Rachel Emenaker volunteered with Aleppo-NGO’s Arevik-Armenia Center through the Birthright Armenia program. After returning home to the USA, she reflected on her volunteer experience and the impact it had on her time in Armenia.
By: Rachel Emenaker
Over the last three months, I had the privilege to volunteer at the Arevik-Armenia Center thanks to Birthright Armenia and Aleppo Compatriotic Charitable Organization (Aleppo-NGO). My time at Arevik-Armenia center, a day school for Syrian children and adults with disabilities, quickly became the highlight of my experience in Yerevan. I was tasked with teaching art and craft classes to the students, and I could never have imagined what a wonderful adventure that would be. We laughed and learned together as I got to spend every day with them for my three months of volunteering.
The students taught me so much about patience, kindness, grace, and love (and a few new Armenian words along the way!). The kindness and love I saw between the students and hardworking teachers so impressed me. I am fairly certain I left with new wrinkles from smiling and laughing so much! The hard work the students put into trying to understand and to learn went so much deeper than the subjects we were teaching them at Arevik-Armenia center. They demonstrated perseverance and strength, not only in facing the enormous challenges their bodies and minds present to them but also in moving with their families to Yerevan from Aleppo. They have rebuilt their lives in Yerevan with such a level of grace and joy that it left me humbled and amazed.
I am now back in the United States, and each day, I see or hear something that brings back fond memories of my time spent at the Arevik-Armenia Center. I am so thankful to the staff at Aleppo-NGO, Birthright Armenia, and to some of the most incredible people I have met, the students and teachers of the Arevik-Armenia Center, for welcoming me with open arms (quite literally the best hugs I have ever received). Thank you, and see you again soon.
The Arevik Center in Aleppo served mentally and physically disabled Armenians for more than 13 years, but in 2012, due to the conflict, thecenter ceased to operate. In October 2014, Aleppo-NGO launched the Yerevan branch of the Arevik Center. Today, individuals receive relevant physical and mental care and enjoy the center’s educational, psychiatric, and social services free of charge.
Aleppo-NGO is always looking for excited, passionate volunteers who are dedicated to our mission to help Syrian refugees in Armenia. For more information on volunteering, click here.