Why Birthright Armenia?

Ani Nina Oganyan
Los Angeles, USA

994400_10151962604397025_1705602273_nIt has been about a month now that I have been back “home” in America. I arrived in Armenia early August to participate in a volunteer program I had read about online; something I casually stumbled upon as I was researching for a paper. Never would I have imagined that this program would leave such an overwhelming feeling deep in my heart. And never have I been asked the question “why”, so many times by so many people in my life. Why volunteer? Why Armenia? Why Birthright Armenia?

Sometimes these questions are the hardest to answer. No, wait, these questions are always the hardest to answer. The best, and my personal favorite answer, is “why not”, but some expect a better response. For as long as I could remember I have always been a volunteer. I remember volunteering to help my mom around the house and my teachers after school. At the age of ten, I began volunteering at a local animal shelter, and during the holidays I volunteered with local food and toy drives; the list goes on. Every volunteer has their list of reasons for why they choose to volunteer, but one of the reasons many will have in common is that volunteerism is a way of committing social change. Change starts within us, each and every one of us. I believe that in order for us to really see any sort of social change, we need to be the driving force behind it. Throughout the years, I have come to realize that volunteering is not only a form of giving/charity, but rather an exchange. This exchange, though it may sound selfish, keeps me sane and fulfilled. This exchange for me is where I offer my abilities and service in exchange for a challenge. This may sound like the smallest of exchanges, but for me this challenge changes me everyday, this challenge is what makes me, me.

My family moved to the United States when I was just shy of two years old. At the time, Armenia was going through some of its darker days, so my family decided it was best to go away for some time, but little did they know that “some time” would turn into more than two decades. The word diaspora refers to a scattered population with a common origin in a smaller geographic area, according to Wikipedia. As a diaspora Armenian, scattered is exactly how I feel, day to day. There is an intangible presence that I always feel lurking by, that only begins to fade when I am in the presence of a certain people, culture, mountains, food, soil, and this small collection of land called Armenia. It is an unexplainable connection that I have within me; a connection I have heard many others refer to, and for them, it is also sometimes unexplainable. Sometimes it is simpler to just say, “It is THE homeland.”

About a year ago, I began to research for a paper I was writing. Several webpages and blogs later, I was reading an article published by the Women’s Resource Center of Armenia. First, I was excited to learn of such an organization and then I was intrigued by the topic that it covered. Soon after I clicked a link that took me to the Birthright Armenia list of internships page. As I delved deeper, I learned of an internship opportunity with WRCA through the Birthright Armenia program. I completed the online application within the next few weeks and before I knew it, I was in the Birthright office on orientation day. This program is true to all that it states and more. I learned to read and write in Armenian, which my grandfather was beyond excited to hear about, I met and worked with amazing individuals, have made life long friends who in their own ways inspire me, and embarked on weekly excursions that kept us on our toes. Literally, I, a girl who has worn sneakers a hand full of times, was repelling off of a cliff! During orientation, I was told that the office staff would be there for us, but I assumed it was just a common thing that is said in such programs, but to my surprise, this was a fact. The office staff became family and, with newer volunteers, our family grew weekly and when it came time to leave, as sad as it was, it was never a goodbye, always a see you later. I won’t cover all that the Birthright Armenia program offers, because the information is there for when you fill out your application, however from time to time I think of the phrase “the opportunities are endless,” and for me, it took this experience to really bring this phrase to life. When looking for home, a challenge, or an opportunity, I look to my birthright.


How I Found Out about Birthright Armenia

Sascha Aref
Chattanooga, TN, USA

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For many years, I have heard stories about young people having a “birthright trip” to Israel. The way I understood it, if a person is of Jewish heritage, they are entitled to a birthright trip to their motherland. And I remember always thinking this was so neat, such a wonderful opportunity. And then my thought process would always lead me to thinking about how nice it would be to go to MY own motherland of Armenia.

My exact thoughts were, “Hey, that is not fair there is a Birthright Israel, what about Birthright Armenia!?” So I jokingly googled Birthright Armenia and didn’t really think I would find much. But to my surprise, a sonic happy boom went off in my brain. There it was, Birthright Armenia!!! WOW! Is this for real? Seriously? Why hadn’t I heard of this before? I was astounded to the max. And then studied the web page like a book for several weeks.

I knew that Birthright Israel offers a two week tour of the country which is great. However, I quickly realized that Birthright Armenia is actually an even better experience than that. With Birthright Armenia you can live in the country for up to a year and really experience a deep understanding of the people and culture. I grew with excitement. It was about four years later that I went to Armenia and volunteered with the program. My thrill led me to thinking I have this amazing chance to live in Armenia, and I have got to choose the perfect time to go and stay as long as I can. I finally decided to make my Birthright Armenia trip happen during my graduate program. I lived in Armenia and volunteered at World Vision for five months. I was also lucky enough to coordinate the volunteering at World Vision with my graduate course work. I’m forever thankful for the experience and it all happened because of a joke. It is funny how things work out.

