Being a Part of My Homeland

Meghrig Jabaghchourian
Syria, AVC 2012-2013

Image

I know that I was enough lucky to get a chance of becoming a volunteer with Birthright Armenia and Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) for the second time. That means sharing more experience, learning new things, meeting different people.

This time I didn’t want to stay in Yerevan meet some tourists because Armenia is not just Yerevan; it is all the places from Gyumri to Martakert.

My First night in Yerevan

I arrived at 2:00 am to Yerevan, the driver told me that I had to go to Gayane’s home. When we arrived there, we knocked the door but no answer. After a few minutes a young man and a boy opened the door. That was Araz, another volunteer and he said “We didn’t know about you” Gayane woke up and said “Oh who are you?” I said I am a volunteer too and she was surprised… Anyway she was a very nice lady, and, after all, this was the first night after a long time, that I fell sleep with no voice of bombs and arms.

Gyumri

So my first step was to go to Gyumri. It is a very nice and ancient city — you touch the culture, the history, and also the pain and unforgettable sadness caused by the earthquake. I had to do something I have never done before working in an NGO called Youth Initiative Centre (YIC). I can’t forget the first day when I had to go to my work place all I knew is that I had to stop the Marshoutka in front of the old town hall. All the people in the marshutka knew that I was a newcomer and that I wanted to go to the old town hall, because I was keeping on asking the driver where we were and whether I had to get off there. In the end, he refused to take money from me. He said, “Du Hyur es estegh, patk chi vjares”

Nelly, Arthur, Gurgen, Anni, Tamara, Kert at YIC… we used to spend all the day together having lunch together which I will never forget, especially eating watermelons.  I learned so many things from them: I learned how to make others smile, how to bring joy and happiness to others, I learned how to help and love,  to create things with  small opportunities, I learned how to give while I had nothing and to feel that happiness and the satisfaction inside when you feel the people you feel their pain and bring a piece of smile to them.

Narine, my host sister, was a mother of two children, Hagpig and Ashotig — my host nephews. They were amazing! It was Hagopig’s birthday when I took him to the kinder garden with Narine all the children there knew about me. Narine and I used to sit at nights and share our issues, our dreams and traditions.

Artsakh

During my childhood Artsakh was inside me. All I remember about Artsakh is a video of the Armenian Soldiers who were fighting in Artsakh war and the songs of my Ante (she used to sing patriotic songs). I also remember how everyone used to joke of me when I was telling them I would become a soldier in the future to keep my homeland safe…

August  2012

I was told I would work with a lady called Susanna Petrosian in Artsakh Youth Development Center and live at her house. Susanna was a nice lady; I used to teach English and organize round tables discussions. I met many young people there. Susanna had three children — Valero Maria and Ovsana, who were all  so kind! Marian, who was 7 years old, used to teach me Russian words.

After 10 days I met Liliane de Cermadec , a producer from France and her work team. She told me they needed a translator and invited me to work with her. While I worked with her I had the chance to visit every place in Artsakh and be closer to my homeland. I will never forget Elada when she told me that they lost their three sons during the war. They were soldiers and the first one died in the prison in Baku. I don’t know if crying or shouting or even whining was enough to explain what I felt inside. Continue reading

6 meses a mil

“While I was in Armenia many Brazilian friends on Facebook asked me if I was staying with relatives. I said that almost all of my family died during the Genocide, and the cities where my grandparents were born are very far from what’s left of Armenia. The Turks destroyed my family and the families of many other Armenians. But Birthright Armenia provided me with a new family that welcomed me during those six months I spent there. I was treated like a son. I have all this family in my heart now. What Turks destroyed, Birthright Armenia built.”

— Yuri Kebian Omonte
Brazil, 2012-2013

Antes de tomar essa decisão de ser voluntário na Armênia durante um longo tempo, o máximo que eu passei longe de casa, havia sido um mês, e em casa de parentes. Não foi fácil o dia em que vi meus pais chorando no dia do meu embarque. Fui muito feliz pelo fato de estar realizando um sonho, e ao mesmo tempo, estava desconfiado porque não sabia falar o idioma local, não sabia se a família que me acolheu seria boa ou não, não sabia se teria bons amigos. Só sabia que ia me encontrar com o meu amigo Micael Nalbandian, que conheci meses antes, em Montevidéu. O Micael também participou do Programa Birthright Armenia.

