The first question anyone asked me when I said I was going to volunteer to help in an Armenian orphanage was where is Armenia? This is easy to answer-
(Volunteers take a group photo with the children in the orphanage in
As I arrived at the orphanage I realised that the only problems I had were not tripping up on pavements in need of repair or else falling into holes in the roads especially after dark!
The orphanage was situated 15km outside the capital
One of the aims of the organisation was to promote intercultural learning and understanding by offering young people from different backgrounds the opportunity to work together. Well this certainly was the case as I was the only English person, although all the volunteers spoke
their own versions of English! At first this was a little overwhelming but I quickly got used to speaking slowly and interpreting what they mean.
I actually found this one of the highlights of the
experience as it taught me about the differences in our countries but how we are all fundamentally the same. After all I now have friends in
Volunteering was an amazing experience, there is no other way you can be certain that your
charitable donations will not end up in some corrupt politicians pocket and you can really see that you are making a difference to peoples lives; not only that, without knowing it they are also making a difference to your life.
So, next year, will I go on a luxury package holiday or volunteer again? Well that’s easily answered, how else except volunteering are you going to see the real heart of the country you are visiting?
Claire Atkins (July 2005)