Big Help in Small Places

Ashley Mahserjian
(Clifton Park, NY, United States)

Well, where do I begin? My junior year in college was when I decided that I wanted to go to Armenia. I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got there, who I was going to meet or what I was going to learn. I had no idea how I was going to live in a country when I didn’t speak the native tongue, and I was not familiar with the customs; all I knew was that I needed, for myself, to go to the place where my ancestors were from.

While browsing the internet to help me with ideas for my trip, I found Birthright Armenia. Birthright Armenia encouraged me not only to come to Armenia to see it, but also to understand it and play a part in its growth.  In October, 2010, the fall after I graduated from college, I traveled to Armenia to volunteer at the Women’s Resource Center, an organization that Birthright Armenia helped me find after discovering my interests.  At the Center I helped organize a protest against domestic violence, helped teach English classes, spoke with women about their dreams and aspirations, helped construct the Center’s website, and more.  I also learned how to speak Armenian during my two month stay with the help of Birthright Armenia’s language classes. The classes were very helpful and easy to understand, and the teachers were excellent. Not only was my teacher excited about teaching me Armenian but she was also interested in becoming my friend which I think is something that you don’t see every day in the realm of education, no matter the subject. I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have come in contact with Birthright Armenia.  Had it not been for them, my visit to Armenia would have been very different. After two months as a volunteer in Armenia, I can honestly say that I feel like a different person. I have grown to have a greater understanding for the world outside of my day to day living, to be open-minded, to learn more than I ever thought possible, and to raise the bar higher than I ever could have dreamed.

I have to admit that traveling to Armenia was intimidating considering I knew no one and was illiterate, but the people working at Birthright stood by me. They contacted me on a regular basis before my trip and made me feeling comfortable, reassuring me that my trip would be nothing short of amazing.

And they were right.

People are afraid of what they don’t know. The ones who push through that fear are the ones who extract the most out of life. Birthright Armenia helped me do this, and I’ve never been happier.  I encourage those who are thinking about visiting Armenia to make it a reality and to use Birthright Armenia as their source.  Not only will you develop camaraderie from the people at Birthright that will stay with you forever, but also a strong sense of yourself and a new understanding and respect for Armenia and its people.

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