From Armenia to Europe: A Volunteer’s Journey
Happily back in Yerevan after almost two weeks of traveling, I never imagined volunteering with AVC would take me so many places. Armenia is beyond beautiful, and I’ve been able to see so much of the country, from the mountains and forests in the north to some of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen in the south. What was most surprising, though, was when volunteering with AVC gave me opportunities to travel beyond Armenia as well.
Leaving Yerevan, I started with an overnight flight and five days in Warsaw for a training of teachers (ToT) event for the American Councils. The Future Leaders Exchange Program they coordinate provides an opportunity for high school-age students from dozens of different countries to live with a host family and study in the US for a year. Through AVC I’m privileged to get the chance to teach an orientation session in Armenia this summer for FLEX students before they start their year abroad, so the five days in Warsaw prepared teachers from all over for their orientations in their respective countries. Some of us were able to go into the city center and see plenty of the old town and newer area of Warsaw as well – it was my first time in Warsaw, and it was a beautiful city to be able to see.
Representing Armenian Civil Society
After another overnight flight, I was back in Yerevan for just under 24 hours – just enough time for me to get some rest and swap out clothes for my trip to Vienna, this time for my placement with the Path of Law NGO. I’ve been working with Path of Law for over five months now – it’s the first placement I had in Armenia – and I’ve found the work I’m doing with them, writing, editing, and research, more meaningful than I ever imagined. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, through their Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, holds semi-regular conferences (called Supplementary Human Dimension meetings) focused on specific issues, with OSCE member delegates as well as civil society groups from OSCE member states in attendance.
With the topic of this meeting on Torture and Other Grave Breaches of International Humanitarian Law and Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law, I was one of several representatives from Armenian Civil Society groups present. I attended each of the three general sessions representing Path of Law, and gave a statement based on some of the research and work I have been doing before the assembly at the third session; I also had the opportunity to attend side sessions on a number of different topics, as well as speak with representatives of various OSCE member states with other representatives of Armenian civil society.
I had the chance to see plenty of Vienna as well, this time for work – the conference was held in the Hofburg, and I was able to visit the Museum Quarter and Innere Stadt just walking to and from the conference.
AVC: A Perfect Way to Learn, Volunteer and Grow in Armenia
Finally, back in Yerevan, I’m more grateful than ever to be here. Volunteering with AVC has been incredible at every stage, the excursions, forums, havaks, and language classes. Each is a perfect way to learn about Armenia, see more of it, and meet lots of people. The placement opportunities are phenomenal – the staff at AVC work hard to make sure everyone finds the best possible placements for them to do their best work, and there are options for everyone. AVC has been the perfect experience and has opened the door to opportunities both in and out of Armenia; it’s the kind of organization that, even though I’m glad I was to see parts of Europe I’ve never seen before, makes me excited to be a part of it and thrilled to be back and continue my work in Armenia.
Written by Alex Faurot, AVC volunteer
Alex Faurot is from the United States. He joined AVC’s Junior Corps in November 2022 and will volunteer through July 2023. His placements include Path of Law, where his work has focused on researching, writing, and editing case submissions for the European Court of Human Rights, the Tourism Committee, where he is writing and editing content for tourist maps and social media posts, and the Nagorno-Karabakh Representative’s Office, where he edited the English-language translation of the Artsakh Review journal.