Volunteering in Armenia: AVC Expands Professional Corps Service Opportunities

Taveet Garabedian at the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (IDHR)

YEREVAN—More and more professionals are traveling to Armenia to share their experiences and skills. With rising demand both from organizations with volunteer needs and from professionals with time and skills to share, the Armenian Volunteers Corps is cultivating new Professional Corps possibilities every day, serving Armenia through volunteerism, and delivering on the promise of rewarding volunteer experiences for skilled professionals, all year round.

Rubina Shaldjian at The Civilitas Foundation

Attorney Rubina K. Shaldjian, age 31, from Florida, recently took a three-month sabbatical to volunteer with AVC. Working at the Civilitas Foundation, her tasks focused primarily on translations and drafting in English. “The fast-paced work environment at Civilitas was just what I was looking for. I wasn’t bored for a second,” says Shaldjian. “From the second I got there, I began what felt like a three-month crash course in the political and social issues that abound in Armenia. I admit that, at first, I was slightly overwhelmed by the fact that there was so much I didn’t know about the history, politics and culture of Armenia and the Caucasus. But as I began to develop relationships with my colleagues and locals in general, I gained a tremendous amount of insight as to the culture of Yerevan and the issues Armenians face, and the anxiety quickly subsided. I can honestly say that it was a true cultural experience… and it was too short! On a personal level, my time in Armenia allowed me to rediscover some passions that I had neglected due to the realities of my life such as career and student loans.”

Shaldjian’s volunteer placement site was just as happy to have her serve. “It was a pleasure to have Rubina on staff for many reasons,” says Salpi Ghazarian, director of the Civilitas Foundation. “She had the perfect attitude and personality that is essential for an effective and smooth Armenia-Diaspora mix. Very professional, very responsible, knowledgeable and eager to give, all the while realizing that at the same time, she, too, was learning and receiving. Both professionally and personally, Rubina was a great addition to our staff and she is missed. It is unfortunate that due to outstanding student loans, she will be unable to stay longer. Nor is this the first case of a great professional who would be contributing so much to Armenia’s development. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a sponsor for parts of the student loans for some of these great wonderful volunteers?”

The opportunities for professionals are limitless. Taveet Garabedian, age 35, from Australia is currently volunteering with the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights. AVC alumnus and architect Liliya Djaniants (USA, 2010), age 30, is now living in Armenia working at the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies after having served for two months with the National Competitiveness Foundation and the Ministry of Economy. And, Joseph Hakoopian from (USA) is teaching English to middle and high school students.

Charis Tyrrel, age 55, also from Australia, recently ended three months of service in Armenia putting her years of experience in visual arts and small business development to use with Homeland Handicrafts and the Armenian Red Cross Society. Serving with Homeland Handicrafts, Tyrrel provided feedback on product designs, provided practical advice on product improvement, developed craft product prototypes, and provided detailed instructions to accompany the prototypes. “I met and worked with some very interesting people, learned an enormous amount and was fortunate to travel extensively in the Armenian countryside and experience the people and culture in a very unique way,” stated Tyrrel. “My only hope is that Armenia gained as much from my volunteering services as I gained from this experience.”

Some professionals come back to Armenia year after year, like AVC alumnus Vrejouhy Atikian from Canada. Atikian mostly shares her 25+ years of nursing experience, but also finds ways to share other skills and interests.

Atikian first volunteered in Armenia 2002 at the Our Lady of Armenia summer camp in Tsaghgazor where she was the camp nurse for three months. “Many wounds were dressed and fevers taken care of,” says Atikian. That summer she also worked with volunteer dentists from Canada helping to establish healthy dental hygiene practices. “Since then I have been volunteering in Armenia as often as I can, in several fields.”

What type of work does Atikian keep coming back to do? “Teaching school children first aid and personal hygiene, teaching children and adults basic life saving techniques, helping to renovate the Shushi hospital where later I worked,” she tell us. “I also volunteered renovating a school in Shatvan with LCO [Land and Culture Organization] and worked at Orran with seniors in need at meal and bath times,” she adds. Over the last four years Atikian has volunteered at the Arabkir children’s hospital in Yerevan with a local surgical team headed by Dr. Garen Koloyan. Why does Aikian keep coming back? “Volunteering is addictive,” she says, “and if this is my addiction than I am a happy person.”

Architects, MBAs, lawyers and law students, medical and health care professionals, bankers, IT specialists and many others pursuing or having professional degrees and interests are being attracted to the diverse possibilities of service in Armenia.

As the premier volunteer organization in Armenia, AVC places professionals in meaningful service experiences in organizations, small and large businesses, and public-private partnerships such as the National Competitiveness Foundation, Storaket architects, Arbes Rehabilitation Center, VivaCell-MTS, and Knyazyan & Associates, just to name a few, which are seeking highly qualified volunteers.

For more information about professional volunteer opportunities in Armenia visit here or contact info@avc.am. AVC was founded in 2000 to serve Armenia through volunteerism. Since its inception, over 300 volunteers have served in more than 200 organizations throughout Armenia.

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