Natalie Nevart Griffith
(United Kingdom, October 2014)
AVC Professional Corps
My mother is Armenian from Iran and I always wanted to visit the country so I started learning the language 3 years ago at the Armenian Institute in London. Through this course I met other students who told me about a volunteer organisation which allows you to live with an Armenian family and work in the country as well as go on excursions at weekends, take language classes and take part in forums. This seemed like the ideal experience to be fully immersed in the language and culture so I didn’t hesitate to sign up! I was kept extremely busy with 3 work placements…
The first was at Zangak Publishers who are a modern publisher of many titles ranging from children’s fiction to English language textbooks which I worked on from an editorial and production perspective. I met with a series author of English language materials and discussed ways to improve the content. I also attended a lecture at Yerevan State University by a well-known American author of teenage fiction on creative writing and participated in a debate. I also visited a printing press which was onsite and was amazed to find women binding books individually by hand.
The second placement was with the Armenian Literature Foundation which is run by a small and very talented team whose aim is to promote Armenian literature internationally. I helped prepare their catalogue for the Frankfurt Book fair and proofread a lot of their English content. I was invited to a book event hosted by the French Embassy for the translation of a French novel which was also very interesting.
My third placement was at Ayb Educational Foundation which is a new private High school on the outskirts of Yerevan city centre. I was very impressed with the modern architecture and spacious grounds and the teaching staff are excellent. I took part in some English and French classes and the students were a real pleasure and so curious to learn about London and the UK. The British accent went down very well too!
As well as volunteering I had the chance to go on some excursions to ancient churches, pick grapes at a vineyard with local workers and travel to Nagorno-Karabakh which was a real highlight for me. I also took language classes and attended forums on different aspects of Armenian culture and economy. All-in-all this was a truly fulfilling, eye-opening and unforgettable experience. I was overwhelmed by the warmth and generosity of the people and fascinated in their complex history.
Finally, I can’t thank the team at AVC enough for allowing me to have this wonderful experience and I have since returned this year with my Mum and aim to return again with both my parents in 2016!