Victor Tarjan’s first trip to Armenia did not unfold as it does for most diasporan Armenians. The glimpses of Mount Ararat, strolls around Republic Square and Saturday mornings browsing the wares of Vernissage familiar to most of the country’s tourists ended in a unique moment that would connect Victor to Armenia forever.
Victor, a seventeen-year-old high school senior from New York, had spent the months leading up to his trip raising money for the children at an orphanage in the small town of Vanadzor in the north of the country. With his cousin, Katherine Holobigian, Victor held a fundraiser at his house that brought together the community to sample lahmajoun and beureg, listen to the duduk and donate to a worthy cause.
Two years earlier, Victor’s older brother Philippe started what would become a family tradition of supporting the orphanage in Vanadzor. “Our great-grandmother, Hanni, lived in an orphanage after the Armenian Genocide. It was in a similar place that she met her future husband before moving to the United States,” said Victor.
Both Philippe—in 2013—and Victor—in 2015—delivered their donations in person during their summer with AGBU Discover Armenia, a volunteer program for diasporan Armenian teenagers that gives them the opportunity to contribute to local development in different regions of Armenia. This year, Victor and the rest of the Discover Armenia group spent three days building a house for a needy family in the village of Pokr Vedi near the Monastery of Khor Virap together with the Fuller Center for Housing Armenia. They also headed to Nagorno-Karabakh where the program renewed its commitment of providing the Foreign Language Book Pavilion of H. Tumanyan Republican Children’s Library of Stepanakert with books for children and young adults.
On August 20, Victor and Katherine presented a check for $3,850 to Marine Davtyan, the director of the orphanage. Their donation was quickly put to use, outfitting the children’s dormitories with new mattresses. “Knowing that I was responsible for helping these orphans and raising the standard of living for a handful of children made me very proud,” Victor said.
Victor’s summer with Discover Armenia will not be his last visit to the country. Though he plans to study economics in college and join the business world after graduation, Victor has a strong interest in traveling and learning about cultures and customs. “I’m planning to continue humanitarian work and experience the culture and landscape once again. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to help those in need and have a hand in developing the country.”
Victor’s story shows how just one person can take action and make a difference. Are you a student, or the parent of a student, who wants to organize a similar event? We’re always here to help.
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