In the summer of 2010, I was at Datev Monastery volunteering with Armenian Tree Project (ATP) as a landscape architect. We were working on the planting design for the world’s longest aerial tramway, “Wings of Datev.” I remember the excitement I felt at the chance to be able to contribute to the design of such a gargantuan project that was being eagerly implemented by people from all over the world. But many people had concerns as well; among other things, they complained that the project did not have a master plan, that it did not address the surrounding environment properly, that the developers would eventually build a resort on top of Devil’s Bridge, that the tramway should have been located in a less visually intrusive area. People were passionate about this project, and their points were all valid; it was at this point that I asked myself how we as a people would address such concerns. This question has lingered in my mind ever since.
ATP completed the project a few months later and I, a volunteer, had created a planting design that included over 3,000 trees. Needless to say, I was ecstatic that I had not only spent my time in Armenia living with our environment, people and culture, but also that I had contributed to its development. I got back to Los Angeles and wanted to share my experience with the Armenian community; I wanted everyone to know what I had accomplished by simply trying. I went to Armenia with no expectations and ended up planting 3,000 seeds of change with my own hands. And I was not alone. There were people educating children, empowering women, conserving the environment — working to preserve and better Armenia in every sector imaginable.
I came back in the fall of 2010 and have spent the last year convincing anyone and everyone I meet to go to Armenia and volunteer. I have told them that Armenia needs them as much as they need Armenia. I have told them to visit, learn, teach, and answer for themselves all the questions they have about Armenia. In the summer of 2011, I returned to Armenia as a Youth Corps director. My goal was to show my group an Armenia beyond the nightlife and tourism of Yerevan; I wanted them to see that this was their home that they needed to care for throughout their lives. Continue reading