FAQs... and Their ANSWERS
What is AVC and why should I volunteer with you?
AVC is Armenia’s premier full-service internship and volunteer placement organization. We provide our participants with individually customized internship placements year-round at our 1,200+ partner organizations on the ground, based entirely on their interests and backgrounds. These organizations work in a variety of sectors, including business, education, environment, culture, health, government, NGO, and much more. In addition to customized placement for your professional volunteering, AVC offers full logistical support including airport pickup/drop off, homestay options, Armenian language classes, excursions, weekly forums and gatherings, and much more to ensure that you seamlessly integrate and uniquely discover Armenia.
The organization was established in 2000 and hosted its first volunteers in 2001. In the more than two decades since, thanks in large part to the excellent work done by our 1000+ volunteers and alumni, we have secured great credibility in Armenia and growing credibility abroad. Our whole operation focuses on our tailoring gainful experiences for volunteers coming from all walks of life. We carefully maintain our relationship with each placement site, to maximize opportunities and enjoyment for our volunteers and development possibilities for Armenia as a whole.
How can I learn about the experiences of past volunteers?
We have had 1000+ volunteers serve in Armenia. So many among them have sought to share their positive experiences. The “Blogs” section of this website is your best bet if you are looking to gain insights into the experiences of past AVC volunteers.
Are there other people in the program, and will I interact with them? Where are they from?
Yes, there are volunteers from various parts of the world. You will have a chance to interact with them during your orientation and at optional excursions and gatherings. Young people from the Armenian diaspora volunteering in their ancestral homeland through Birthright Armenia are invited to all the same excursions and gatherings as AVC’s volunteers, so you will have ample opportunity to get to know them, too. The longer you stay in Armenia, the more of a chance you will give yourself to interact with the other interesting people who volunteer with AVC and Birthright Armenia.
Can I volunteer together with my friend/significant other?
Of course! We would be happy to host volunteers who are committed to the development of themselves and of Armenia, regardless of their relationship status. We have hosted many couples and friends serving together in the past.
Why would anyone want to go to Armenia?
Armenia has so much going for it, but we understand that it remains off the beaten path for most tourists, in large part because it spent the majority of the past century behind the “Iron Curtain” as one of the Soviet Union’s republics. Armenia has been independent for 30 years now, though, and it continues to make an exciting transition from the social and economic stagnation of the late USSR to status as a globally connected, developed democracy. Volunteers and other non-Armenians passing through can see this transition for themselves and make meaningful contributions to it.
Armenia has an exceedingly rich culture, since the Armenian people have existed as a group since long before Christ, have developed a unique writing system, have straddled “Europe” and “the Middle East” for centuries, and, in the form of the Armenian Diaspora, can presently be found in practically all corners of the world but routinely give– and travel– back to the Armenian homeland. Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, is, in fact, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, and there you can see cutting-edge technology just a street over from Soviet-era apartment blocks and an entire neighborhood preserving early modern Persian architecture, both of which are a stone’s throw away from art museums housing ancient artifacts acquired nearby. Armenia is so many different things at once, so there is an extremely good chance if you visit the country you will find something you can relate to or even love.
So, let us ask you a question now: Why wouldn’t you want to go to Armenia?
Is Armenia a safe country?
Absolutely! As of this writing, the United States Department of State has Armenia at “Level 1” (least concern) on its four-level caution classification system. It advises travelers only to “exercise normal precautions,” such as avoiding dark areas at night when alone, not flaunting wealth, and being hypervigilant of one’s surroundings when in crowded areas. Petty crimes of opportunity that could happen anywhere, by their very nature, could happen in Armenia, but that should not discourage you from visiting the country. Protests against the government do occur from time to time, and outsiders should keep a distance from them. It is probable that the most dangerous situation you will commonly encounter in Armenia is crossing the street.
One notable exception here is the disputed territory of Artsakh, where there was a war you may have heard about in the news in the fall of 2020. At this time, AVC prohibits its volunteers from traveling to this territory.
How is the COVID-19 situation in Armenia and how does it affect volunteering?
The Government of Armenia recently announced that passengers are no longer required to present a COVID-19 PCR test of certificate of complete vaccination against COVID-19 to enter the Republic of Armenia for entry either via air or land. Armenia’s Ministry of Health also eased restrictions related to entry to public places, lifting the requirement to submit proof of vaccination as of May 12, 2022. This, however, may change in the future. For up to date information, please visit here.
