11th AGBU “Discover Armenia” Program Brings 44 Diaspora-Armenian Youths to Armenia

In 2013 the AGBU Discover Armenia program celebrated its 10th anniversary. This year the program opened the first page of a decade inspired by strength and enthusiasm. This year the 11th Discover Armenia Program brought 44 Diaspora-Armenian youth from the USA, Lebanon, Canada, Monaco, Russia, Syria and France. As part of the three-week program, the participants went sightseeing, visited various cultural events, met with political and public figures. “I did not know much about my roots, but I have always been interested in my identity. When I had this opportunity to visit Armenia with my brother and sister as part of the same program, I decided that I had to take it. Before arriving in the Homeland I had quite different opinions about it, and now I am glad that what I imagined was completely different to the reality of Armenia and I am sure that in the future everything will be even better.” said Ian Walters from the USA. Participation in voluntary community projects and a visit to Artsakh are the key components of the program. As part of community projects the AGBU Discover Armenia Youth Program has been cooperating with Fuller Armenia, reaching out to needy families with housing problems. This year support was offered to Silikyan district in Yerevan. The Gdoyan family received help from Fuller Armenia and AGBU Youth in completing the construction of their house. “We have been renting an apartment in this block for years. I have two schoolchildren, 8 and 10 years of age. I work as a teacher. We have been constructing this house for the last five years but there were still a lot of things to do. Learning that Fuller Center and AGBU are carrying out such an initiative, I decided to turn to them for help. I must confess, that I am delighted with these children and their unity. They have come to the Homeland from the Diaspora with the aim of helping people like me. Being from different countries, not knowing each other very well they have united around a specific purpose to help an Armenian. I cannot find the words to express my gratitude. I am very grateful to everyone”, says Arpine Gdoyan, the owner of the house. One of the youngest participants of the program, Kerby Sakarian noted, “I have been in Yerevan for one week together with 40 other teenagers and already managed to make friends with them. I am from Canada and now I have friends from the USA, Lebanon, etc. We’re been working on this house for the second day and we are helping these people to finish the construction of their home. Today I became 14 years old and I am very happy to be part of this wonderful program.” Between August 10-12, the participants of the program visited Artsakh. During their trip they visited historical monuments, Shushi and Gandzasar and presented new books to the foreign language literature stand of Stepanakert Children’s Library, which has become a wonderful tradition. The stand was established by DA participants in 2009 and since then it has been enriched with more new foreign language literature each year. During their trip to Artsakh the group also visited an orphanage with many presents and games. “My sister participated in this program and was very happy. She highly recommended that I take part too. So I decided to come to Armenia this year and I am very grateful for providing me such an opportunity. We visited Artsakh. I know that my peers struggled to protect this land during the war. If I were here during the years of the Artsakh war I would no doubt have participate in it. And now when our brothers fought and returned these lands, we must keep them”,mentioned Aram Khatchadourian from Lebanon. Visit of Diaspora-Armenian youth to Gyumri was an unforgettable experience where they had the chance to admire the ruins of Ani and our historical lands that remained in Western Armenia. The program curriculum also included classes of Armenian traditional dances, songs and pottery. At the end of the program participants showed what they had learned during the concert at the AGBU and Mother See’s Nork Children’s Center. The group also visited Etchmiadzin, Tsaghkadzor, Tsitsernakaberd, Khor Virap, Geghard, Garni, Sevan, Noravank, Matenadaran, American University of Amenia, offices of AGBU and Armenian Virtual College, as well as the AGBU and Mother See’s Nork Dining Center to meet and serve food to the pensions who use its services. The center provides meals for the elderly on a daily basis. On August 17, the group visited Kecharis Monastery in Tsaghkadzor to participate in the Grape Blessing ceremony. Participants confessed that visiting Armenia with the AGBU Discover Armenia program is quite different from their regular trips to Armenia accompanied by parents. Besides getting to know Yerevan with its beautiful streets and restaurants, AGBU summer programs help discover the real Armenia with its everyday life, it’s ups and its downs, as well as establish close ties with their peers from around the world. AGBU Discover Armenia Program was first launched in 2003. Thanks to AGBU Discover Armenia Program almost 350 Diaspora Armenians from more than 25 countries have discovered Armenia for themselves during the past 11 years. The program is headed by Hermine Duzian, who is also the AGBU Diaspora-Armenian Youth Programs Coordinator.





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