A small, and landlocked country, Armenia lies in between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Located in the Caucasus region, between Europe and Asia, this mountainous country is a blend of the latter two continents. There is a need for volunteer programs in Armenia because of the nation’s rocky past, though there have been many positive occurrences in history too. It is known to be the first country to have accepted Christianity, which is evident in the number of monasteries throughout the country. Home to a very homogeneous population, nearly 99 percent of those who live in Armenia are Armenian.
Armenia is a country that has experienced many highs and lows over the course of history. As one of the oldest inhabited countries in the world, Armenia is home to many biblical landmarks, such as Mount Ararat. Armenia has has an interesting, though challenging, past; most Armenian cities exhibit these tribulations, but also show the perseverance and beauty the country holds.
Gyumri. Surrounded by the Pambak Mountains, and located on the Shirak plateau, Gyumri is located in the northwestern part of the country. The history of this Armenian city dates back to over 5,000 years ago. North of the Aragats, the biggest mountain range in Armenia, this city offers stunning views of mountains. After a large earthquake struck in the late 1988, Gyumri and it’s people were deeply impacted, with thousands of people displaced and devastated. While Gyumri has recovered, homelessness and poverty remain serious issues in the city.
Vanadzor. The third largest city in Armenia, Vanadzor is located in a valley next to the beautiful Pambak River. With art museums, archaeological sites, and mountains near by, there is plenty for volunteers to do on their free time. Most of Vanadzor was built while Armenia was part of the Soviet Union, making the architecture very different from cities with much older histories. Despite this variation, Vanadzor still provides a very Armenian experience and is a great place to volunteer in Armenia.
Yerevan. This capital city is the biggest metropolitan area found in Armenia, and is one of the world’s oldest cities. When Armenia was a part of the Soviet Union, Yerevan was not a cultural or artistic center, but economic growth since the early 2000s has allowed Yerevan to flourish. Home to many important landmarks, such as the Mother Armenia statue, and located at the base of Mount Ararat, Yerevan has started to transform into a lively capital city. There is still a lot of work to be done to fully develop Yerevan, and volunteer work is the perfect way to assist local communities and organizations.
Volunteering in Armenia
Armenia offers many different possibilities when it comes to volunteer work! While most volunteer opportunities in Armenia involve working with people, there are still other, more unique placements types too, like archeology. Whether you are a history buff or just a philanthropist at heart, there is a volunteer program in Armenia for you!
Community Development. Due to political unrest and economic problems that have taken place in Armenia throughout history, there are many volunteer opportunities in community development. Due to an economic downfall in the 90s, many families were displaced or unable to finish reconstruction of their homes (after the earthquake in the late 80s), so nearly 65,000 families are in need of improved housing in Armenia. Many families live in domics, or shipping containers, because of the quite immense social and economic problems that have continued throughout the country. By volunteering in Armenia on home building projects, you can help improve the lives of locals by creating new homes for them or finishing what they haven’t been able to finish on their own. Construction volunteer work in Armenia can make a huge difference in local communities, and gives volunteers the chance to truly connect with the local people they are helping.
Teaching. Armenian and Russian are the most common languages spoken in Armenia. However, since the country is in a time of transition, many locals are interested in learning a new language. While English is the most sought after of language skills, many are also interested in learning French, Spanish, and German. Those who decide to teach in Armenia will find a range of students available to them. It is possible to volunteer abroad in Armenia at everywhere from elementary schools to high schools. Volunteers will not only assist teachers in the classroom, they will also get to interact with the kids more personally through tutoring, after school lessons, and games.
Archaeology. International volunteers can participate in archaeological volunteer work in Armenia in remarkable, historical locations, such as the Garni Pagan Temple. With history that dates back multiple centuries, the archaeological sites located throughout Armenia are impressive to say the least. From excavating to researching and surveying, there are plenty of ways to volunteer in Armenia in archaeology. Volunteer work may also include working to preserve World Heritage Sites, such as Zvartnots Cathedral. With what seems like countless monasteries and cathedrals, and other archaeological sites, the volunteer opportunities in Armenia are almost limitless.
Volunteer programs in Armenia usually last for a minimum of two to four weeks, but can last up to a year. However, some organizations require a minimum commitment of four weeks. Armenian is the official language of Armenia, but Russian is also widely spoken. Although language skills are not required to volunteer in Armenia, it will certainly be helpful to know some keywords in order to make communicating and getting around easier.
Costs & Affordability
Prices in Armenia are in close comparison to U.S. prices, especially in the bigger cities, such as Yerevan and Vanadzor. The good news is, many costs will be included in volunteer program fees, including housing. Although food will typically be bought independently, fresh fruits and vegetables are accessible, affordable, plentiful, and organic!
Accommodation & Visas
Group housing is the most common living arrangement provided by volunteer organizations. But, if you are volunteering in Armenia for a short period of time, hotels are often offered as well.
You will need a visa if you plan to volunteer abroad in Armenia, but this visa can be obtained upon entry. If you would prefer, the visa can also be obtained online, but you will want to do this 3-4 weeks before your trip. A visa that will last 120 days typically costs around $40. Carrying copies of your passport picture is strongly advised.
Benefits & Challenges
Between Borders. Despite Armenia being a safe location to volunteer abroad, it is important to note that the country is not on good terms with two of its neighbors. Neither Turkey nor Azerbaijan are open to Armenians, making weekend getaways to the surrounding countries a bit more tricky.
Heavy History. While every country on Earth has a history, Armenia is a country that is still directly impacted by the negative events of its past. From the Armenian genocide to Soviet rule, there is a lot of history to research before volunteering in Armenia. Being aware of the cultural and historical background of the nation will be very beneficial throughout your volunteer work in Armenia.