In 2018 I was a pre-registration clinical bioinformatician at the Wessex Regional Genetics Laboratory at Salisbury District Hospital, training as part of the National Health Service Scientist Training Programme. As part of my training course, I got to do an elective of 6 weeks of independent learning to apply my knowledge and skills in an interesting environment of my choice outside of my usual work and training location.
I decided to volunteer in the Republic of Armenia with the Armenian Volunteer Corps and had an incredible time. Here is an in-depth account of my exciting experiences in this unique and beautiful country.
Some background about Armenia, where it is, its history, language, and food culture, and why it is I chose to volunteer there.
What was it that made me decide to volunteer in Armenia in the first place?
Armenia isn’t a place that features a lot in the news, where is it?
What is interesting about Armenia that makes it unique compared to other countries?
A brief outline of the history of Armenia.
Armenians speak Armenian, a language that uses a unique alphabet. How does the language work?
About Armenian food, and what sort of delicious foods can be eaten there.
After all that planning, how did my journey to Armenia go? And what did it feel like when I arrived?
How I travelled to Armenia, which involved lots of flying across Eastern Europe.
The first morning in Armenia, experiencing Armenian breakfast, then being sent to explore Yerevan for the day!
My introduction to AVC and my volunteering sites.
Some reflections on my volunteering service, which was at the Institute of Molecular Biology, National Academy of Sciences, Republic of Armenia, and at the Specialized Children’s Home of Nor Kharberd, a children's home run by the ForYouNGO.
About the Institute of Molecular Biology, where I volunteered in a research group conducting bioinformatics research.
About my bioinformatics research, which involved systems biology.
I made a PowerPoint presentation to Armenian high school students about scientific careers to inspire the next generation of scientists.
About the Specialized Children’s Home of Nor Kharberd, where I spent time volunteering with disabled children.
Hippotherapy at the Specialized Children’s Home of Nor Kharberd, where horses were used as part of physical therapy for the children.
Some perspectives on helping to feed children at the Specialized Children’s Home of Nor Kharberd.
Read about some excursions that I took when I wasn't at my volunteering sites. Armenia is a beautiful country with a lot to see and do, and AVC organized weekly excursions to various places around Armenia. Plus Yerevan is a city that is easy to explore and has a lot to do and see.
Armenian Independence Day is celebrated on the 21st September, which coincided with my time volunteering.
My first AVC excursion which ended up as a road trip around Armenia, culminating with a visit to the Khachik Gata Festival.
I made a visit to Tsitsinakaberd, the memorial to the victims of the Armenian genocide.
A hike in the Armenian mountains to the fortress of Smbataberd, in Vayots Dzor province.
A visit to the ski resort of Tsaghkadzor and to Lake Sevan, the largest lake in Armenia and a popular tourist area in Armenia.
An excursion to Khor Virap where Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned, and the Areni Wine Festival, the centre of the Armenian wine industry.
A cycle through Northern Armenia’s epic countryside between the fortress of Amberd, and the Karmravor in Ashtarak.
Armenia is the home of Ararat brandy, the world’s finest brandy. Of course no time in Armenia would be complete without a visit to the famous distillery!
Yerevan is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, so I explored the ruins of the old city of Erebuni, which is on a hill to the south of the city.
The Battle of Sardarapat was a decisive victory for Armenia against Turkish invasion in 1918. This memorial is to the survival of the Armenian nation that was made possible by this victory.