Diandra Ajemian

Celebrate International Volunteer Day on December 5 with Birthright, AVC

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YEREVAN — December 5 is the International Volunteer Day. Thanks to the efforts of Birthright Armenia and Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) programs, in 2021 the number of volunteers who arrived in Armenia is almost equal to the data of 2019: 215 participants from Birthright Armenia, 80 participants from AVC program․ Despite the post-war difficulties and the 2020 pandemic the volunteers are determined to come to Armenia and volunteer their time and knowledge, doing their best to be useful for the country.

Birthright Armenia, which has been operating in Armenia since 2004, was founded by American-Armenian philanthropist Edele Hovnanian. To date, about 2,300 Diaspora Armenian youth, aged 21-32, have participated in long-term volunteer programs through Birthright Armenia. Diaspora Armenians over the age of 32 and foreigners over the age of 21 came to Armenia through AVC, Birthright Armenia’s sister organization. After finishing the program, 10 percent of the overall number of the participants have settled in Armenia. The main goal of the organization in 2022 is to double the number of volunteers arriving in Armenia, mainly targeting the countries with large Armenian diasporas, such as Russia and France.

In the framework of Birthright Armenia, until 2021 the majority of the program volunteers were from the United States (50 percent). However, this year, as participants from the United States continue to make up the majority of program participants, the program has diversified the volunteer demographics, with a growing percentage of participants from Europe and South America, especially from France and Argentina. In 2019, the number of participants from France comprised 5․1 percent of the volunteers of the whole program, and in 2021 – 13 percent. The number of volunteers from Canada increased by 3 percent, and from Argentina by 1 percent in 2021.

“The authorities of most of our partner organizations unanimously note that volunteers bring fresh breath to Armenia, new approach, creative ideas and changes. As a result of working with locals, the exchange of experience becomes inevitable. I can cite many examples where the experience, ideas and the professional approach of our volunteers have been a turning point in the success of organizations. After the end of the program, the alumni of the program often establish close ties with the workplaces, making the support and the exchange of experience continuous,” says Narine Mkhoyan, the Jobsite Placement Manager of Birthright Armenia.

The organization cooperates with about 1100 local and international organizations in Armenia, providing work for volunteers in various fields. “Christopher had a great seminar with us, which received positive feedback from our participants. Based on the wonderful work he did, we decided to offer him a job at Tumo Studio. I think Christopher’s path is an excellent example of Birthright Armenia’s mission,” wrote Aram Gyumishyan, Product Designer at Tumo Center for Creative Technologies about Christopher Karaguezyan, a Lebanese-Armenian volunteer 3D Modeling Specialist.

Nutritional Basics in Gyumri, the US, Diandra Ajemian, participant of Birthright Armenia

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Diandra presented nutrition seminars at the Youth Palace in Gyumri to educate the community on the importance behind healthy eating standards and what it means to be conscious of one’s daily nutrition. “Clinical Nutrition is a field that is very new and unfamiliar to many in Gyumri, and especially in Armenia. There is a growing need for education, counseling, and guidance in this field,” says Diandra.

“Coming to Armenia I had no idea what to expect regarding my current field: Nutrition and Dietetics. Much of the local diet is sugar-heavy, carbohydrate dominant, and lacking in essential vitamins and minerals. The dietary practices in Armenia have encouraged skyrocketing rates of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition, and so on. While volunteering in Gyumri, I realized how pertinent it was for me to exercise my knowledge about a healthy diet, food safety, and nutrition-related chronic diseases.”

At Herbs and Honey, one of the few restaurants in the city with a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan options, Diandra assisted the chefs there with food preparation and advised the staff on Food Safety Standards and Hygiene. At Nazuk Bakery, she rediscovered her love of baking and shared her family recipe of Tahin Hatz (Tahini Bread) to the café.

‘Senior Volunteers, Armenia Needs You!

There was a special type of microscope at the Armenian National Agrarian University (ANAU) that they had for over a year, but didn’t know how to use. David, noticing the microscope, decided to put it together and run a special training for the staff. Recalling their excitement, David considers this moment as the most rewarding one of his volunteering journeys.

David Duell is from Ohio. He is a 68-year-old professional, a retiree born and raised in the U.S. David decided to embark on a journey at the age of 63 to discover his roots. His first visit to Armenia was in 2015, and it was the only time David came to Armenia as a tourist. He wanted to experience more of Armenia and being a tourist didn’t allow him.

His next visits gave him a completely different picture of Armenia, thanks to the AVC’s Professional Corps program. Having no age limit policy, AVC was happy to host David and find job places suitable for his field of expertise, including ANAU, the AUA Acopian Center for the EnvironmentHabitat for Humanity Armenia, and many more. “It was beyond my wildest dreams that AVC was the absolute best fit. I worked though I was retired, I had a meaningful job,” says David.

David liked his experience with AVC so much that he decided to volunteer four more times and intends to continue. “I waited until I retired and started coming here. It’s unbelievable. It’s just so enriching to my life. I am a different person because of what I’ve done here with AVC. So, come here with an open mind, stay with a host family, and plan on having fun,” recommends David to future AVCers.

There are many inspiring stories about volunteer programs. The stories can be found on https://birthrightarmenia.org/en/blog , https://armenianvolunteer.org/blog/ .

 

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