I arrived in Yerevan in October of 2023 broken, exhausted, and filled with anxiety to the brim. The ethnical cleansing in Artsakh, followed by the first signs of war in Lebanon were more than enough to drive me to the edge. Fast forward to three months later, I left Yerevan in a state of bliss I had never experienced before. To say that AVC changed my life would be a massive understatement.
Embracing the Journey
Coming to Yerevan, my only goal was to help as many people as I could. Despite arriving a few weeks sooner than anticipated, AVC’s angels (who put Charlie’s to shame), spared no effort in finding me suitable placements. A few short days later, my AVC journey began. From spending time with a diverse group of children at Arvestaran and helping its incredible founder, Hasmik, with marketing, business plans, and strategy, to transcribing and translating testimonies for the Center of Truth and Justice, working closely with the power duo Lilit and Sharmagh, to sourcing supplies for the Nork Elderly Home, and supporting the selfless work of Armine, the founder of Traveling Doctors, sleep was often optional, and yet, not once did I find myself low on energy or motivation.
The impact of this experience reached all the way back to my country of residence, Italy. My beautiful former colleagues at Sky Italia, who, without the slightest hesitation, had jumped to fill the void I had left when taking that last-minute flight to Yerevan, went above and beyond by raising funds to donate to an Armenian charity of my choice as a farewell gift and in support of my volunteer work. I chose Arvestaran to receive the donation; the money was used to support a team member from Artsakh and cover the costs of minor renovations at the center. Not only did my experience with AVC introduce me to new people that I will forever treasure, but it also brought me closer to people I already knew and taught me to value them even more.
They say there’s a silver lining in every situation. As tough as the lessons were in 2023, the value in them was that much greater. In the short span of three months, the walls I had so meticulously built around my heart over the course of many years had been broken down. I opened up to people and experiences, and allowed myself to be vulnerable, to laugh, to love, to be sad, to be happy, but most importantly, to fully experience and enjoy every moment. I made the conscious effort to be present in and appreciate every encounter. The biggest achievement for me was not taking anything for granted. God had blessed me with a second opportunity to volunteer in my homeland, and I made the most of it.
Gratitude and Growth
I often pondered on whether this work was truly out of pure altruism, or a self-serving scheme to heal my own guilt of having lived in a comfortable apartment, thousands of miles away, whilst my compatriots starved and were brutally murdered and displaced. I don’t have the answer, but by the end of those three months, I no longer felt exhausted, broken, or anxious. Whether I was able to make a difference or not, or to help even one person or not, I cannot say. What I can certainly speak of, however, is the impact every single person that I met had on me. From the team of superstars at AVC, Birthright, and the Hovnanian Foundation who stopped at nothing to support me and became lifelong friends, to the wonderful organizations who volunteered to take me in and allowed me to contribute ever so slightly in their incredible work, to my selfless fellow volunteers whose dedication and talents put me to shame, and every person I came across along the way, AVC was my own form of the Japanese art of Kintsugi:
I came as shattered as a ceramic jar thrown to the ground, I left with every piece of me cherished and put together with the golden essence of humans and experiences, etched to my core, forevermore.
Linda Haddad is a Project Management expert with over 15 years of international experience working for multinational companies across various regions and industries. Born and raised in Lebanon, she visited Armenia for the first time in 2015, and received her Armenian citizenship in 2016. She had previously volunteered with Birthright in 2017 and spends at least one month per year in Yerevan.
Serving with AVC’s Professional Corps in the last quarter of 2023, Linda split her time volunteering with four different organizations: Arvestaran, The Center for Truth and Justice, Traveling Doctors, and the Nork Elderly Home, carrying out various projects and supporting their noble work.