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Volunteers Start Work On New Campaign

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The 2013 volunteers began work on a new campaign on the 16th Century Sourp Stepanos Nakhavegah Church in Shikahogh with inscriptions on stones from the 13th century.  AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union)’s founder Boghos Nubar Pasha's forefather Moves Kahana Melik Nubaryans are from this village as evidenced by one of the gravestones on the church grounds.  Volunteers were eager to begin the work, putting on their work gloves and heading from their home up to the church.  The project began with hired workers cutting any trees that had grown on the church’s roof and our volunteers helped remove the debris.  Later, the church’s roof will be professionally dismantled stone by stone and any remaining tree roots will be cautiously removed.  As in all LCO historical renovation projects, first an archaeological dig is done before any restoration work begins.  Armenian archaeologist Arman Nalbandian is guiding and overseeing the group during the archaeological phase of the project.  Volunteers got into it clearing stones from inside and outside of the church.  Others took small tools and began digging away brush and the top layer of soil.  Some found ceramic pieces and bones.  Anytime a volunteer finds anything, they notify Arman who documents the artifact.   


The village of Shikahogh (sheg hogh/red soil) is located in the southern Syunik region south of the city of Kapan at the foot of the dense Shikahogh State Reserve, Armenia’s second largest forest reserve.  It is a vulnerable village with a shrunken population of 262 people, including 24 schoolchildren.  Being three kilometers from the Armenian-Karabagh border, the Azeris also shelled Shikahogh during the Karabagh conflict.  Fighting began in 1989 and intensified in 1992 until the Armenians liberated the Karabagh region in 1994.  Now they are hoping, in this peaceful era, to develop ecotourism in the Shikahogh State Reserve area.  

As it is humid, volunteers will be working three hours in the morning and three hours later in the afternoon.  That will give them time to rest, do laundry, and explore the village and surrounding area.  The villagers have been very friendly and helpful to the group.  Tonight our group got into the local scene by visiting a makeshift “club” at the village’s community center playing ping-pong, hanging out, and dancing “acheeg pakhtzenel” (stealing the girl) with the local youth.  

Additional photos can be found on the Gallery link of the website.

  • "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