Last year, my (not-Armenian) husband and I went to Armenia for three weeks as tourists.  We took day trips near (Garni/Geghard) and far (Sanahin/Haghpat) and followed maps and guidebooks around Yerevan.  We connected with old friends and made new ones.  It was a wonderful time, but merely an hors d’oeuvre before the delicious entrée and dessert to come.
As for so many before us, the journey whet our appetites to return, not just to see more, but to do more – to be involved and make a contribution beyond our annual check-writing.
So, we returned as volunteers, through the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC).  My husband extended his passion for paleontology into archaeology by working at the Karmir Blur dig site and I used my planning and editing skills at the American University of Armenia Acopian Center for the Environment.  Our feedback told us that we each made valuable contributions, confirming our primary reason for being there.
But our work took us far beyond finding a femur or adding a comma to a prepositional phrase.  We learned, as much as you can in two months, to live as Yerevantsis.  We got to know locals, had good and bad taxi experiences, walked, watched, talked and listened.  Volunteering, i.e., working in Armenia, gave us a depth of experience that tourism did not – could not.
We now feel connected in a very special way and that connection has lassoed us into a return volunteer trip next year – and for as many years as our septuagenarian bodies and minds will allow.  That’s one of the great things about Armenia: Respect for age and the easy mix of old and young.  So volunteer – in your twenties or seventies, or any age.  You’ll be welcomed and rewarded!
Linda Shahinian
AVC Volunteer, 2015


November 9, 2015