By Daniele Faye Sourian Sahr and FAR Staff

For those in the Diaspora, living in multiple cultures is something many Armenian-Americans know well. Despite growing up in America, they have a strong awareness of and attachment to their Armenian roots – even if those roots have crossed through other nations and cultures before reaching the United States.

Most have an understanding of Armenia built on such childhood stories as Mesrop Mashtots’ alphabetical vision, images of snow-capped Mount Ararat, and numerous tales diluted by generations and distance.

For many Armenian-Americans, stepping foot in Armenia is a way to step beyond these childhood images. It provides a chance to learn who they are, as Armenians. Over 14 years, the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) has provided this opportunity to dozens of young Armenian-Americans through the Young Professionals Trip. For two weeks each June, up to 20 individuals can experience the sights, smells and tastes of Armenia in a profoundly unique way.

This year, led by FAR’s Projects Director Arto Vorperian, participants traveled through 10 regions of the country, visiting sites like the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Memorial and Vorotan Canyon and witnessing the astounding height and beauty of Mount Ararat.

Amy remembers the Armenian genocide
at the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan

amy

Credit : Celine Kaladjian

Even though the trip incorporates visits to significant cultural and historical landmarks, participants do not solely explore Armenia as tourists getting a mere snapshot of the country. This trip gives them the opportunity to delve into the nation’s fabric, to step beyond the history books, and to experience a physicality lacking in any photo or painting hanging on a wall back home.

Through this trip, FAR instills in the young professionals a keen sense of awareness for the needs of Armenia and its people. They learn about Armenia’s religious, political and economic heritage by engaging with political and religious leaders. They witness firsthand the country’s need for better infrastructure, education, health care and employment by meeting those who benefit from FAR’s programs.

This year trip brought participants face to face with the orphans who live at FAR’s Homeless Children’s Center in Yerevan, which is a complete full-service facility for at-risk children. They met the elderly who rely on FAR’s soup kitchen for daily sustenance and survival. They shared coffee with students who attend FAR’s Gyumri Information and Technology Center (GTECH), students who, by furthering their education, are helping to rebuild a community still recovering from the devastation caused by an earthquake 20 years ago.

With each introduction and each conversation, the country they once knew only through the stories of others becomes their own. They develop a richer, deeper connection that ultimately benefits their lives and the lives of their fellow Armenian countrymen. Armenia becomes real and more often than not, it becomes a place they want to stay connected with.

The Young Professionals
admiring the view of Yerevan from Cascade

cascade

Credit : Celine Kaladjian

Daniele Sahr, a participant from the June 2009 trip put it this way, “Each experience, location, and person had a way of bringing to life the symbolic images we carried to Armenia with us and unfailingly introduced us to the palpable realities of daily life. While there was no question of the difficulties faced by so many in this country in need of modern infrastructure, more jobs, and greater security, there was a consistent underlying feeling of vibrancy, hope, and wide-spread intelligence that I could not help but want to be a part.”

Daniele may be one of the many trip participants who soon return to Armenia to play a role in bettering the nation by participating in FAR’s programs, doing anything from supporting abandoned children to helping Armenian doctors enhance their skills. You can read about Daniele’s impressions of the trip on our blog.

FAR’s Young Professionals Trip is an excellent opportunity for any Armenian-American. Even those who may have traveled to Armenia in the past may gain an entirely new perspective of their country through such a journey.

And here they are, finally in Armenia!

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Credit : Celine Kaladjian

Dates for the 2010 trip have not yet been announced, but the latest information and details will be posted on FAR’s blog or website . Alternatively, just befriend FAR on Facebook or follow on Twitter

FAR will also hold an event for prospective participants in September when trip alumnus will share their experiences and photos. Details about the event will be announced later in the summer.

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