We at AVC take pride in connecting passionate volunteers with opportunities to contribute to Armenia’s progress; we also love sharing their stories with you. Today, let us introduce you to the inspiring journey of Mercedes Aline Arslanian–or simply Aline, as she prefers.
Aline’s Early Connection to Armenian Heritage
Born in Argentina, Aline’s journey with her Armenian heritage began early on: her great-grandparents had endured the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide, and this had a profound impact on Aline. Her grandfather, deeply affected by the family’s history, became actively involved in establishing a strong and united local Armenian community in Buenos Aires. He played a pivotal role in the establishment and development of Armenian schools and centers that served as focal points for Armenians to connect, share their experiences, and preserve their culture.
This profound legacy followed Aline when her family relocated to Los Angeles when she was 10 years old. In LA, she pursued her education at an Armenian school, continuing to immerse herself in the language, culture, and history of her ancestors. This strong foundation laid the groundwork for her college years, during which her commitment to her heritage became even more evident. At the University of Southern California (USC), Aline not only became an active member of the Armenian Students’ Association but also rose to the prestigious role of its president.
This leadership position further allowed her to champion Armenian culture and identity, paving her path toward a commitment to give back to her community and homeland. Aline’s dedication to the Armenian cause took her on a student volunteer trip to Armenia, where she helped renovate a kindergarten.
Yet, it was the unsettling times of 2020 and Azerbaijan’s large-scale attack on Armenia in September 2022 that reignited Aline’s fervor for active contribution. “For Armenia to have a strong and peaceful future, it starts with each one of us taking direct action today,” she explains. This resolve drove her to embrace the role of a remote English teacher for students in remote and border villages through the Hidden Road Initiative (HRI), an initiative she deeply cherishes.
The Hidden Road Initiative: Making a Difference
Pioneered by a group of Armenian students in 2011, HRI focuses on uplifting remote villages in Armenia. Nanor Balabanian, the organization’s founder (and Birthright Armenia Alumni – Philanthropist/Give Back Service Award winner, 2022), saw the potential in providing educational opportunities, leadership training, and development projects to these villages. From ensuring a 100% college completion rate among their scholarship recipients to advocating for young women in leadership, HRI has made impressive strides in its mission.
“Getting to know the incredible students at HRI personally has been life-changing and has further motivated me to continue on this path,” Aline explains. Besides being a remote English teacher to three students, she continues to assist HRI’s leadership with various projects and initiatives that help advance its mission. Recently, she even joined the organization’s board.
Prior to joining AVC, Aline notes that she didn’t really have a deep, personal connection to Armenia. Despite volunteering through AVC for just one short month, she gained a connection to modern day Armenia, building her own personal network to the people and the country. Looking ahead, Aline envisions herself taking on even more significant roles in shaping Armenia’s future. Her charisma, dedication, and unwavering commitment to her heritage have set her on a trajectory to become an even more influential advocate for Armenia.
Aline’s commitment to volunteerism is reflected in her actions.”Being able to have a positive impact on the lives of others and to help ensure the future of our people and our homeland is bright is important for me and fulfilling,” she says. Her diverse professional background, ranging from managing guest experiences at one of the largest retailers in the United States to developing human resources expertise, is a testament to her adaptability and drive.
As she spent her summer with us, diving deep into the heart of Armenia’s border villages and working alongside the resilient and vibrant local communities, Aline’s journey symbolizes hope and proactive involvement. She serves as a beacon for all potential AVC participants, proving that when passion meets purpose, the impact can be profound.
For all of you interested in Armenia, in volunteering, and in making a difference – Aline’s story stands as an invitation. Come be a part of this incredible journey and contribute to a brighter future for our homeland.