Saturday, September 30, 2006

To answer the question: "why"

Anoush Tatevossian

Yerevan, Armenia: ATHGO International Symposium
Information & Communication Technology:
Opportunities and Challenges in Landlocked Developing Countries

Personal Statement: Describe your unique qualities and passion for your advocacy work and what let you toward that work or schooling

When geography fates you as a land-locked country with little to no exportable and sustainable natural resources, you must become innovative to survive. And the further the developed world gets from the developing world, the more imperative it becomes that a nation identify its most malleable and flexible resources to attempt to bridge that ever-growing chasm, lest it find itself doomed to be left behind. It is my job as the Executive Director of the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC), a registered non-profit based in Yerevan, to incubate one of Armenia’s most dynamic resources: people.

The Armenian nation is a unique one in that only one-third of its people actually live within the physical borders of modern-day Armenia. Due to several devastating events in its long history, the Armenian people have been severed from one another and scattered across the entire globe. Finally today, Armenia is a free and independent Republic with opportunities to grow into a country that its entire people can be proud to align with. However, ideologically or nostalgically connecting with this country will not help it advance. There are many real-world issues looming over whether Armenia can break out of its current stagnant level of democratization and development, many of which must first be tackled internally. My organization calls on Diasporan Armenians of all ages to volunteer their time, knowledge and energy by living and working in Armenia from one month to one year as an investment of hope in the future of our nation.

By running AVC, I act as a facilitator to help Diasporan Armenians seamlessly integrate into society here because I firmly believe that in a developing country such as Armenia, the presence of each volunteer leaves a footprint in the country's malleable future. I know that the exchange of ideas, values and experience between Diasporans and native Armenians connects human, informal and capital resources which will help rebuild our country.

This is the best and fastest way that Armenia can at least conceptually break out of its land-locked, blockaded position, and actually reach all around the globe. Technology and communication has made it infinitely easier to connect people to resources, to other people, to networks, to opportunities for collaboration. This year I brought AVC to the 21st century by marketing not only the old fashioned word-of-mouth way, but by opening a blog site, bolstering the website, tapping into media outlets, and reaching out electronically to Diasporan Armenians across the world to alert them of this very important call to action. I know that each person who has spent their life abroad, but now comes here and contributes their skills and ideas, is sewing seeds of innovation that create more and more potential opportunities for this country’s growth. And as any gardener can tell you, the more seeds you sew, the more opportunities there are that some will flourish.

I sometimes see myself as that gardener. I take the responsibility of introducing influences into a nascent and changing society very seriously. I carefully and thoroughly scrutinize the motivation of each volunteer applicant before accepting them into our program, and throughout their entire term of service in country I communicate to them that they must be mindful of the delicate nature of the challenge they have taken on.
In today’s globalized and competitive world, where innovation is a necessity for survival, the following ancient saying has regained popularity: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows that it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.” It is my responsibility as a concerned Armenian to play my part in ensuring that Armenia runs faster.

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