Thursday, December 07, 2006

Maro Siranosian


Name: Maro Siranosian
Hometown: Whittier, California
Age: 22
Duration of Service: Oct - Dec 2006
Volunteer Worksite: Counterpart International
I am currently interning at Counterpart International, specifically with the Civic Advocacy Support Program (CASP). My tasks include editing text, creating presentations, and writing success stories about NGOs which receive grants through CASP. Recently, I was given the opportunity to go to Goris, in the Syunik Marz, and interview seven NGOs in the surrounding regions. The experience was truly rewarding, not only was I able to visit different cities in southern Armenia (Kapan, Sisian, Vayk, Yeghegnadzor, & Goris) and interview different NGOs, I also got an opportunity to get a sense of how the NGO sector in Armenia works in general. On one occassion, I was even invited to sit in on a meeting between an NGO advocacy specialist and the Mayor of Syunik. It was interesting to experience, first-hand, the interaction between the two, and be present as important decisions regarding the Syunik Marz were being made.

My time in Armenia is quickly coming to an end and I have only recently realized how short two months can feel! I have three weeks left in Armenia, and I intend to take advantage of every moment and hopefully return very soon.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Laura Tashjian


Name: Laura
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Duration of Stay: One year

Background: professional work in public interest research and community organizing, international experience in sustainable development and women's advocacy work

Volunter work in Armenia: Teaching English, women's workshop, compiling journal and organizing events at the Kanayq Hayots Women's Resource Center in Yerevan.

Living and working in Ijevan (Tavush Region, Northern Armenia) with World Vision's Building Sustainably Livelihoods Program, which supports the community in business initiatives (such as piggeries, honey-making, stone workers, etc.)

Motivation: While standing through the Badarak procedures, it became painfully obvious that I am an outsider to my own culture. Incense, which smelled like my grandmother’s favorite dress, floated through the holy archway of the church and into my pew. I inhaled these memories slowly, hoping my lungs would accept a fraction more of air before I exhaled. I prayed my lungs would expand into the next pew until the remnants of my lost culture was allowed to circulate through my blood again.

The notes of a distant organ interrupted the rhythm of my breathing; my eyes opened and, instinctively, I understood that negotiating between my cultural “otherness” will always hinge on my understanding of the “homeland.” Long ago I launched my formal study of the Armenian language, culture, and history, but volunteering in Armenia has always been a missing link in my cultural puzzle.

Although discovering my “Armenianess” is a personal motivation, I believe strongly in the philosophy that work is only truly rewarding when it serves others and, with a background in the non-profit sector, I have dedicated my professional life to this end. Volunteering in Armenian is an ideal bridge not only to my personal questions of identity but also to my professional goals.