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Experiencing Glorious Artsakh and Tsedesootiun Hayrenik

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Artsakh White Church

Before we left Shikahogh, 12 volunteers from the Faith and Heritage Organization visited us. Faith and Heritage is our sister Armenia program funded by OTC/LCO whose mission is to stimulate and encourage the youth of Armenia to safeguard and preserve our heritage by conducting clean up campaigns of historical sites. They were on a three-day campaign in the Syunik region.

 

The LCO-OTC volunteers left their Shikahogh home and journeyed on their final two-day trip to liberated Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabagh. After crossing the strategic Berdzor/Lachin Corridor and driving through high top mountains where you feel like the clouds are right above you, we headed into Shushi the historical capital of Karabagh. Once an extensive cultural center, the city was virtually destroyed during the Karabagh War. We explored the old fortress walls, viewed the museum, and learned of the history of Shushi. Our group also went to the plateau where the fierce battle to capture Shushi occurred and changed the outcome of the war. Volunteers had a true interpretation of fighting for your homeland. After viewing the Surp Amenaprkich Ghazanchetsots Cathedral and Kanach Zham/Holy Mother of God Church, we enjoyed a traditional Armenian feast. The group stayed at the home of war veteran Saro Saryan, who now runs his residence as a youth hostel.

The next day, we headed north to the 13th century Gandzasar Monastery. Again, we were overwhelmed by the majesty of our architecture amid stunning and treacherous locations. Next, as a traditional stop, our group climbed onto the victorious tank that is now used as a memorial to the battle that it fought and climbed to the Mamik-Babik statue, that is the symbol of Artsakh.

Desperate for a taste of "home", we found a shawerma place in the capital of Stepanakert! Standing in the sidewalk, ordering shawerma-to-go wrapped in lavash was very surreal, but delicious. Our group walked the dynamic city, entered museums, and returned to our hostel in Shushi. Nearby was the Regional Hospital of Shushi. OTC-LCO previously had renovated the surgical wing here. Hospital's chief doctor and surgeon, Dr. Vigen Khachaturyan gave our group a tour of the facility. Two weeks ago, Dr. Gazarian had performed surgeries there. Below Shushi is also another completed project for the village of Karintak which LCO-OTC restored their community center after the war.

We were all ready to return to Yerevan, but very aware that our month of working and traveling together to the outer edges of Armenia would soon be over. As we drove along the Stepanakert-Goris-Yerevan highway, we made one final stop at the Noravank Monastery. Volunteers then readjusted to large metropolitan Yerevan where they enjoyed some time in the big city and said their goodbyes as they started to depart their Hayrenik each with their own impressions and memories.

  • "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