Не рискуя – мы рискуем во много раз сильнее

Виктория Давыдова,
BR 2012

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Не рискуя – мы на самом деле рискуем во много раз сильнее

Начиная свое небольшое повествование о возвращении на Родину таким словами, я прежде всего хочу обратиться к вам с двумя истинами: это очень трудно, но это того стоит.
Практически каждый день я стараюсь анализировать пребывание в Армении с точки зрения возможности достижения определенных целей и даже в кои-то веки начала вести записи в блоге. И, надо сказать, я думаю не только о репатриации, большую часть моих мыслей занимает наблюдение за собой и своим поведением просто в условиях самостоятельной жизни. Впервые в жизни мне приходится снимать жилье и рассчитывать на себя во всём. Может, кто то скажет, что для 25 лет это даже поздно, а кому то и в 30 будет трудно покинуть родительский дом. Возраст не важен, важно лишь то, что возвращение на Родину это не просто красивая история для средств массовой информации и пропаганды патриотизма, это ежедневное преодоление всё новых и новых препятствий на извилистом и неизведанном тобой пути. И если бы не Birthright Armenia, если бы не сама философия этой организации и ее работники, которые стали для меня здесь второй семьей, я бы, наверное, никогда не смогла осуществить задуманное. 

Здесь ты понимаешь, насколько легче было любить Родину за ее пределами. Ведь там можно выбрать только всё самое лучшее: искусство, историю, выдающихся личностей, и отдать свои чувства на поклонение только им. В реальной же Армении, сталкиваясь с непонятным для себя поведением людей, приходится всё время напоминать, что ты не обязан любить всё и всех. Потому что ты нормальный житель нормальной страны, которая имеет свои плюсы и минусы, как и любая другая страна, в том числе и та, откуда ты приехал. Я специально использовала слово «непонятный» для описания разницы менталитетов, так как теперь я больше пытаюсь выведать причины тех или иных явлений, чтобы не относиться к ним отрицательно. Мне кажется, что это правильный путь, если ты хочешь вписаться в общество, а не быть его закулисным критиком. 

У меня есть Вера. Вера в то, что с каждым годом жители Армении всё реже и реже будут задавать вопрос, почему же ты оставил свою, по их мнению, прекрасную жизнь в другой стране, и приехал сюда. Это станет нормой, и люди всё меньше станут удивляться. Честно сказать, я даже мечтаю, что когда-нибудь наша Республика будет вынуждена ввести новый режим для приема возвращенцев, и закроет, наконец, Министерство Диаспоры за ненадобностью.
Да, наивность – одна из классических черт армянского восприятия мира. Если я наивна в своих суждениях, тем лучше, тем больше я армянка. Хотя, не могу не отметить, что перед своим возвращением я проделала не малую работу по подготовке переезда, и ее нужно будет сделать всем. Поэтому, холодный рассудок – это то, что должно работать на нас и наши идеи, а не вопреки.
Третьим и объединяющим предыдущие два компонента является огонь, который появляется, когда разум соединяется с верой, огонь, зарождающий новые начинания, разжигающий фантазию человеческой мысли и воплощающий их в жизнь, огонь, с помощью которого сгорит весь хлам и ветошь.
Завершая, такие непонятные, но идущие от сердца мысли, я хочу поделиться с вами радостью того, что недавно на одной из улиц Еревана меня спросили, как пройти к какому-то зданию, а это значит, что я по-настоящему часть города, часть страны, не Армения – часть меня, а я теперь являюсь частью Родины.Image

2014: You must live, breathe, and feel for yourself and not through others

birthrightarmenia:

Shant Meguerditchian,
Birthright Armenia participant 2013-2014

Originally posted on Hosank -- Հոսանք:

Barev/Parev/Բարեւ,

I would like to first wish all of you a Happy New Year (Շնորհաւոր Նոր Տարի)!

My name is Shant Meguerditchian and I’d like to welcome you to my first blog post as we enter the new year. Many of my friends have waited for me (impatiently) to start a blog so I can share my experiences during my time in Armenia. One of my best friends Stepan Keshisian, who I met a year and a half ago, has graciously allowed me to use his blog “Hosank” to write about my experiences and share with the rest of you.

I’ve been in Armenia for almost 2 months now and I can say without a doubt that my experiences have been unforgettable and always accompanied with a better understanding of my thoughts, of others, and of my homeland. To give you a small peek into my life, I grew up…

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Tamar’s Repatriation – Թամարին Հայրենադարձութիւնը

Originally posted on Hosank -- Հոսանք:

New mini documentary (in Armenian) about Tamar Najarian, who shares her experience in repatriating to Armenia from Canada. Tamar is a close friend and a former co-participant of Birthright Armenia (Դեպի Հայք) and AYF Youth Corps. Her story is truly an inspiration during a time in which we are witnessing a mass exodus from the homeland due to social and economic unrest.

Նոր վավերագրական ժապաւէն Թամար Նաճարեան-ի մասին, որ կ՚ուսումնասիրէ իր փորձարութիւնը՝ Գանատայէն-Հայաստան գաղթելու ընթացքին։ Թամարը մտերիմ ընկեր մըն է ինծ, ու եղած ենք նաև մասնակիցներ միասին Birthright Armenia (Դեպի Հայք) ու AYF Youth Corps ծրագրերուն մէջ։ Իր պատմութիւնը իրապէս ոգեւորիչ է, մանաւանդ այս ժամանակներուն՝ երբ վկայ ենք չափազանց ու ահաւոր պանդխտութեան մեր Հայրենիքէն դուրս՝ հասարակական ու տնտեսական պատճառներով։

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