My Path Since My Time in Armenia

by Karinné Andonian
(Moorestown, NJ, USA)

Since that life inspiring summer of 2006 when I was privileged enough to be a Birthright Armenia volunteer, I have experienced and been a part of some of the most beautiful moments in my life.

My time at Birthright Armenia energized me, both personally and professionally, as I completed my Bachelor’s degrees in Music and Psychology, and then my Master’s degree in Music Therapy. Part of my time as a volunteer was working at Orran, and I made a promise to myself that when I had bettered my tools of helping children, I would return to assist the child psychologist who worked with the 60 or more children there.

Now, almost five years later, I have yet to return to Armenia and fulfill that promise.  But in thinking about it every day since then, I have found other ways to touch the children of Armenia. I am a part of the US-based organization, Society for Orphaned Armenian Relief (SOAR), a beautiful non-profit organization that works directly with the orphaned children of Armenia, providing whatever is necessary to give the children a better chance to a childhood and to life. My time at Orran also inspired me in my professional endeavors, as I wrote my Master’s thesis on Children from Trauma and Violence, a study which has changed my life and my approach to working with children.   

After I completed my Master’s in 2010, I got married and became an Andonian! I currently am working as a music therapist with adolescents in foster care, who have come from trauma, abuse, and other sorts of domestic corruption.  I often think of my time in Armenia and what those children taught me. I enjoy my work very much, and I carry with me a lesson that I learned from the Mental Health Foundation, another job placement site where I spent my internship in 2006, which is: no matter the circumstances, music has the ability to transcend situations, language barriers, and illness and to connect each one of us to our fellow brothers and sisters.

This lesson touched me even more deeply on my last day in Armenia, when I said goodbye to a friend I had met the year before in my travels to our Motherland. A woman, named Kohar, who sells sunflower seeds on the corner of Abovian and Aram Streets, became a dear friend of mine.   And when I had gone to give her a note to say thank you and farewell, we sat on the curb and sang “Bari Aragil” as people, strangers, walked on past us. Some stopped to listen to us as we sang this heart-touching song with tears in our eyes and our hands clasped together, and it was at this moment my life was changed.

Since then, I have continuously used music to connect to and help others. And each time I do so, I think of my time in Armenia, and the time I spent with my people.

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