My summer in Armenia gave me a new perspective on what it means to be a global citizen and how I can effect positive change. Each day offered an opportunity to get involved — whether building homes or spending time at the orphanage in Gyumri — and I intend to continue this journey of community service going forward.
Last summer, 17-year-old Philippe Tarjan traveled to Yerevan, ready for a life-changing experience with our Discover Armenia program. During his three weeks on the ground, he helped to change several lives himself.
Philippe, a New York high school student, was the first member of his immediate family to visit Armenia in two generations. His great-grandmother Hanni hadn’t returned since the genocide, which left her an orphan at the age of six. Hanni found refuge in a children’s shelter, and when Philippe saw that Discover Armenia visited a similar institution, the Terchoonian Home Orphanage in Gyumri, he decided to take action.
In the weeks leading up to his trip, Philippe met with his grandmother Shaque to learn more about his ancestry. With his parents’ help, he also organized a fundraiser at his home to benefit the Terchoonian Orphanage. Dozens of invitations went out, and over 60 friends and neighbors came to show their support. The guests enjoyed Armenian food and drinks, but the highlight was Philippe’s presentation, during which he discussed what his Discover Armenia journey meant to him. By the end of the evening, Philippe had collected 45 envelopes, some holding as little as $1 and others with several hundred, adding up to over $3,000.
Philippe presented the funds directly to Sona Simonyan, the director of the Terchoonian Home Orphanage, when his Discover Armenia group spent the day there, touring the grounds and playing soccer with the kids. The donation helped keep the building warm this past winter, and was one of the many gifts the Discover Armenia participants brought to the children there. It was also one of the many community service projects on the Discover Armenia itinerary: the students helped a family construct a home in the village of Ujan, delivered meals at an AGBU Senior Dining Center and brought a record number of books to the H. Tumanian National Children’s Library in Nagorno-Karabakh.
This summer, Philippe will help his younger brother Victor carry on the family fundraising tradition. Victor, who is now in the 11th grade, has set a goal of fundraising $4,000 in anticipation of joining Discover Armenia in 2015. That is the cost of materials for one new home in Armenia, a home that the next Discover Armenia group will help to build as they continue to give back to the community.
Philippe’s story shows how just one person can take action and make a big difference. Are you a student, or the parent of a student, who wants to organize an event like Philippe’s? We’re always here to help. To learn more, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to partnering with you!