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Final Days in Shikahogh and Next Steps for LCO

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Shikahogh, Armenia - Our last week in Shikahogh village was action-packed, full of heavy duty work and festive farewell gatherings.

We completed a fun "demolition project," using sledge hammers to tear down a bathroom made of stones and cement that was haphazardly annexed onto the rear of Soorp Stepanos Church a few decades ago. We also finished stacking hundreds of clay tiles on top of the church roof, through many days of passing them in an assembly line and lifting them to the roof with a pully system. We are proud that we accomplished a great deal, in that the roof was tiled in just a few short weeks with our assistance!

On Friday July 24th, we held a Madagh attended by all the villagers, the priest of Kapan, mayors of the surrounding villages, and the vice governor of the Syunik region. First thing in the morning, we LCO volunteers helped prepare the food and banquet hall. When everyone arrived, we participated in the ceremony of blessing the church cross and placing it on the roof. Afterwards, we feasted on khorovats, toasted "Genats!" countless times, sang and danced to Armenian music until late in the evening.

The next two days we went on excursions, first to visit Halidzor to see the fortress where Davit Bek famously defeated opposing armies in the 1700s, and Vahanavank to see a beautiful old church surrounded by beautiful forests. The next day we drove through stunning arid mountain step landscapes to Meghri, which overlooks the Armenian-Iranian border on the Arax river. There we admired a 13th-16th century church in need of restoration, walked around the city, and enjoyed pizza in a comfortable outdoor café before returning to Shikahogh.

Our final full day in the village was Wednesday July 29th. In the morning we went on a 5 hour hike to the top of nearby Kari Berd "Rock Fort" mountain, where we enjoyed incredible views and took tons of pictures. That evening we had a wonderful farewell party in the community center, attended by all our village friends plus around 15 young people from Yeghvard village. It was a great way to bring everyone together and celebrate one final time, complete with khorovats, special performances, and a lot of dancing!

We left the next morning, saying goodbye to our dear friends amidst many hugs, small gift exchanges and tears of joy. After countless gatherings in village homes, on the soccer field, at the local swimming hole, on the discotec dance floor, and at our church work site, we truly felt like we had become part of the village family during our short stay in Shikahogh. Five of our eleven volunteers who stayed after the LCO campaign to watch the Pan-Armenian games in Yerevan are already planning a trip back to Shikahogh on August 9th, so that they can stay with our cook Narine and share a few more precious days of quality time in the village!

Meanwhile, the French LCO campaign (OTC) arrived in Shirakamut village in early August to finish up several years of work on the 7th century Tchichkhanavank Church in preparation for its consecration on August 22nd. For the next several weeks they will prepare the grounds, take scaffolding off, and clear work debris so that it’s ready for the public. The Armenian Tree Project in conjunction with LCO planted 300 decorative trees around the church and in the village. They, in addition to the governor of the Lori Region Monument Committee, the Shirakamut villagers, and past and present American and French LCO volunteers will participate in the consecration on August 22nd. For more information about the opening, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

*** You can follow our progress via photos posted in our Flickr Album ***

  • "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