Participating in the Birthright program was something that I had wanted to do for a while. After two of my closest friends participated in the program last year, and I heard all about their amazing experiences, it cemented my commitment to join. All I can say is, they were not wrong.
The authentic Armenian experience in Gyumri
I had visited Armenia before, but always as a tourist and I always stayed in Yerevan. So when I first joined the program, it was important to me to experience life outside of the capital. I spent my first month in Gyumri, volunteering with Agate, an NGO working for women with disabilities in Syunik, and LEGO, teaching English to preschool kids. My time with these organizations was undoubtedly different, but they both allowed me to gain invaluable experience and it will be an experience I will never forget. If you’re thinking about joining Birthright, consider Gyumri or Vanadzor. Yerevan is a great city, but what Gyumri and I’m sure Vanadzor has to offer is an authentic Armenian experience, from the people you’ll meet to the city itself. You won’t regret it.
An Opportunity to do good
I came to Yerevan just as the September attack on Artsakh occurred, and having a background in human rights, it was important for me to contribute in some way to the injustice that was unfolding before our very eyes. Birthright understood this and connected me with Path of Law, with whom I am now working to document any violations of human rights with regard to this year’s attacks.
Seeing what was happening to the people of Artsakh, how they were being forcibly displaced from their ancestral homes, I knew I had to step it up. I had been presented with the incredible opportunity of physically being here in Armenia where I could work first-hand to help these communities, even if in some small way. In my free time, I have started volunteering with a group of diasporans, including other Birthright volunteers, to collect donations and deliver them to villages around Yerevan where Artsakhtsi families have been placed. This is not the work of a major organization, but simply a group of Armenians from all corners of the world who want to help our brothers and sisters from Artsakh. Meeting these other volunteers has absolutely inspired me to continue doing what I can to help because the work of one can impact the lives of many.
Being in Armenia during this time of crisis has cemented something for me that I think we all know: if we don’t do it, who will? Armenia needs you, and it needs you now. No matter what field you work in, there is something for you here. Come to Armenia, volunteer with Birthright, and help your country prosper.