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Yeghvard, Sweet Yeghvard

For almost a month now, LCO volunteers from the Diaspora and the capital of Yerevan have made Yeghvard in the Syunik region of Armenia their home away from home. They awake and sleep to the sites and sounds of the countryside and farm life. Birds chirping, bees buzzing, farm animals roaming wherever they turn. Yeghvard may be off in the rural distance, but it is not backward. They have a community center that houses a daycare center and a library. Despite the children’s joy, the only complaint from the villagers is that there is a lack of water. It is a very difficult life for them to endure the mercy of the weather, limited government resources, and a lack of water to adequately supply the needs of their community.

Village Children Actively Participating

The children are everywhere and are the pulse of the village. They cannot get enough of the volunteers, especially the girls. Each female volunteer has her own set of groupies that follows her around all the time at every job site. The volunteers are also clearing the area around the churchyard and the village’s monument to the fallen soldiers of World War II. On one of the days, the local boys wanted to treat the volunteers to a special transportation system, a donkey.

Aside from the work on the project and excursions, the volunteers enjoy each other’s company and other activities in their free time. They play volleyball with a net made out of string, coloring, cards, and other games. Also, three of the volunteers, Julie, Alique, and Nare, celebrated their birthdays in Yeghvard, Armenia with a new group of friends and extended village family. During the summer, the village youth create a discotheque at the center. At night, the village’s children stand by the volunteer’s house calling at them to "come out, come out, and go with us to the disco".

Vartabed Blessing the Group

The group was blessed by a visit of a Vartabed (priest) who came to view the work and speak to them. Addressing them in Armenian and English, he was extremely moved by the diligence of the volunteers. The group accompanied him into the church where he performed a small mass. The Vartabed expressed his gratitude for the volunteers’ sacrifice and promised to perform the consecration himself upon the church’s completion.  

One of the villagers was very moved by this experience. She said her mother had always told her how beautiful this church was. However, she never believed it, as she had never seen it as an Armenian religious site but instead as storage for grain or hay. During the Soviet era, the villagers had convinced Soviet authorities to use churches as granaries instead of destroying them as places of worship. That is how most of the village churches were protected throughout the Soviet years, even though they were not permitted to repair them.

Throughout the project, the varbeds (craftsmen) have been very impressed with the work that these volunteers accomplished. When the varbeds started to cement the rocks into place, the female volunteers insisted on participating in that job as well. The volunteers’ dedication and spirit have moved the locals of all ages.

LCO Board Members and Experts Reviewing the Project

Besides the volunteers’ hard work and effort, several LCO Board Members have been active overseeing the project and interacting with the villagers. They have been coordinating with a historical architect and craftsmen to ensure that the project is successfully completed. Dr. Haig Manjikian, LCO-USA President from California, made house calls to the villagers in his professional capacity. Fellow California LCO-USA Board Members Nazareth Kevonian and Dr. Haig and Hilda Manjikian have been active on site during the July campaign. Dr. Aram Ghazarian from LCO-France made a brief visit to review the progress before heading to the Shushi Hospital to perform surgeries there. Board Members also went on fact-finding missions to review prospective sites for the upcoming 2011 campaign. During the August portion of the campaign, LCO Board Members will continue to be present to oversee the project.

As the group sadly departed "their village", they all knew Yeghvard and this experience would forever leave an impression on both their memories and their Armenian spirit. They all have now been a participant and will remain a permanent part of our ancestral land and culture.

  • "There are experiences you shape and then there are experiences that shape you. The LCO Campaign of 2007 in the village of Azat offered me invaluable perceptions into the realities of my fellow Armenian brothers and sisters in a way only a true immersion program can. I urge everyone and anyone who might feel an inkling of belonging to this fascinating country, people, and history to sign up with the campaign immediately. I smile just thinking about what you have yet to experience."
    Noushig K, Azat 2007, CA, USA

  • "Coming back from a 4-day trip to Kharabagh really felt like coming back home, with our family waiting to greet us outside our house. That's when I realised just how attached we'd grown to the place, to our family, to the other volunteers"
    Anoosh Gasparian, Azat 2009, London UK

  • "I went to this trip with no expectations, and came back with a great appreciation for our country.  Life in the village is surreal, the food is beyond delicious and the people are incredibly nice. It was a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget!"  Sam Tahmasian, 2009, CA, USA
  • "LCO is an amazing concept. It introduced the deprived Diasporan to their land and their people. It is a wonderful introduction to Armenia and something every young man or woman should experience."
    Madlene Minassian Ispirian, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, Yerevan, Armenia

  • "My most memprable experience was being so warmly taken care by an old village couple, receiving gifts from them, giving them gifts and establishing bonds."
    Naira Der-Kiureghian, Ayroum 2003, CA, USA

  • "...I know that when I reflect back on this experience I will feel ecstatic about the work we accomplished, the things we saw, and the bonds we forged."
    Hovig Saghdejian, Ayroum 2003, California, USA

  • "Dolma is made with mum's careful instructions, grandmothers eyes found on the faces of children, songs of Ararat are as familiar as the Khachkars dotting the landscape. If it smells like home, looks like home then it must be home."
    Datevig Simonian, Shadvan 2004, California, USA

  • "LCO experience was a revelation for me. It gave me the opportunity to expand my horizons both personally and professionally. One of the most important experiences of my life and an important factor in determining my future goals."
    Lara Aharonian, August 1999, August 2001, Montreal, Canada.

  • "I formed strong bonds with my volunteers, and the difference in backgrounds was refreshing. It was interesting to hear the points of view of different Armenians from other areas of the Diaspora."
    Aramazt Kalaydjian, Shoushi 2003, NY, USA

  • "I loved the simplicity of life in the village, the fresh homemade food is wonderful; that people are the friendliest and most hospitable... the children have the most beautiful faces..."
    Sophia Balakian, Shadvan 2004, New York, USA