human Development (ICHD) is a prominent think tank in the region, comprising a team of highly qualified analysts and researchers dedicated to professional excellence and ethics. With their strong academic backgrounds and diverse experiences in public and private sectors, the center actively contributes to shaping political, economic, and social changes.
ICHD’s vision acknowledges the crucial need to engage the public and garner support for ongoing reforms. Recognizing the significance of developing a civil society alongside the state system, ICHD strives to foster democratic values and cultivate an organized society actively advocating for progressive transformations.
Erwan Louërat (France, 2023), an AVC Junior Corps participant, joined ICHD seeking professional experience and a deeper connection with Armenia. Engaging in projects such as monitoring Western media coverage of the Artsakh War and its aftermath, Erwan conducted comprehensive research and analysis, highlighting varying perspectives. He also provided valuable recommendations for an upcoming youth engagement expo organized by ICHD. Through Erwan’s contributions, the ICHD continues to promote informed dialogue and youth involvement in societal development.
Yezidi Centre for Human Rights (YCHR): Empowering the Country’s Largest Ethnic Minority Community
Did you know that Armenia is home to the largest ethnic minority of Yezidis? The Yezidi (or Yazidi) community settled in Armenia in the 19th and early 20th centuries, seeking refuge from religious persecution by the Ottoman Empire and Sunni Kurds. With around 35,000 Yezidis living in Armenia, organizations like The Yezidi Centre for Human Rights (YCHR) safeguard their cultural heritage and rights.
YCHR is a dedicated group of Yezidi human rights defenders working to preserve the identity, language, and culture of national minorities, with a particular focus on the Yezidi community. Their projects aim to promote the participation of the Yezidi community in the social, political, and economic life of the country, guided by the fundamental principles of human rights.
AVC participant Hannah Barnes (United States, 2023) had the opportunity to intern at YCHR earlier this year. Among her other experiences working at the YCHR, Hannah cherished her visit to the village of Ghukasavan, where she joined the Yezidi Xidir Nebî holiday celebrations, immersing herself in Yezidi culture and life.
The Women’s Support Center (WSC): Empowering Women, Advocating for Systemic Change
The Women’s Support Center (WSC) is dedicated to preventing and responding to domestic violence in Armenia. Founded in 2010, the WSC is a non-profit organization with a team of dedicated professionals working tirelessly to create a safe environment for women affected by intimate partner violence. With a focus on ending violence against women, the WSC provides comprehensive support, counseling, and educational resources to empower survivors and challenge societal norms.
As a proud member of the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Women, the WSC actively advocates for systemic change, challenging gender inequality and promoting women’s rights in Armenian society. AVC Junior Corps participant Megan Swoger (United States, 2023) contributed to the WSC by researching and drafting a policy brief inspired by Estonia’s successful model of combating domestic violence. Her work aims to support WSC’s advocacy campaigns and foster new legislation to protect survivors.
Together, WSC and its partners strive to build a community culture that has zero tolerance for family violence, where healthy relationships and mutual respect prevail. Join the movement toward a brighter future, where women can live free from violence and discrimination.
Helsinki Association for Human Rights: Defending Human Dignity in Armenia
Meet the Helsinki Association for Human Rights (HAHR), an influential NGO in Armenia dedicated to safeguarding human rights and fundamental freedoms. Founded in 1997 by a group of passionate activists, HAHR operates independently of any political, religious, or national affiliation. Their mission? To protect the rights of individuals, champion freedom of expression, religion, and peaceful assembly, and ensure accountability in institutions like courts, prisons, psychiatric facilities, and the military.
With an unwavering commitment to upholding international human rights treaties, HAHR monitors Armenia’s compliance and provides free legal advice to the public. Collaborating with esteemed national and international organizations and diplomatic missions, HAHR has successfully implemented numerous projects to advance human rights and democracy.
AVC participant Elisa Muchar (Austria, 2021) had the incredible opportunity to intern at HAHR, where she contributed to vital research on non-combat military deaths and torture cases. She also participated in court monitoring and assisted in translation revisions, amplifying the organization’s impact. Elisa will be returning to AVC for a second round of volunteering at the end of August 2023, eager to contribute further.
Join the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) today and be a catalyst for positive change in human rights. Step forward to fight for justice, equality, and compassion in Armenia. Apply now and immerse yourself in rewarding opportunities to make a difference. Let’s create a future where human rights are honored, voices are heard, and every individual thrives. Be the change you wish to see in the world.