Quando eu cheguei, o motorista do Birthright estava com um papel com o meu nome e minha foto. Ele não fala inglês. Só armênio e russo! Eu cheguei só sabendo falar 10 palavras em armênio. Imagine o drama que foi logo de cara, no aeroporto. Senti-me em outro planeta! Mas ao chegar na minha host house, eu fiquei mais tranquilo porque minha host mother fala um pouco de inglês e tanto minha host sister quanto meu host brother falam inglês fluente. Cheguei em minha host house muito cansado. 11 horas de voo do Rio até Paris, mais 2 horas de escala, e finalmente, mais 5 horas e meia de Paris até Yerevan. No dia seguinte, ainda muito cansado, fui ao Birthright Armenia. Em menos de 24 horas depois de chegar na Armênia, eu me encontrei com o Micael, e também conheci o Alex Avakian.

Fui para ficar 4 meses. Mas eis que adiei minha volta! Troquei minha passagem aérea de 13/01/2013 para 17/03/2013. No fim, foram 6 meses e alguns dias. Foi uma experiência que daqui a 50 anos eu lembrarei. Pude conhecer toda Armênia nas excursões oferecidas pelo Birthright Armenia, participei de fóruns e havaks, e o principal, aprendi a falar o idioma. Foram meses de muito empenho para conseguir ler, falar e escrever em armênio. Durante esses meses, eu vi de perto a Armênia que sobrou. Embora eu estivesse muito distante de onde meus avós nasceram, parece que eu os sentia perto de mim.

Vejo que muita gente na diáspora diz que ama a Armênia e que sonha em um dia morar na Armênia. Não duvido do amor de nenhum armênio pela pátria mãe. Mas só vai poder dizer que REALMENTE quer morar na Armênia aquele que passar o inverno lá. Como eu passei, posso dizer que quero morar na Armênia.

O serviço voluntário eu fiz em 3 lugares diferentes. Centro Hispano, Escola República Argentina, e de vez em quando, no Birthright Armenia. Sempre prestei esse serviço com muita alegria. Era tão bom que o tempo passava rápido.

A viagem para Artsakh foi a melhor de todas. Vi de perto as terras que os armênios lutaram até o fim para não perdê-las. E acima de tudo, os armênios não deixaram os azeris massacrarem os armênios daquela região. Numa confraternização em Shushi, ao ouvir música armênia e ver pessoas que também participaram do Birthright Armenia dançando, cheguei a chorar por 2 motivos:
1) Graças à sobrevivência da linha ascendente de todos os presentes na confraternização estávamos lá nessa bela confraternização. O plano de riscar a Armênia do mapa falhou. Não sei da história das famílias da maioria que estava presente, mas provavelmente alguma história era parecida com a história da minha família. Continue reading

No más un cuento de hadas… Una realidad……

Image— Kevork Micael Nalbandyan,
Uruguay, 2012–13

Para los armenios que nacen en la diáspora dentro de una comunidad armenia la pregunta “¿Qué es Armenia?” es muy fácil de responder. Armenia es el Ararat, es el General Antranik, Kevork Chavush, Serop Ajpiur y todos sus fedaís. Es Gars, Sasún, Sepastia, Mush, Van,  Alashgerd  y Ardahan, son el millón y medio de mártires de 1915. Es el Lehmeyun, kefte, humus, Dhol, zurna, duduk y bailar kochari.

Pero, ¿Qué es la Armenia actual?.  Ah, la Armenia actual es el Lago Sevan, el Dzidzernakapert, Hor Virap, Mer taghe, la ópera y la plaza de la república, un lugar para pasarla bien.

