My opportunity to volunteer in Armenia arose from my training with the NHS Scientist Training Program. This gave me the opportunity to take a 6 week elective outside my usual training site in order to apply my knowledge and skills to a different context. It was common for trainees on this program to undertake their electives volunteering in other countries to learn about healthcare there and to put their knowledge and skills to use in developing countries for humanitarian reasons. For example I went to a talk by a pre-registration radiation physicist who helped set up an X-ray facility in Zambia and put in place the appropriate safety infrastructure for the facility. So I wondered if I could do something similar.
But what made me choose Armenia as opposed to Kenya, Thailand or Uruguay?
My first reason was that my girlfriend at the time had Armenian ancestry, so I was somewhat familiar with the culture and history of the country through talking to her family. I had been to Armenian Blue Cross events with them, and was familiar with the events of the Armenian genocide, and their family's survival through that atrocity. From talking to her family I felt an affinity for Armenian culture and felt drawn towards Armenia as a place I would like to visit.
The second reason was that I enjoy Armenian food that I had eaten outside of Armenia! Food is something I have a great fondness of, so the opportunity to visit a country whose culinary traditions I admire was another good reason to go to Armenia! I had been to Suzannas in Athens, a Lebanese restaurant that serves Armenian dishes such as basturma, soujouk and lacmajun, and during my visits to Manchester for university courses I'd often visit the Armenian Taverna, an Armenian restaurant located next to Albert Square.
With a keen interest in Armenia, and the opportunity to do some volunteering, now all I needed was to find a volunteering opportunity. That's how I found the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC). AVC is based in Armenia, and organizes placements for foreigners who wish to volunteer with Armenian organizations.
I decided to apply to AVC with the proposal to use the time available for my elective to volunteer in Armenia, and after a Skype interview I was accepted, and thus my adventure in the fall of 2018 was set to begin!