At the start of the pandemic, AVC was forced to transition all programs online, to ensure compliance with the Government of Armenia’s regulations. Today, fortunately, the situation has changed. All volunteers work on-site and there are no restrictions or mask mandates currently in effect.
Does AVC have a nondiscrimination policy?
Yes. AVC welcomes people from a variety of identities and backgrounds to apply. We have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination against volunteers based on age, race, ethnicity, country of origin, country of citizenship, socio-economic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious belief, mental ability, physical ability, and language proficiency. We aim to be an inclusive space where ALL volunteers will find the necessary assistance and become part of a community that supports them during their stay in Armenia and beyond.
Am I eligible to volunteer with AVC?
AVC offers three programs: Junior Corps, Professional Corps (ProCorps), and Senior Corps. Each has its own distinct focus and eligibility requirements.
In the Junior Corps, participants are between the ages of 21 and 31, inclusive. Those participating in the Junior Corps volunteer or complete a university internship on the ground in Armenia. The minimum service term is one-month; the maximum is one year. We welcome prospective Junior Corps members of all backgrounds. However, Armenians in the diaspora in this age group should contact Birthright Armenia for a program specifically tailored for them.
In the ProCorps, participants are established professionals between the ages of 32 and 59, inclusive. They typically have at least 5 years of professional experience. Most ProCorps volunteers serve in the same areas in which they have professional experience. Some, however, choose other areas of interest. The minimum service term is 2 weeks*, but we encourage participants to stay at least a full month to get the most of their time in Armenia; one year is the maximum.
Senior Corps participants are 60 years or older. We acknowledge the rich experience of potential participants in this age group and warmly invite them to contribute to the ongoing development of Armenia, most naturally but not necessarily in the same areas in which they spent their work lives. As with the Professional Corps, the minimum service term is 2 weeks*, the maximum 1 year.
* ProCorps or Senior Corps volunteers serving less than one month must pay a one-time donation of 75,000AMD.
Do I need a university diploma to volunteer with AVC?
Many of our volunteers are actively enrolled in college/university, so it is of course not necessary to have completed a degree program. A high school diploma is sufficient.
How soon can I start volunteering?
AVC accepts applications any time and volunteers can perform their service year-round. We recommend you apply at least one month prior to your anticipated arrival date in Armenia. One quick addition is that, prior to starting your service, you must participate in AVC’s mandatory in-country orientation session. Orientation sessions are typically held weekly, most often on Wednesdays or Fridays. As you think about purchasing your ticket to Yerevan after being accepted, please consult with us about the best day to arrive in Yerevan so you do not have too much downtime before orientation. This is especially important if you’re here for just a short time — you want to be able to hit the ground running!
Where in Armenia do volunteers serve?
Most volunteers serve in Yerevan, Gyumri, and/or Vanadzor, where AVC and Birthright Armenia (our sister organization) have staff to support our participants.
What types of volunteering opportunities are there?
AVC has 1200 (and growing) active placement partners, so it is no exaggeration to say that the possibilities go beyond what any one person could experience in a lifetime. Volunteers work with think tanks, farms, museums, NGOs, and on occasion the AVC office itself. You can read in detail about some of our partners here.
How does AVC determine my volunteering assignment(s)?
In the application and during the intake interview, there are several questions about your educational and professional background and your areas of interest. An AVC representative will reach out to accepted volunteers with a list of possible assignments with our partners, of course based on applicants’ experiences and stated preferences. When you receive this list, you will be asked to rank-order it. We will then schedule interviews at your preferred assignments for your first few days in Armenia; AVC representatives generally accompany volunteers to these interviews. If you feel you have found a fit after just one interview, we can get right to work on finalizing your assignment!
In short, for the most part, you are the one who determines the volunteering assignment.
I am a university student looking to complete an internship to satisfy a degree requirement. Can AVC help me?
Yes, AVC provides internship opportunities for current students as long as they are at least 21 years of age. In practice, internships closely resemble our volunteering offerings. If you require proof of current participation in or past completion of an internship, we will gladly communicate on your behalf about the specifics of your participation in AVC.
