A few summer ago, Tarra Kalian traveled to Armenia with the Armenian Service Program (ASP). She spent a few weeks traveling around Armenia, and a few weeks volunteering at Camp Siranoush in Yeghenadzor, which is about 2 hours outside of Yerevan.
Why did Tarra go to Armenia? The most honest answer was “because friends were going!! This was an opportunity to travel to Armenia on a chaperoned trip with people who knew what they were doing, and where they were going.” Tarra later had a moment of reflection and said that she had attended Armenian church every Sunday during high school, and wanted to see where all of the church traditions were born, as well as the place that her ancestors came from.
Upon arriving in Yerevan, Tarra was pleasantly surprised by how modern the city was. Yerevan was cleaner and more organized that she expected. It was less “developing” and more “developed.” But Yeghenadzor was entirely different. During the journey to camp, the bus driver told her group to lean to one side on hairpin turns, so that the bus would not go over the cliffs. “Camp was rough,” Tarra described. There was no running water for the campers. Water was obtained from a well, and the children were not able to shower. The counselors had a shower to share, but it only had ice-cold water. Every meal was bread and cheese, and the campers and counselors were given lentils on a good day. Most campers had only one change of clothes. Each counselor from U.S.A. had brought a box filled with stuff for the campers - makers, art supplies, stuffed animals, and other toys. The children were thrilled to receive these things, and Tarra was thankful that she lugged the extra box from New Jersey to Yeghenadzor!
Exactly one year after leaving Armenia, Tarra took a trip back to Yerevan. “I was soooo surprised to see the city’s amazing growth after just a year….how many new sidewalks were built, how many new shops were open.” However, what left the greatest impression on Tarra was the difference in living standards between Yerevan and the countryside. Through programs such as Continuing Medical Education and school rehabilitations, FAR works to increase the standard of living in the villages of Armenia. With the help of our FAR supporters and all volunteers like Tarra, we will keep working to close the gap between life inside and outside of Yerevan.