YEREVAN, Armenia—Thirty years in corporate publishing was enough. But what wasn’t enough for Suzanne Daghlian, 53, of New Jersey was the two weeks she spent volunteering in Armenia each summer. She’d been travelling to Armenia every summer since 2006 and building houses with the Fuller Center for Housing. As a team leader, her time in Armenia was full attending to the volunteers she’d recruited, organizing their days working on construction sites, their evenings out on the town, and their touring days visiting the great sights of Armenia. She felt the time always flew by and she was never able to really enjoy the pace of Armenia, to learn the language, to really relax into it. So when she lost her job, along with many other veterans of the old guard of New York publishing, she knew it was time to realize a dream she’d always had: to live somewhere outside of the U.S. for a little while and do something good for others.
Daghlian has lived in New Jersey her whole life, commuting to Manhattan for work. Her parents were founding members of the Armenian church in Tenafly, N.J., and she has always been active in her church. Her travels have taken her from the Andes and the Amazon to Kenya and Tanzania, from Scandinavia to Hawaii, as well as all over the continental United States for her work. For the past seven years, however, Suzanne Daghlian’s heart has been in Armenia.
“I always dreamed of taking off and moving to a different place with a different point of view. And then I fell in love with Armenia. I found the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) website years ago and would leave it open on my computer at work and fantasize about being a long-term volunteer in Armenia. But I didn’t think I would ever have the guts to leave my life behind and go. When I lost my job, the stars aligned for me and I just knew I had to do it.”
Daghlian made all the arrangements—she produced a budget, arranged to pay her bills online, found a house sitter to take care of things at home, and applied to AVC. Once accepted, she began to tell people about her plan to go to Armenia to volunteer for four months.
Her family and friends were ecstatic for her. Many of them knew of her desire to live abroad, all of them knew of her love for Armenia, and some of them admitted that they dreamed of this kind of adventure themselves. “It’s amazing how many of my friends and cohorts say they want to do something like this, but they feel they can’t get away from their responsibilities. But I haven’t left my responsibilities—I am paying my bills and keeping in touch with all I need to, and I’m living here in Armenia for four months. In this day and age, with all the technology we have access to, it’s really easy to be in two places at once.”
The Armenian Volunteer Corps has coordinated her volunteer placements while she is here. Daghlian is volunteering at the American University of Armenia (AUA) in their Extension Program. She’s helping them promote a new branch of the program in Nagorno-Karabagh. She’s also working at the Fuller Center for Housing Armenia, where she knows the mission and the need and is able to help them with editing, writing, and marketing.
“Not only has AVC provided me with job placements that are in alignment with my experience, but they provide me with an amazing community of friends made up of the other volunteers in-country. We have language classes together, go on weekend excursions out of the city, and attend cultural events. In addition, the AVC office is a home away from home—a place where we are always welcome and will always find a friend.”
“Armenia got inside me and called me back, over and over again. I love it here—the pace, the people, the scenery, the very soul of it has me in its sway and won’t let go. Having the opportunity to come here and work for Armenia is a gift I gave myself. I’m learning so much, but the most important lesson is that if you can dream it, you can do it!”
Founded in 2000, the Armenian Volunteer Corps is Armenia’s premiere volunteer placement organization. AVC invites individuals from all over the world, 21 years and older, to volunteer in Armenia for service terms ranging from one month to one year. AVC Professional Corps invites professionals 32 years of age and up with at least 5 years specialized experience to volunteer in Armenia for a minimum of 2 weeks. To date, over 450 volunteers have served in more than 200 organizations throughout Armenia. Individuals who are of Armenian heritage and between the ages of 20 and 32 may be eligible for sponsorship by AVC’s sister organization, Birthright Armenia. For more information, visit www.armenianvolunteer.org.