Contributor: Teni Anbarchian
Today had its own unique challenges, deep and thought-provoking conversations, and wonderful moments. It was hot, internet services were down and electricity fluctuated. Yet, at first sight of the children, we were all energized. We sang and danced to Armenian songs, which never fail to unite Armenians regardless of the country they reside in.
But as the day proceeded, we began thinking about the implication of our presence in the village. We all spent hours to prepare for our classes and traveled a long way, but are we making a difference in the lives of our students? Will they learn and remember what we are teaching them? Luckily, the biggest strength of our team is our ability to share and discuss our feelings. We came up with ways to improve our lesson plans, and hoped that our interactions with the students would go beyond the duration of the camp and we would continue to teach and learn from each other.
Coming to Shvanidzor has been an extraordinary experience for me. Every hour of the camp had me filled with emotions, thoughts and gratitude:
I had been to Armenia before, always as a tourist from the Armenian diaspora. This time, on our 11 hour drive down to our mission site, I felt the vast mountains embrace and welcome us. For the first time, I felt like the country had always been my home.
Every single day and night, I watched my childhood home – Iran – from the village, which is located right next to the Iran-Armenia border. I knew I was so close to my grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends whom I miss dearly. With a heavy heart, I wished I could extend my arms, reach them and relive the old times.
Finally, I came to camp excited to teach students about health and biology. Never did I imagine how much the children, the village and the HRI team would teach me. I will never forget the sight of children running to school every morning with a grin on their face and flowers in their hands. Their excitement and energy was immeasurable. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the Shvanidzor people. Every morning they brought us lots and lots of fruits and drinks and when we visited them at their homes, they welcomed us with all they had.
And lastly, it was being with the amazing members of the HRI team that made this trip most memorable. I will always remember and cherish our late-night conversations under the starlit sky, and our team’s unconditional love towards each other and Shvanidzor.
I am also grateful to members of the Stanford University and the Nusse Lab, especially Roel Nusse, Cati Logan and Manu Prakash for their generous support, providing teaching materials, and foldscopes. Their help and encouragement significantly improved our classroom lessons and my experience in the village.