Do I have to serve in my primary field of expertise? Or can I try something different?
Although many of our volunteers serve in their primary field of expertise, many others request to volunteer in an area that is more in line with their extracurricular interests or hobbies. For instance, we had a scientist with a passion for history and writing who asked to volunteer in a museum. He ultimately helped two museums develop and improve their English-language marketing materials.
Can I volunteer at more than one organization?
Yes! More often than not, our volunteers serve at more than one placement. Remember, AVC tailors your volunteer experience based on your interests.
Will I be able to change volunteering assignments during my stay?
Yes, “flexibility” is one of our mantras. Long-term volunteers, in particular, may go through different phases in their stays in Armenia, seeking different volunteering assignments in each phase. We do ask, though, that volunteers seek to get as much as they can out of each placement and exhibit their own “flexibility” in tolerating the minor challenges bound to crop up every now and then in any assignment.
How many hours a week should I volunteer?
If you are a member of our Junior Corps (21 – 31 years old), your minimum commitment is 30 hours per week, Monday to Friday, for a minimum of one month. The only exception to this is for international students enrolled full-time in Armenia. Such participants will have their hourly commitment reduced to 20 hours per week. Members of Professional Corps and Senior Corps must put in a minimum of 20 hours per week, Monday to Friday, for at least 2 full weeks. Regardless of what Corps you belong to, you will need to fill out service timesheet(s) with the help of employees at your placement site(s), so as to create an official record of hours served.
Volunteers are welcome and encouraged to go over the minimum time requirements for any given week. Participants who have found the perfect placements are liable to be doing what they love, in which case they may lose track of the time in their enjoyment and go well over the stated minimum number of hours per week.
Can I take a vacation or leave Armenia during my volunteering stint?
You are not allowed to travel outside Armenia during the first four months of your service. After four months of service, you get two weeks of vacation. After eight months of volunteering, you get another two weeks of vacation. You can leave the country during your vacation, but you must sign a travel waiver first.
Do I need to speak Armenian to volunteer? What languages should I know to volunteer?
No. The majority of our volunteers do not speak Armenian. Many are native speakers of English, French, Spanish, Russian, Farsi, and many others. However, language is a determining factor when deciding on your placements. In rare cases, translators will be provided. Our staff speaks multiple languages, including English, Armenian, Russian, Arabic, and French so you shouldn’t have any trouble communicating with us! Most local Armenians speak both Armenian and Russian and the younger generation is in a hurry to learn English as well as other languages including German, French, and Spanish.
Can I extend my volunteering term after my arrival?
Certainly. We ask potential volunteers for a window of when they plan to be in Armenia as part of the application, but it is exactly that: a window, not definitive, non-binding. Once you have your feet on the ground and hands busy in Armenia, we do our best to ensure a successful experience. If you enjoy yourself so much that you would like to prolong your stay, we are flexible and can extend your total service time up to a maximum of one year.
How many times can I participate in AVC?
While AVC welcomes returning volunteers to serve again and again in Armenia, we do have an Alumni Team ready to accommodate former volunteers for future visits (see “Alumni” section below). Anyone who would like to return as a formal volunteer must go through a new application process (albeit shorter in most cases). Repeating volunteers receive the same services as new volunteers, including full placement support, accommodation with host families, airport pickup/drop off, the option to attend orientation, language classes, and numerous activities/excursions throughout each week. You will also need to meet the minimum volunteering time commitments.
Can I work during my volunteer service?
AVC has a minimum time commitment from its volunteers each week. Many volunteers work remotely while they are volunteering with AVC. If this is something you are interested in, just bear in mind that you must satisfy our minimum time commitment. One important note, however, is that volunteers cannot be paid for their service at their volunteer site(s).
Where do AVC volunteers live?
For the most part, AVC volunteers choose to live with host families. In fact, AVC highly encourages host family living, at least for the first couple of months in-country, as this helps with cultural adaptation and integration and provides an insight into local Armenian everyday family life through immersion in the culture and language. You may even succeed in creating lifelong ties. In the regions outside of Yerevan, you will usually stay with a host-family due to limitations in housing options. Should you prefer to rent an apartment, you must make those arrangements for yourself, but we would be happy to provide some suggestions to help you in your search.
