29 Diasporan Youths Participated in the 7th AGBU Yerevan Summer Internship Program

Since 2007, AGBU has made the dreams of Armenian Diasporan students come true by providing them the opportunity to visit our homeland. They come not as tourists, but rather as interns who live and work in the capital and contribute to Armenia. During the six-week program, interns begin to better understand today’s Armenia and strengthen the bonds with their homeland. They discover and explore our rich heritage, teach while being taught, and reassess their role in Armenia’s future. The 2013 AGBU Yerevan Summer Internship Program (YSIP) brought together 29 young adults from Australia, Lebanon, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Interns were immersed in Armenia by living and working in the capital. In addition to their daily work schedules, program elements included Armenian language classes at AGBU Armenia Virtual College (AVC), dance classes, discovering Yerevan’s hidden gems, and weekend trips around Armenia to sights many of them had previously only heard about from their parents and teachers. Interns now can proudly add to their resumes the international, professional and practical work experience they gained by working in a myriad of local and international organizations including the American University of Armenia (AUA), Arabkir Medical Center, Children of Armenia Fund (COAF), Emporium, Golden Apricot International Film Festival, Grant Thornton, Hetq News Agency, RA Ministry of Diaspora, National Art Gallery of Armenia, Office of the Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia, RepatArmenia Foundation, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Women’s Resource Center, and more. One of the highlights of the program was the 4-day visit to Artsakh. The memorable trip to the south began with a visit to the Khor Virap Monastery, just 100 meters from the Turkish border and in the shadow of majestic Mount Ararat. Other stops included Noravank Monastery in Areni and the breathtaking Tatev Monastery – including a ride on the Tatev’s Wings tramway – before finally arriving in Stepanakert. Having spent the second day sightseeing around beautiful, mountainous Artsakh and exploring Gandzasar Monastery, the interns then visited the House of Parliament of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) where they met with NKR Deputy Foreign Minister Felix Khachatryan and Armen Sargsyan, Chairman of the NKR Parliament Committee on Culture, Youth and Sports. In the evening, interns enjoyed one of the cultural highlights of their summer – an open-air performance of the Karine operetta at the historic Tigranakert Fortress. They spent their final day in Artsakh walking around Shushi, talking with local residents and learning about their lives and hardships faced during the war. The summer program also included interesting meetings with prominent individuals in Armenia. Minister of Defense of the Republic of Armenia Seyran Ohanyan discussed defense and security issues before responding to interns’ concerns about the future of Artsakh and the current state of Armenian defense in the region. Later, interns toured the Vazgen Sargsyan Military Academy, where they met with cadets and shared their daily routine. Interns met with founders and members of RepatArmenia Foundation, who shared their unique personal stories about their move to the homeland. At the US Embassy in Yerevan, YSIP participants met with US Ambassador to Armenian John Heffern who briefed the interns on the work of the US Embassy and answered participants’ questions. Interns improved their eastern Armenian skills through classes at AVC. In addition, all learned traditional dance skills during weekly classes held at the AGBU and Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin Nork Children’s Center. At the end of the six weeks, interns showcased their new dance talents during a performance at the Children’s Center. The spirit of benevolence and charity is forever present in the hearts of AGBU members of all ages. Over the last 7 years, YSIP participants have taken part in events ranging from fundraising, to environmental clean-ups, to hands-on construction of homes for the disadvantaged. This year, interns took part in a fundraising concert and auction organized by the British Embassy in Armenia and the Beautified Project band to raise funds for the Byron Elementary School in Gyumri. Interns visited and toured the AGBU Yerevan office, American University of Armenia, Antranik Scoup Camp in Lori region, Armenian Virtual College, and Tumo Center for Creative Technologies. Interns and their (work) supervisors and colleagues shared their impressions and experiences with each other and AGBU Armenia leadership and other guests at the traditional Supervisors’ Reception, held this year at the extraordinary Armenian Museum of Folk Art. “In a very short period Ani gave our kids values that are both important and necessary: inspiration, hope, confidence and friendship. I am counting on her returning to Armenia soon because our children need role models like her,” said Serob Khachatryan, the Country Director of COAF, speaking about U.S. intern Ani Djirdjirian.







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