Giving Back to the Motherland: Georgie Proctor’s Journey of Self-Discovery

Georgie Proctor arrived in Armenia from London through the Birthright Armenia program in February, motivated by the desire to honor her late grandparents and learn about her heritage. Her father is a Diasporan Armenian from Baghdad, and her mother is British. “It’s amazing we have this opportunity just because of our blood,” said Proctor.

Before this trip, Proctor considered her Armenian heritage as more of a fun fact about herself rather than a lifestyle. “Some of the other volunteers grew up with the Armenian language and way of life drilled into them. I didn’t have that experience of going to Armenian school, learning the language, and connecting and forming a community,” recalled Proctor.

The desire to explore her Armenian heritage didn’t develop until she graduated university. “When I ended up doing my master’s thesis on Armenian writing, I realized how little I actually knew about Armenia,” Proctor said.

Her grandmother spoke selectively about Armenia, excluding details about their family and the Genocide. Proctor realized she would need to take a proactive approach if she wanted to learn more. That’s when she stumbled upon Birthright Armenia during an internet search. “I was looking up ways I could get more involved with the Armenian side of myself and create more community and do a bit more giving back.” She said that her grandma’s passing and the 2020 Artsakh War ultimately prompted her to come to Armenia. 

Georgie joined Birthright Armenia in 2022, a program which allows Diaspora Armenians, aged 21-32, to visit and experience Armenia as more than just a tourist, giving them an opportunity to volunteer in the sphere of their interest, live with a local family, travel around Armenia through Saturday excursions, take part in Armenian language classes, and much more. By participating in this program, she wanted to give back to Armenia by doing all in her power to feel more Armenian and be helpful in her motherland.

Proctor decided to volunteer outside of Yerevan in Gyumri. “Gyumri might be more of an immersive opportunity in terms of learning the language, experiencing the culture and interacting more with the local people, rather than volunteers from my country,” Proctor said.

Upon her arrival in Gyumri, she began volunteering at three different sites: Varem Marem Art Studio, Nor Luyce Mentoring Center for Youth and Neograph Games. Despite how busy she was already, Proctor decided to pursue her talents in music and started playing the flute with Nrane, a traditional Armenian folk band. “It’s hard to say ‘no’ to any new opportunities. I’m learning so much more than I did in London,” said Proctor. 

Georgie Proctor at Varem Marem Art Studio

Proctor says she has enjoyed all her volunteer experiences, especially at Varem Marem, where she feels she has been able to develop strong relationships with her colleagues despite the language barrier. “This studio is unlike any other studio I’ve been to in the UK. Members of the community come in and out whenever they like, to look at souvenirs or take master classes. It’s a warm and welcoming place,” Proctor describes. When she started volunteering, she showed an interest in ceramics and has since been studying Armenian miniatures and symbols. At Nor Luyce, Proctor helps edit translations as well as write copy for social media. “It’s a really amazing place because so many young women come out of it with career prospects, and they want to learn, they want to go on and study more.”

Georgie Proctor’s original designs at Varem Marem Art Studio

Proctor’s heart for Gyumri and Armenia has grown immensely. She has developed a deep sympathy for the people and their day-to-day struggles. “It’s frustrating to see how my neighbors don’t heat their homes because they can’t afford it,” said Proctor. “So much passion, so much ambition…it’s inhibited by things that I would have taken for granted before.” Even amid the hardship, there is joy and hope, which Proctor has observed firsthand. “Gyumri is such a hopeful place. The people here are so warm and friendly. I love their great sense of humor and sarcasm, which I click with.”  

Proctor has also found a loving home with her host mother and grandmother. “My host family is such a dream. I’m so lucky,” she says. “I’m sent out the door with five different words for ‘dear’ and feel like I’m 13 or 14 again.”

Proctor says she plans to stay in Gyumri longer and learn the language. “Living in Gyumri is not a holiday and is not for the faint-hearted. You are here to work and get completely absorbed in the opportunity,” she explained. Once she learns the language, Proctor shared that she would like to translate Armenian books into English, because she recalls how difficult it was for her to do her master’s thesis on Armenian literature. Her dream is to start a publishing company and publish Armenian writers in the UK in the English language. 

Hannah Otradovec

Hannah Otradovec

Hannah Otradovec is a public relations specialist from Colorado. She graduated from College of the Ozarks in December 2021; she majored in public relations and minored in business administration. After graduation, Hannah came to Gyumri and volunteered with four different jobsites through the Birthright Armenia program. She is one of the first in her family to return to Armenia since the Genocide. Hannah has always been interested in her Armenian heritage and family history. She hopes to honor her grandparents, who were never able to visit their motherland.

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