Navigating Work Culture in Armenia: Insights from Our Volunteers

 

Armenia’s Work Culture – a Hit or Miss?

 

At the heart of the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) is the commitment to connect global volunteers with meaningful and impactful service projects in Armenia. Offering individually customized opportunities amongst 1,400+ partner organizations, AVC ensures that every volunteer finds their perfect fit, contributing their unique skills and passions to Armenia’s development. Our volunteers come from various educational and professional experiences and often find themselves immersed in a work environment and culture that is both enriching and distinct from what they’ve known. Professional Corps volunteers Linda Haddad and Aline Arslanian share their experiences, offering a window into the heart of Armenian work culture and the profound impact of volunteering.

 

Finding the Work-Life Balance 

 

Linda Haddad, a Project Management professional, is originally from Lebanon. She previously volunteered with Birthright Armenia and joined AVC in October 2023, finding comfort in Armenia’s familiar yet dynamic work environment. “I more or less knew what to expect from the work culture, which helped shape my mindset, making my experience much more beneficial. This time around, I was a different person, yet the work culture was very much the same. There was a focus on building relationships, work-life balance, and flexibility,” she reflects.

Armenia’s emphasis on relationships and teamwork left a lasting impression on Linda. “Meetings over coffee or meals, brainstorming at Lake Sevan, or being welcomed into homes…it’s all part of working in Armenia. It feels like every day is a team-building activity.” But she was able to build these relationships while tackling some very important work. 

Linda volunteered with three different organizations, including Arvestaran Creative Development Center, Traveling Doctors, and the Center for Truth and Justice. During her three months of service, Linda created a business plan for an NGO working to create a safe and enabling environment in Armenia with the aim of building a more inclusive and aware society. She supported another organization with content production and marketing and SMM support. She also helped them support an elderly home in Yerevan by organizing a community service project that ultimately secured much-needed supplies. Finally, she supported her final placement in transcribing and translating a video and numerous documents related to the forcible displacement of our Artsakh compatriots, a small drop in the large ocean of work that AVC’s partner is completing as they work to hold Azerbaijan accountable for war crimes. And despite this extremely heavy workload, she still found time to socialize, noting how “the Armenian love for life is unmatched and contagious.” 

Aline Arslanian’s expectations were transformed by her encounters with Armenia’s motivated and adaptable workforce. “I expected challenges but found well-educated individuals eager to learn and excellent communicators. Working here has been a highlight, a daily learning experience.” Her work with the Hidden Road Initiative and teaching English at its Akhpradzor Youth Center was particularly fulfilling, reaching out to nearly 40 students. Additionally, her role during HRI’s camp brought me closer to the youth, creating lasting impacts through mentorship and engagement. 

She appreciates the sociable and collaborative nature of Armenia’s workplaces, which contrasts significantly with her experiences in the United States. “People in Armenia don’t put as much effort into separating their work and home selves. It creates a more collaborative environment.” Communication in Armenian workplaces struck Aline as direct and personal, a refreshing change from her previous experiences. “The directness might seem rude to an outsider, but it’s just being straightforward. And I had to adjust to the preference for phone communication over email.”

Earlier this year, Aline returned to Armenia, drawn back by her previous positive experiences and her deepening connection to the country. This time, she took on an instrumental role in developing a mentorship program on behalf of AVC, designed to empower and guide mentees of a local regional youth NGO in their journey toward personal and professional development. AVC hopes to launch the mentorship program in the coming year. Aline’s volunteering commitments demonstrate her dedication to Armenia’s progress and her desire to establish a permanent life here. 

 

Embracing Challenges and Learning

 

Both volunteers encountered challenges, from navigating bureaucracy to overcoming language barriers. Yet, these challenges presented opportunities for growth and learning. “My main language is English, and improving my Armenian has been both a challenge and a goal,” Aline said, highlighting her journey towards better communication with colleagues and community members.

Linda has continued to make an impact by starting her own consulting company, Yeghsa. Inspired by her grandmother’s legacy, her startup serves organizations by helping them reconnect with their purpose, tell their stories, and optimize their strategies. Her advice to future volunteers resonates with a call for openness and focus: “Don’t stretch yourself too thin. Pick one or two areas and give it your all. Be open to new experiences, don’t be judgmental, and enjoy every minute.”

 

AVC: Facilitating Impactful Connections

 

Through AVC’s comprehensive support, including pre-service orientation, language classes, and cultural excursions, volunteers like Linda and Aline contribute to Armenia’s growth and embark on personal journeys of discovery and connection. Their experiences underscore the importance of flexibility, understanding, and the willingness to embrace a different work culture. Volunteers leave with a deeper appreciation for the nuances of Armenian life, carrying with them lessons and memories that last a lifetime.

In Linda’s words, “Even if you can help one person, that’s more than enough. What may seem a small act of kindness to you could mean the world to someone else.” Aline echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the joy and fulfillment found in service: “The work-life balance here respects my personal time, allowing me to value the work I do and the life I live in Armenia.”

AVC is ready to facilitate a life-changing experience for those looking to make a difference, offering a pathway to meaningful engagement and cultural immersion in Armenia. Through the voices of our volunteers, the spirit of service and community shines brightly, inspiring future participants to leap into a journey of impactful volunteerism and cultural exchange.

June 20, 2024