Continuing the Story: Navigating Armenia Through AVC

Read the first part of Brian Kamajian’s story here

 

“AVC is the quintessential organization for someone seeking to get involved in Armenia. They get that you want to give, and right now. They have answers to your questions, connect you with local organizations who need your skills, find you a family to live with, and even take you there.”

After sending my resume to AVC, they sent me a list of potential matching organizations. When I saw the American University of Armenia listed, I said, “I have to choose AUA, my wife and I helped open it 32 years ago.” That’s another story, but to summarize, we lived here for a year after the earthquake when I ran the AGBU Yerevan office, and we were both very involved in getting AUA off the ground. I thought I might help with English materials or training, but when the Open Education department saw my resume, they suggested I conduct professional development seminars around the country. I was floored, but I did have 30 years in the IT industry, 15 as a manager. They also told me I needed to do these in Armenian. Yikes.

 

Preparing for the Journey: Seminar Planning from Afar

 

I was still in Chicago. So, I began outlining possible seminar material and frantically cramming in Armenian. I had been studying seriously for almost three years, but I certainly wasn’t ready to conduct professional seminars in the language. We narrowed the topic to ‘Leadership and Management,’ and I created an hour of material based on my experience and education. The AUA team helped translate it, and we developed a slide deck after I arrived.

A few Yerevan-based software companies were also possible volunteer sites, so I conducted a few seminars on ‘IT Change Management’ and the ‘Leadership’ seminar at two companies, each with about 40 employees. I then hit the road and presented in 6 cities all around Armenia. These seminars and trips were a complete thrill for me. To meet forward-thinking Hayasdantsis who wanted to expand their horizons with Western business training. There were usually 30-45 people, mostly women, at each. Most spoke English well. But in Ijevan, most participants had limited English, so I could put my many hours of Armenian language study to use and did the seminar in Armenian. And the roads, the mountains! The town centers. I loved it.

Two years earlier, I started my engagement with Armenia after losing my job during the pandemic. I taught English to a group of social workers in the town of Berd, on the northeastern border, where our Diocese FAR was supporting a family services center. This is about an hour from Ijevan, so I coordinated my trip with that seminar and visited Berd. To say that I got a warm welcome would be a gross understatement. I was like a returning son. In 10 months of English lessons, we became close friends. There, I did art therapy with young children from distressed families, had a discussion session with the youth group teenagers, and then we had a great dinner with traditional dancing.

 

Embracing Ancillary Activities: Immersion with AVC

 

I also loved all the ancillary activities the AVC provides, from excursions to smaller volunteer activities, like local clean-ups or helping at an event. You will have plenty of things to do or people to meet when you come. You’re constantly interacting with volunteers and participants. I especially loved meeting and talking to the young people here for Birthright Armenia. It’s a bit of a reflection of me and my wife 32 years ago.

Written by Brian Kamajian, AVC volunteer

Brian Kamajian is a part-time IT consultant from Chicago with 30 years in the industry, 15 as a manager. 32 years ago he lived in Armenia with his wife Meg and managed the AGBU office for the year of 1991. They helped open the American University of Armenia, among other post-earthquake projects. For his return visit, he’s volunteering for the AUA, who have asked him to deliver Leadership and Management seminars in their Open Education program across many regions in Armenia. He’s also holding seminars at software companies on topics such as Leadership and Change Management. He’s also been teaching English remotely in Armenia for the past 2 years and is now meeting his students face-to-face and having a great time.

March 20, 2024