Is it safe to stay with a host family? How are the families chosen?
AVC’s sister organization Birthright Armenia secures host families for itself and AVC, screening each potential host family rigorously. We do our best to ensure that living with host families is very safe, using our network of families in supported regions.
Can I connect with my host family prior to arrival?
Yes, we will provide you the host family’s contact information prior to your arrival, so you can connect with them. Facebook or WhatsApp are the most common platforms where guests and host families touch base before meeting in person. While pre-arrival connection is not mandatory, we encourage it.
How much does it cost to stay with a host family and what's included?
The cost is 90,000 Armenian dram (AMD) per month and includes a private room and daily breakfast (in winter, the monthly cost is 103,000 AMD). You can add nightly dinner and laundry service, each for an additional fee. Since the expectation is that you will be volunteering during the day, there is no lunch option for the home-stay. To see current exchange rates between the AMD and other currencies, visit www.cba.am.
Can I live with a host family for only part of my time in Armenia?
Yes, you can. We offer flexibility when it comes to your accommodation. Many long-term volunteers use home-stays to acclimate to life in Armenia and then move into their own accommodation once they have gotten their bearings.
Is there one volunteer per home-stay?
Yes, generally, we place one volunteer with any given host family at a time.
Is there a curfew time?
In order not to inconvenience host families, we ask that you return home by midnight. This is particularly important if you do not have a key and could only enter after knocking on the door or ringing the bell. If you prefer to have more freedom around your late-night schedule, you should consider apartment rental options.
How can AVC help me if I have a problem with my living arrangement?
AVC arranges host families for interested participants in partnership with its sister organization Birthright Armenia. We understand that home-stays are subject to problems, small and large. You should find that most small problems can be overcome with some patience and a commitment to cultural adaptation to the Armenian context. As for larger or more persistent problems, you may contact the AVC office for support. We will reach out to your home-stay family and let them know of your concerns, trying to be as even-handed in our approach as possible, with the goal in mind of a fair and comfortable resolution for all. If even after that there is some trouble, AVC can help you find another home-stay, depending on availability.
We cannot be of as much assistance to those participants who have chosen to rent their own apartments or individual rooms outside the auspices of AVC and Birthright Armenia. We can do some limited translation and intercultural interpretation, but any disputes, including about money or violations of rental agreements, are beyond our realm of responsibility.
What services does AVC provide?
AVC’s main task is to personalize a uniquely rewarding volunteer placement for each participant. In addition, we provide airport pickup/drop-off, host family living arrangements, orientation during your first week, Armenian language classes twice weekly, full-time support and guidance on adapting to life in Armenia, use of the AVC office (which has computer stations, high-speed Internet, and wifi), informational, educational, and social gatherings once or twice a week (which we may refer to by the term “forum” or the indigenous Armenian “havak”), and weekly excursions to various locations within Armenia (for a small fee). Other than orientation and your volunteer work, all other services are optional.
What are some services AVC does not provide?
At this time, AVC does not provide any visa or financial support.
How do I know if I need a visa to enter Armenia, and will AVC help me get one?
You will find all the information you need regarding visa requirements, including which countries’ nationals are exempt, on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia website: www.mfa.am/en/visa.
- Citizens of the European Union, the United States of America, and some other countries do not require a visa to enter Armenia and stay for up to 180 days.
- Citizens of many other countries, who do need a visa, may purchase it online through the E-visa portal at evisa.mfa.am. AVC will be happy to provide a letter of standing documenting your acceptance to the AVC program for your e-visa application.
- If your country requires a letter of invitation, note that AVC does not provide this support.
What other activities does AVC organize?
AVC and its sister organization Birthright Armenia periodically organize community service projects in and around Yerevan, about every six weeks or so. Projects range from planting trees and trash cleanup, to painting and building, even to spending an afternoon at a children’s center or hospital. Community service projects are open to all of our in-country volunteers as well as affiliates of some of our local partners. In addition, we organize a couple of workshops each year during which volunteers learn a new skill, for example how to cook authentic Armenian cuisine or write Armenian calligraphy.
How much does it cost to volunteer through AVC?
Unlike most organizations, AVC does not charge a standard registration or participation fee, so the basic suite of services is free! However, working professionals over age 32 who would like to join AVC’s Professional Corps or Senior Corps for less than one month (but for a minimum of 2 weeks) must make a donation of 75,000AMD to AVC’s community service project fund.
