“Hametseq” (come in), says Aladdin Shaker to his Armenian guests, priding himself with his progress in learning Armenian. Egyptian by descent, he moved to Armenia for love first, then decided to volunteer, pursue his PhD at Yerevan State University, secure a job, and live here.
When love bonded Aladdin to his wife, Syuzanna, who is Armenia-born, these two descendants of ancient civilizations made a promise to discover each other’s country of origin. For this exact reason, Aladdin applied to the Armenian Volunteer Corps upon his arrival in Armenia. No other program would give him the fully customized and immersive experience he was seeking. After nine months of volunteering, Aladdin became so attracted and attached to Armenia that he decided to build his and his family’s future here. “I feel that this is where we belong,” he says. Aladdin is an ABC — an Armenian By Choice*.
Aladdin’s background is in law, human rights, and NGO management. So, AVC customized volunteering opportunities for him at several NGOs, including Armenian Progressive Youth, Cultural Center of the East, and Bridge of Hope. He contributed his NGO management and human rights skills to these NGOs, mainly working on management policies and women empowerment. Additionally, he conducted several teaching activities at Bridge of Hope for children and youth with disabilities.
During his service, while Aladdin made every effort to discover the country of his beloved wife, he noticed there was little information about Armenia in Arabic. He then decided to uncover Armenia’s sights, sounds, and flavors not only for himself but also for the whole Arab world. He started to chronicle his many trips across Armenia, and share these treasures with Arab speaking audiences through his newly launched YouTube channel. In the future, he plans to design promotional material about Armenia in English and Russian too, ultimately aiming to boost the country’s tourism.
“The fact that Armenia is a developing country may be a disadvantage for many. For me it’s quite the opposite. It’s a small country with hundreds of opportunities. Any good initiative can be implemented for the benefit of the country and for yourself.” Diligently working on his Armenian, Aladdin is sure he will soon find a permanent job in Armenia and ensure his family’s welfare.
*The ABCs of AVC
When AVC launched its volunteering opportunities in 2000, it opened the country’s doors to Armenians and non-Armenians alike. As the years passed, we saw the number of non-Armenian volunteers grow. Many fell passionately in love with the people, the culture, their work, and their experiences. For these volunteers, the majority, we coined the term the ABCs (Armenians By Choice) of AVC. While these volunteers very much have their own identity, their experience and work in Armenia makes them full-fledged Ambassadors of AVC and certainly the Republic of Armenia.
By Lusine Minasyan, Armenian Volunteer Corps