From Cultural Reawakening to Activism

Nyiri Karakas, a Canadian-Armenian with a background in political science, public policy, and acting, embarked on a transformative journey to Armenia, fueled by a deep desire to connect with her Armenian roots and contribute to the country’s future.

“The [2020 Artsakh] War and the pandemic were catalysts for my Armenian spirit, awakening a part of me that yearned to connect with my heritage and make a difference,” Nyiri reflects. Her engagement in Armenia spanned several impactful projects in early 2024 during her three weeks with AVC’s Professional Corps. At the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), she participated in a humanitarian project distributing essential supplies, helping her understand the immediate needs of those forcibly displaced. Seeing the gratitude in the eyes of those she helped was a humbling reminder of the difference people can make through concerted efforts.

Her involvement with the Resource Center for Women’s Empowerment in Hrazdan further showcased her commitment to supporting vulnerable groups. Nyiri assisted in organizing the center’s filing system, distributing aid, and interacting with refugees, offering not just logistical support but also a listening ear. She also contributed to the Transparent Armenian Charitable Foundation and the Small Theater, where she helped with the distribution of gifts and food and assisted in classes for children. These experiences, though varied, were united by a common theme: the power of community and the impact of grassroots initiatives.

Beyond her volunteer activities in Armenia, Nyiri has initiated ‘Armenian Friends in Van‘, a collective aimed at uniting Armenian youth in Vancouver, fostering a sense of community and activism. “This initiative began as an idea to bring together Armenian youth in Vancouver, transcending divisions and political factions, with the goal of sharing our culture and fostering connections among us. I yearned for a sense of Armenian community, so I set out to create what I had envisioned—a first of its kind in this area,” she explains.

Nyiri’s time in Armenia was transformative, not just in terms of the contributions she made but in her personal growth and connection to her Armenian identity: “My aim was not just to help but to serve as an example to others back in Vancouver. My goal was to forge new ideas on how we, the Vancouver community and the ‘Armenian Friends in Van’ collective, can enhance our support for Armenia.”

On March 10, Nyiri and the ‘Armenian Friends in Van’ will organize a fundraising event in Vancouver for International Women’s Day to raise money for her jobsite organization, the Women’s Empowerment NGO in Hrazdan. Nyiri shares that, “my trip to Armenia had a unifying thread, and that was the incredible women I met who are working for the advancement of the country in the fields of development and care-based work. The women I met at the Resource Centre particularly changed my life, because I saw the immense heart and commitment they have to doing good, and to helping. One of the displaced women told me, “may you always have a lot so you can help”. I’ve made a commitment to do just that, for as long as I am able”.

 

Discover, teach, and immerse through volunteer travel. Join AVC for a unique experience in Armenia, where you can make an impact and embrace the country’s rich offerings.

AVC welcomes individuals of all backgrounds. Commitments start at two weeks (Pro/Senior Corps) and one month (Junior Corps), up to one year. Minimum age requirement: 21. If you’re ethnically Armenian and aged 21-32, visit Birthright Armenia. AVC also welcomes participants of Armenian descent aged 32+. Apply now for a life-changing trip!

February 29, 2024