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Excavations and Excursions

Shirakamut, Armenia



The 19 LCO/OTC volunteers have been busy working and excavating the Tchitchkhanavank Monastery and its grounds. After clearing the ruins of brush and grass, volunteers leveled the area and turned over the tombstones.  They got to perform real archaeological work using tools and a sieve to discover ancient artifacts. It was exciting when they found two gold rings and a human skull.  Now, archaeologists and historical experts will further analyze those artifacts.  Volunteers are really feeling exhilarated and fulfilled in the work they are doing and connecting to Armenian history as they work on this ancient monument. 


It is a little bumpy but volunteers have adapted to village life and have begun to intermingle with the locals. Several local children have joined them in the work and villagers are visiting them and bringing them snacks at the work site.  During off work hours, some of the group went on hiking expeditions conquering the area’s mountains.  Joining the group of mostly volunteers of Armenian descent, are two Frenchmen who wanted to join their Armenian friends on a summer adventure in Armenia. Mid-campaign, two young volunteers from Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh united with the group.

For their Saturday weekend excursion, the group headed north to Gumri, the second largest city of Armenia.  From Gumri, they had the off-the-tourist path experience of visiting the Armenian-Turkish border and looking across the border to view the ancient cathedral and ruins of Ani.  Located right in the demilitarized border zone was the only church of Ani with a cross on the dome. Near the border, the group was very moved being in the actual location of where 200,000 Armenians were massacred and thrown into a ravine bringing alive stories which had been told to them.

Not only was they experiencing Armenian history, they were also traversing the ancient Silk Road which crossed through northwestern Armenia.  They came across the ruins of a 17th Century Church which had a hotel and horse stable nearby.  Then crossed over the old railroad tracks that used to go to Kars but is not working due to the Turkish border being closed.  In Gumri, they grabbed a few pizzas and ate outdoors, and viewed sites including the destroyed All Saviors Church, which was destroyed during the earthquake.  Haik, the bus driver from Shirakamut, who was a soldier during the Karabakh war, explained a partial history about Western Armenia and heroes such as General Antranik during the trip.


On Sunday, the group headed for Lake Sevan. They went during the holiday of Vartivar, where the tradition is to throw water on each other. At Lake Sevan they climbed to the top of the peninsula to view the two 10th century churches, where Mass was being conducted.  After a kebab lunch at the local lake tourist section, the group drove to a more remote and secluded area of the lake to swim and play.   A local Armenian family joined in their fun.

The 2011 Shirakamut volunteers are:

Caleb Anspikian – Canada

Mark Attarian – USA

Levon Balayan – Nagorno-Karabakh

Eric Barritault - France

Antoine Barczewski - France

Hovaness Carapetian - France

Haig Choulakian – Canada

Anton Doniguian – France

Azade Doniguian - France

Christopher Geosian – USA

Nicholas Geosian - USA

Carineh Ghafafian – USA

Suren Hambartsoumyan – Nagorno-Karabakh

Pierre Meymarian - France

Camille Paboundjian - France

Sebouh Paul – USA

Sarkiss Rshdouni – Syria

Joseph Terzikhan - France

Meryl Toudjian – Canada

  • "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