Two Torontonians Making a Difference in Armenia

With its rich history and vibrant culture, Armenia has always held a special place in the hearts of its diaspora. For Rosa Safarian and Goharik Mirzaian, two dedicated individuals and friends from Toronto, this connection to Armenia went beyond just being tourists. They decided to embark on a unique journey of volunteerism with the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC), driven by a deep desire to give back to the homeland that had always tugged at their hearts.

 

Rosa Safarian: Dedication to Education

 

Rosa Safarian, a compassionate soul with a strong connection to Armenia, had visited the country as a tourist several times. However, her last visit marked a significant turning point in her life. She made a heartfelt decision that her next trip would be as a volunteer, driven by a desire to make a meaningful impact, no matter how small. Her journey led her to the Armenian Volunteer Corps, an institution known for its structured and organized approach to volunteering.

Rosa joined AVC’s Professional Corps for a month starting in mid-July. Her placements included placements at Alliance Française and the European Institute of Armenia in Yerevan and Educational Bridge in Vanadzor. In Vanadzor, Armenia’s third-largest city, she found her true calling. Working with professional teachers and motivated students, Rosa’s commitment to education soared. She poured her heart into her work, teaching French, knowing that her skills could significantly impact the regions outside Yerevan. She decided to extend her stay in Vanadzor to ensure that the fruits of her labor would be tangible and long-lasting.

One of the highlights of Rosa’s experience was her involvement with NorArar NGO, a well-established organization focused on curriculum development. She was recommended to join their team, which added depth to her mission of improving education in Armenia. Through her dedication and hard work, she not only contributed to the community but also gained invaluable insights into the Armenian educational system and the work culture of teachers in the country. She plans to return in 2024 with a larger focus on developing curriculum and supporting French language teachers.

When asked about advice for future volunteers, Rosa emphasized the importance of Armenian specialists from the diaspora coming to Armenia to contribute to their country and people. Her journey, driven by a desire to help, ultimately enriched her own life, offering a unique perspective on Armenia’s educational landscape and the warmth of its people.

After a seamless application process, Rosa recommended AVC to her friend, Goharik Mirzaian. She applied not too long thereafter and joined AVC’s Senior Corps in early September. 

 

Goharik Mirzaian: Engineering for Armenia’s Future

 

Goharik Mirzaian, a seasoned electronics engineer from Canada, joined AVC’s Senior Corps for a one-month assignment.

Goharik’s extensive experience in electronics engineering made her a valuable asset to Armenia’s growing technical sector.

During her volunteer service, Goharik worked with three organizations: AIP Scientific, Arides, and YEA Engineering. At AIP, a company specializing in organic implants, Goharik played a crucial role in helping them prepare to apply for ISO certifications, bringing her expertise to an area that had previously lacked such efforts. Her next placement, at Arides, initially posed challenges; however, Goharik’s determination prevailed, and she eventually provided a design for breathalyzers that could benefit the company in the future. 

Goharik’s final placement was at YEA Engineering, where she collaborated with their lead designer to develop best practices templates. These templates aimed to streamline project categorization, resource availability, and the design and production phases of future products. She was impressed with YEA Engineering’s organization and responsiveness, making her time there particularly enjoyable.

As a Senior volunteer, Goharik actively participated in excursions and community events and relished her experience of living with a host family. And even though her time in Armenia coincided with the challenging period of the Artsakh conflict, Goharik remained grateful. “I am very thankful for the work AVC does and optimistic about the future of Armenia because of it,” she said. 

Goharik’s dedication to Armenia extends beyond her initial assignment, as she plans to return and work on projects aimed at improving high schools in Armenia’s regions. Her passion for contributing to Armenia’s technological advancement aligns perfectly with the country’s aspirations to compete with Western organizations in developing state-of-the-art electronic products.

Rosa and Goharik’s stories exemplify the power of volunteerism and the impact it can have on individuals and communities. They have become beacons of hope and inspiration through their dedication to Armenia and its people. Their journeys with AVC serve as a reminder that anyone, regardless of age or background, can make a positive difference in the world. 

Rosa’s advice to fellow Diasporan Armenians is simple: “Come to Armenia and do something for your country and your people,” she says. Rosa’s and Goharik’s stories remind us that the true beauty of volunteering lies not only in what you give but also in what you gain along the way.

Rosa Safarian is pictured on the right while Goharik Mirzaian on the left.

This article was published in collaboration with Torontohye newspaper. It is featured in Torontohye’s Jan. 2024 print edition.

December 26, 2023