Moreover, AVC requires that all participants have health insurance coverage during their stay in Armenia. If you do not have adequate health insurance coverage for Armenia, you must join our group health insurance plan. The cost is 6,000AMD per month for participants under the age of 65 and 12,500 AMD for those 65 or older.
It will be up to you where you live, but we can arrange a home-stay for you. Details (and costs) on this option can be found above, in the “Housing” section.
Unless someone lives very close to Armenia or plans to stay here for quite a long time, the greatest expense is likely to be the airfare, which volunteers arrange on their own. There are direct flights to Yerevan’s Zvartnots International Airport from many major European and Middle Eastern cities, like Paris, Frankfurt, Vienna, Moscow, Dubai, Doha, Beirut, and Tehran, and there are even low-cost carriers coming to Armenia, such as Pegasus and Wizz Air.
What do the optional weekly excursions cost?
The weekly full-day excursions organized (and subsidized) by our sister organization Birthright Armenia cost 4,000 AMD, with lunch included.
What other costs should I consider?
All your personal, day-to-day expenses are your responsibility. In addition to the costs already listed, you should consider the following for budgeting purposes:
- Entry into Armenia: A 120-day visa costs 30 USD. NOTE: Citizens of countries with bilateral agreements may not need to obtain a visa; learn more here: www.mfa.am/en/visa. Currently, citizens of the European Union, the United States, Russia, Australia, and many other countries do not need a visa to enter Armenia for stays of up to 180 days.
- Laundry: It costs approximately 500 dram/kilo at local businesses, or you could pay 10,000 dram per month to have your laundry done with your host family.
- Eating in: There is an optional dinner plan at your home-stay, costing 30,000 dram per month.
- Eating out: Prices vary greatly depending on your tastes, but you should not expect to pay less than 1000 dram per meal and would need to be quite the gourmand to spend more than 15000 dram per meal.
- Cell phone cards: There are multiple plans available, costing as little as 2,000 dram/month.
- Transportation: Public transportation on buses and vans usually comes to 100 dram/trip; taxis typically start from 600 dram/trip within the city center.
How can AVC offer an overseas volunteering package with no charge for its services, when so many others charge thousands of dollars?
It is through the philanthropy of the Hovnanian Family Foundation. Edele Hovnanian, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the H. Hovnanian Family Foundation, had a life-changing study abroad experience in the Soviet Republic of Armenia and wanted to provide a similar opportunity for others to experience an immersion-style volunteer service program.
Does AVC issue a certificate of completion, serve as a reference, or otherwise verify that volunteers have completed an AVC program in good standing?
Yes! AVC does issue a certificate of completion to each person who completes a term of service. Individual staff members of AVC can act as references upon request; they will, of course, be most ready, willing, and able to act as references for volunteers who go above and beyond in their efforts for Armenia and engage with them personally.
If I want to stay and work in Armenia after completing my service, will AVC help me secure employment?
Yes, we have an Alumni team that is here to support all of our alumni in seeking employment. In addition, we work closely with the RepatArmenia Foundation, whose mission is to promote repatriation and provide individual integration support. For anyone looking to move to Armenia (including those who are not ethnic Armenian), they offer one-on-one consultations, networking opportunities, and introductions to professional service providers that can help you with employment, setting up a business, or other aspects of integration. Visit www.repatarmenia.org for more information.
Does AVC offer any programs for its alumni?
Yes, there is a grant-giving program called “Next Step,” and there is another program called “Pathway to Armenia” for alumni looking to live and work in Armenia longer-term. More information can be found on these programs in the dedicated “AVC Alumni” section of this website.
Can alumni participate in excursions, forums, and/or havaks?
Yes, anyone who completes service with AVC in good standing is welcome to participate in our weekly excursions, forums, and havaks. To do so, you will need to ensure our alumni team knows that you are in-country by emailing us at email@example.com. We will then advise of all necessary next steps so that you can begin receiving our weekly calendar of events and registering for any that ore of interest. Please be advised, though, that alumni must pay 6,000 AMD to take part in excursions and for any guests of theirs the cost will be 8,000 AMD. Forums and havaks remain free for all.