Since her first visit in 1994, Tsoleen Sarian dreamt of moving to Armenia. Twenty-seven years later, she made that dream a reality when she boarded a plane from Boston to Yerevan in the fall of 2021 to volunteer with the Armenian Volunteer Corps. She noticed each time she landed, she felt more at home. But this trip, her third, would be different as it was not a vacation, rather it was a one way flight towards repatriation.
Tsoleen, an accomplished leader who is in her early 40s with a Master’s in Nonprofit Management, wanted to move to Armenia as she held close to her heart this feeling of hope and pride for a better Armenia. After the 44-day war in Artsakh, she knew she could serve as a bridge between the Diaspora and Armenia. In the U.S. Tsoleen worked in community development for 21 years, most recently as the Executive Director of Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives. She also has an extensive background working on political campaigns on the local, state and federal levels. All this taught her the importance of public support and building consensus, skills she wanted to share with Armenia.
So in 2021, determined to repatriate to Armenia, she applied to volunteer with AVC as a much-needed stepping stone to help her build her new life in Armenia. As a volunteer, Tsoleen was matched with the Women’s Fund Armenia, the Center for Rights Development NGO, and Artsakh’s Permanent Representative’s Office. At these organizations, Tsoleen used her experience to develop policies and build strategies and road maps so that each organization could better market themselves to the Armenian diaspora in the US.
When asked what she felt was her greatest impact, Tsoleen says “my goal is to serve as a bridge and amplify the initiatives that are happening in the various NGOs and local community levels that usually do not reach our diaspora. There is significant, positive work happening right now that we should be aware of and encourage.” She continues telling us about the “gratification I felt seeing the impact of my work, especially helping fund a grant program for teen girls in the villages of Armenia”, an area that Tsoleen strongly feels requires further development, “so these girls fulfill their potential and grow up with self confidence and opportunity.”
Shortly after completing her volunteer service, Tsoleen accepted a job offer from the Armenia Tree Project. In addition to her role leading their PR efforts, she has become AVC and Birthright’s main point of contact for future volunteer placements, ensuring newly arrived volunteers placed at ATP have a truly rewarding and fulfilling experience. She joins the AVC repat alumni network of professionals living and working in Armenia which is now 86 people strong.
This can be your story too. Tsoleen tells us, “the more you give, the more active you are, the more people you meet, the richer your experience will be.” Tsoleen credits her great experience to her flexible attitude. She was open to every initiative, every suggestion, and every opportunity. With intention, she shares the vibrant people, positive experiences, wonders of Armenia in her photos, on her social media pages, “Postcards from Armenia” to cultivate ideas to attract visits, repatriation to Armenia.
By Merry Artinian, Armenian Volunteer Corps