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Originally posted on AlexInArmenia:
Barev, I kept thinking about this and it became this massive intricate thing. So I’ve decided if I’m going to do it at all it will be small updates with photos and links and I will…

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Retrouvant la Patrie

Le voilà ! Si clairement visible de loin. Si connu et en même temps si insolite. Si grandiose et indescriptiblement beau. Comme si une image de rêves apparaît devant les yeux et devient une réalité.

harut

Ararat ! La première chose, que j’ai vue depuis le hublot de l’avion, en arrivant un vendredi soir à l’aéroport Zvartnots à Erevan. Puis, à travers la baie vitrée du terminal, j’ai pu plus en détail examiner toute la beauté de notre montagne biblique et jouir de son aspect impressionnant.

La prise de connaissance surprenante avec l’Arménie anticipait un séjour aussi remarquable pendant trois mois estivaux dans la patrie de mes ancêtres. Maintenant, à l’expiration de ce temps, je peux dire avec certitude que les émotions et les impressions ressenties pendent cet été, ont surpassé toutes mes attentes. À partir du tout premier jour – la rencontre avec la famille d’accueil, qui m’a accepté, sans exagération, comme son membre et en finissant par la conversation déjà en langue arménienne, avec le chauffeur de taxi, me déposant le dernier jour à l’aéroport, j’étais envahi par un sentiment interne que je suis chez moi. Et c’est étonnant, puisque ce sentiment je ne l’ai jamais ressenti dans aucun pays où j’ai vécu, mais seulement ici, en Arménie, où je me suis trouvé pour la première fois. Un sentiment énorme !

Je sais que sans Birthright Armenia ces émotions seraient incomplètes. Elles auraient été tout à fait différentes car, en effet, cette organisation offre le format idéal pour la perception du pays et de sa vie. A travers les excursions remarquables dans toute l’Arménie et l’Artsakh, les forums avec les représentants de diverses organisations engagées dans le développement du pays, mais aussi la possibilité de rencontrer un grand nombre de personnes différentes, des bénévoles, des Arméniens de toute la diaspora et des personnalités simplement intéressantes. Ainsi, ВА crée l’atmosphère spéciale, la perception vive et émotionnelle de la vie arménienne. Par ailleurs, ВА donne la possibilité de ressentir l’Arménie réelle, en premier lieu par le biais du volontariat, à travers la communication avec ses habitants, la compréhension des problèmes et les complexités de sa société.

Birthright Armenia c’est nous tous : les participants du programme, nos familles d’accueil, les professeurs d’arménien, les guides des excursions, tous qui sont liés à notre séjour ici, dans la patrie. Mais dans son cœur – un petit collectif de personnes sensibilisées et énergiques, aimant leur pays et croyant à son avenir radieux. Moi-même, j’en ai foi et donc je reviendrai absolument pour participer à la construction de cet avenir.

Ayant quitté l’Arménie, rentré dans ma ville, en me rappelant les moments magnifiques passés dans ma patrie, en regardant les photos et en pensant à nouveau à toutes ces personnes que j’ai rencontré: les collègues de travail, les bénévoles de tous les coins du Monde, tous les représentants et les participants du programme, la famille, avec laquelle on s’est vu pour la première fois et même les nouveaux vrais amis, je commence à me rendre compte que ces trois mois étaient, peut-être, la période la plus heureuse dans ma vie. Période de recouvrement de la patrie.

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Originally posted on kohar minassian:
Yesterday, the Birthright Armenia excursion took me to the ArmAs Winery in the Aragatson Province of Armenia, about an hour away from Yerevan. It was really a relief to be out on the land with…

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.