Armenia may not be on your radar as a potential volunteer destination, but it should be! A country full of history and natural beauty, Armenia has struggled to gain its footing after gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. As a result, volunteers are in high demand in a variety of areas, ranging from teaching English to working in public health to providing computer and technical expertise.
Volunteering Tips: Armenia
The most active volunteer placement organizations in the country are the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) and its sister organization, Birthright Armenia.
AVC helps to place volunteers 21 years and older with opportunities throughout the country for periods of one month or more, while Birthright Armenia works specifically with volunteers of Armenian descent between the ages of 21 and 32.
The organizations work with more than 350 partner organizations throughout Armenia, so no matter what your interests are, they will likely be able to find an appropriate placement for you.
Potential areas of focus include the arts and architecture, community and economic development, environmental sciences, graphic and web design, human rights, marketing and public relations , public policy, law, information technology, computers, social work, youth work, and the medical and health-related fields.
In addition to volunteer placement, AVC and Birthright Armenia provide opportunities for volunteers to take Armenian language classes, join weekend excursions around the country and live with local host families.
Know Before You Go
Most volunteers in Armenia will need a visa, which is available on arrival at the airport or at the land border with Georgia. A 120-day visa will cost around US $37. If you are volunteering for a longer period of time, you can simply take a weekend trip to Georgia to do a visa run and get an additional 120 days.
While English is growing in the country, Armenian, the official language, and Russian are still the primary languages spoken, so it can be helpful to learn at least a few phrases before you arrive.
Internet access is easily accessible and inexpensive, through wifi or a 3G mini-modem that can be rented from a local cell phone company.
Finally, you should be aware that Armenia’s borders with both Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed due to continuing tensions with those countries.
Health and Safety of Volunteers
No specific vaccinations are required to volunteer in Armenia beyond the typical tetanus, measles/mumps/rubella, typhoid and hepatitis shots.
Safety in Yerevan is no more of a concern than in any other major city; use common sense, keep an eye on your belongings and don’t wander the streets alone late at night.
As a precaution, don’t drink the water, especially that flowing out of the water fountains that abound in downtown Yerevan.
Contributed by Katie Aune