Ir a Armenia fue algo que siempre tuve en mente. Sabía que algún día iba a ir, aunque sea a participar del campamento Hama-homenetmenagan de scouts que se hace una vez cada cuatro años. Pero por febrero de 2012, un amigo me hizo recordar la posibilidad de ir a través de Depi Hayk (Birthright Armenia) y estar en Armenia un par de meses como voluntario. Luego de unos meses y de varias charlas con amigos que ya habían participado del programa, tome la decisión. Es así que un día sin pensarlo demasiado, me senté en la computadora y llené los formularios de la página de Depi Hayk. Casi sin darme cuenta el 24 de Mayo de 2012 estaba sentado en un avión rumbo a Yerevan.

De esta forma desembarqué en una gran aventura que en un principio iba a ser de 3 meses y terminó siendo de casi 8. Es que cuando uno está ahí no puede dejar de absorber cosas y nunca es suficiente.

Mi experiencia cuenta de al menos dos grandes etapas: la primera en Gyumrí y la segunda en Yerevan.

Al llegar a Armenia me sucedió algo muy raro, sentí como que no hubiera llegado a ningún lugar especial. Esa sensación de extranjero o de turista no la sentí en ningún momento de los 8 meses. Desde un primer momento sentí como si toda mi vida hubiera vivido ahí, fue algo muy extraño pero muy lindo a la vez.

Gyumrí…

Image

A los pocos días de llegar me llevaron a Gyumrí. Ésta es la segunda ciudad en importancia de Armenia, queda al noroeste cerca de la frontera con Turquía.

La experiencia en esta ciudad fue increíble por la sencillez de su gente, su amabilidad y su hospitalidad. Los voluntarios que conocí allí nunca los voy a olvidar, varios de ellos son grandes amigos míos ahora. Nunca olvidaré los momentos compartidos en los viajes en mashutka o tren a Yerevan, los atardeceres que veíamos al final de la calle Paruyr Sevak, las tardes de guitarreada compartiendo historias y unos oghi. Tener la oportunidad de charlar con la familia que te alberga, escuchar sus anécdotas, sus experiencias y la forma en la que ellos ven a Armenia. Es difícil mencionar una anécdota en particular el conjunto de todo lo que hacíamos ahí lo hizo especial.

Yerevan…

A partir del cuarto mes me radiqué en Yerevan, y puedo decir que es una experiencia totalmente diferente a Gyumrí. 

Está muy bueno estar en la capital. Continue reading

New Tech Startup Founded by Alum

Meet Nigel Sharp, 28, born and raised in London, UK, and currently living in Armenia with his wife Yeva. Nigel parlayed a two-month volunteer stint into long-term employment, and recently founded his own start-up technology company called Lionsharp Solutions. The company is currently seeking investment to create the world’s first Voiceboard. ImageThe Lionsharp Solutions team (Nigel is 2nd from right)

Taken from the original piece written for Birthright Armenia’s e-newsletter http://conta.cc/10rmGaW
March 19, 2013

Deciding what to do in life sometimes takes the right set of circumstances and opportunities to seize, and of course, timing is everything. It all seemed to come together for 25-year-old Nigel Sharp, when he left his London life behind him in the spring of 2010, and headed to Armenia to volunteer.

“It all somehow feels right, having come here as an Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) volunteer and Birthright Armenia participant, then remaining in Armenia to build a three-year skill set as an IT Project Manager at TUMO, that the next logical step is building my own business with local talent,” Nigel admits. “I don’t want to lie, it is high risk financially, and emotionally draining at times, but with the right support and the inner strength of our team, I believe success is ahead…”

“Having successfully implemented and installed the technology at TUMO Center for Creative Technologies, I decided it’s now the right moment to build a new technology team in Yerevan named Lionsharp Solutions. This is probably the first team to move on from TUMO and to use their skills and confidence gained there to join Yerevan’s latest generation of entrepreneurs. In many respects we encompass the TUMO long-term mission, and this step has been a validation of what we have learned from that project. The future success of Armenia and it’s people will only come from innovation and utilizing our intellectual capital,” adds Nigel.

