Ten years ago, AGBU’s Discover Armenia Program was launched. Since then, around 300 Diasporan Armenians (ages 15-18), from 20 countries, have discovered Armenia for themselves. This year, 28 youth from Canada, Great Britain, France, Switzerland and the United States gathered in Armenia to help celebrate the program’s 10th anniversary. The 3-week program offers sightseeing, cultural events and meetings with public and social sector representatives. Highlights of the program include the community service component and a 3-day visit to Artsakh. Volunteering on a community service project is an important part of Discover Armenia. Participants are not merely tourists in Armenia - they also give a part of themselves to Armenian society. For many years, Discover Armenia has worked with Fuller Center for Housing Armenia to help families in need. This summer, AGBU Discover Armenia volunteers helped build a home in Ujan Village, Aragatsotn Region, for the family of a teacher and former freedom fighter. The proud, new homeowner, Gagik Alexanyan, was very grateful and touched: “I am very thankful to the organizers and these young people for their help. They work with passion and are very organized.” Between August 12-14, participants traveled to and around Artsakh, visiting local cultural and historical places, Shushi, and Gandzasar Monastery. A long-standing Discover Armenia tradition, the youth visited and donated new foreign language books to the Children’s Library in Stepanakert. The foreign language library section was founded by Discover Armenia in 2009. On August 19, they traveled to Gyumri and visited the Terchoonian Home Orphanage and School. Discover Armenia youth met the children and shared gifts. They also had the honor of presenting the orphanage with $3,000, raised in the USA by Philippe Tarjan, one of this year’s Discover Armenia participants, before his visit to Armenia. The money is earmarked to be used for winter heating. Discover Armenia participants spent the entire day in the orphanage, playing, singing and dancing with the kids. “AGBU's Discover Armenia trip did more for me than words can express. I am growing up in a large Armenian family, which allows me to indulge in common traditions and cuisine - but coming to Armenia changed my prior notions of what the country was like. There are vast differences between Armenians who live in Armenia and Diaspora Armenians. When in Armenia, I was able to observe the different culture and way of life. This is why it is drastically important for anyone who is of Armenian decent and wants to preserve their roots to visit Armenia. I experienced the place my ancestors lived in and now, when I say ’I am Armenian’ I place a stronger meaning behind the words,” said Marcus Mamourian (USA). Part of Discover Armenia’s program includes weekly Armenian song and dance classes. At the end of their program, the youth perform in a program with the children of the AGBU and Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin Children’s Center in Nork. The young explorers also visited AGBU Yerevan, American University of Armenia, Arabkir Soup Kitchen, sponsored by AGBU and the Mother See, Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum, AGBU Armenian Virtual College, Cafesjian Museum, Garni Temple, Geghard Monastery, Khor Virap Monastery, Lake Sevan, Matenadaran Institue of Ancient Manuscripts, Noravank Monastery, St. Etchmiadzin, Tsakhkadzor and Tumo Center for Creative Technologies. Emilio Schadt, who is not Armenian, participated in this year’s program with his Armenian girlfriend. “My experience in AGBU Discover Armenia trip as a non-Armenian has been eye opening. Seeing the Armenian Genocide Museum made me realize how precious life is and how lucky I am to have my Kayla as her grandparents had to escape the genocide. It was also great to see so many of the churches and get good background knowledge of my girlfriend’s heritage. The cafes and the night life of Yerevan was also very exciting and different from America. Overall the Discover Armenia trip was a great way to learn and experience the heritage of my girlfriend and a good way to assimilate myself with a different culture,” said Emilio. At the Farewell Dinner, participants, together with Discover Armenia coordinator Herminé Duzian, AGBU leadership and staff celebrated the 10th anniversary. After cutting a celebratory cake, toasts were made for the future and long-lasting success of Discover Armenia and AGBU.





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