Nigel with his Lionsharp Solutions team members are currently in Sofia, Bulgaria, where they traveled to participate in the Eleven StartUp Accelerator competition in the hopes of attracting some funders to help back this growing start-up venture. Their hard work paid off. They scored their first huge success by placing first against almost 300 other teams from around the world and successfully winning their first round of acceleration investment! They will be given seed money of 25-50K EUR to continue developing their product and get mentorship from other professionals.

“We have the belief and desire to build a company which allows us to create new technology and products – the first of which will be the Voiceboard – a new way to digitize ideas with gesture and voice capture.  Maybe our new company motto should be a take on a wise Italian proverb: “It is better to live one day as a Lion than a hundred years as a sheep.”

Cela ne sera jamais suffisant

1Anahit Bagramyan
(Canada, AVC ’12)

Si, après 3 mois, vous avez l’impression qu’il ne vous manque que 2-3 petits jours pour que tout soit parfait, détrompez-vous : cela ne sera jamais suffisant. Comme un enfant qui supplie : « 5 minutes de plus », ne réalisant pas son état de fatigue, de faim ou de propreté, une partie de vous ne veut pas partir. Il y a tant de choses que je n’ai pas eu le temps de faire en Arménie me promener à Manument, monter au sommet d’Ararat, retourner à Tsiternakabert, revoir une fois de plus les gens qui ont rempli mon été de beaux moments, tendres, drôles, touchants.

Les souvenirs de ce que j’ai eu le temps de faire sont encore frais, même après 6 mois : l’incroyable nature de Kharabar, les forêts d’Ijevan, les églises, les repas partagés avec les aînés qui ont vécu la guerre, les étoiles de Noemberian, vartavar à Tavouch et évidemment toutes les anecdotes qu’y suivent. Je m’égare avec plaisir….

Contrairement à la majorité des participants de Birthright Armenia, je n’en étais pas à ma première visite au pays : je parlais la langue et j’avais de la famille à Yerevan. Étant restée connectée avec le pays, j’ai atterri en Arménie avec des idées, des attentes mais surtout des déceptions préconçues. Finalement, cette expérience s’est révélée très différente de toutes celles que j’avais faites auparavant.

Je ne sais pas comment vous décrire en quelques lignes ce j’ai vécu. J’ai vu une éthique de travail dysfonctionnelle, beaucoup de potentiel gaspillé pour différentes raisons, de l’injustice, mais également des changements phénoménaux, du travail acharné et une jeunesse pleine de promesse. J’ai probablement ressenti toute la gamme d’émotions possibles, tant les bons que les moins bons. Mes pensées vont à l’école des enfants déficients, au groupe d’adolescents sourds que j’ai eu la chance de côtoyer, à l’équipe de psychologues de la clinique privé, aux gens que j’ai rencontrés grâce à Birthright Armenia et AVC

Si j’ai touché la vie de certaines personnes, des amis, collègues, supérieurs, enfants et chacun d’eux a contribué à façonner un nouveau moi, plus mature, plus conscient, plus ouvert, plus présent. Un grand merci à la famille de Birthright Armenia et d’AVC qui vous adopte dès votre arrivée, un style de parrainage démocratique ceci étant dit!

J’ai enfin compris certaines choses sur lesquelles je m’interrogeais, et comprendre aide à ne plus juger, mais amène à s’ouvrir aux solutions, car tout n’est pas noir, ni même gris. L’Arménie est un pays de toutes les couleurs. Et si certains choses me fâches ce n’est pas pacque je vie ou pense comme une canadienne. C’est parce que j’aime ce pays du fond du cœur et je ne lui souhaite rien de moins que le meilleur. Je compte faire mon possible pour contribuer dans les changements à venir.

2Le conseil de Sevan résonne encore entre mes deux oreilles. « Birthright est une belle opportunité. Maintenant, ce que tu fais avec est une tout autre question. Tu peux prendre ce qui t’est donné de base, ce qui est sans exagération, excellent, mais tu peux faire encore mieux, utiliser tes forces et tes faiblesses pour que ça devienne un tremplin. »

Toutes les décisions que vous allez prendre, une fois atterris ici, sont les vôtres, c’est effrayant, c’est différent, mais je vous assure : c’est excellent pour la santé.

Մինչ նոր հանդիպում
Anahit