From the August 20, 2009 edition of Aravot Newspaper in Armenia:
Through the Eyes of Diasporan Youth Living in Armenia is an Art by Mariam Arsenian
Nanor Balabanian is an Armenian from Lebanon, who lives and studies in California and is a future political scientist. She is in Armenia together with 26 other diasporan students from different parts of the world spending their summer internship in various organizations within the framework of Armenian General Benevolent Union’s (AGBU) Yerevan Summer Intern Program (YSIP). Nanor, who spent her internship in the UN Yerevan office, said that it is very difficult to find an internship in America today. The students told us that they hurried to submit their applications as soon as they learned about AGBU’s internship program in Armenia.
“I had two goals – gain experience and get closer acquainted with Armenia and Armenians,” said Nanor.
During the one month that the students stayed in Armenia they managed to notice that living in Armenia is quite expensive. Future political scientist, Canadian-Armenian Nairi Karakas noticed that in Armenia people work hard but earn very little.
Meghedy Shahnazarian, who had her internship in one of the Yerevan hospitals, was surprised by the carelessness in the hospital. “In America, everybody wears closed [toe] shoes in hospitals. Here the nurses are wearing high heels. They do not wear gloves while working with blood. This is very dangerous,” said Meghedy.
New York-based Corin Ozbek was concerned about the psychological conditions of the orphanage children. Children at the orphanage, where Corin spent her internship, paint in dark colors only. “These children have serious psychological problems, but the nurses do not notice this,” she said.
The students had a rich schedule of visits within Armenia and Karabakh. They’ve been to places where there are no signs of Western Civilization. “I loved the village people. Even though they have nothing, they are always happy,” said Nanor. Their visit to Akhpradzor was one of the most memorable and impressive.
Akhpradzor is in the region of Vardenis. There is almost no road heading there. There is no gas or shop in the village. People eat what they produce. They don’t have a medical center. “We try not to get sick,” the village residents say.
The only bright spot in Akhpradzor is the school, which has 90 students. “These children are in need of contact. They were so happy to see us. We taught important things to these children–first aid, English language, dancing, painting, computer skills,” said Nanor.
The interns were also amazed at the hospitality of the people of Akhpradzor. “These people have nothing to eat, but they slaughtered a sheep for us in the end of our visit.”
Nanor has shot a film about Akhpradzor and its residents. It will be shown for the Armenian communities in different countries. She hopes to do something good for these people with her film. She hopes to find interested philanthropists who would take care of this village and first of all construct a modern road to this village.
First time I met Nanor on July 3, the 10th day of her trip to Armenia. She was very excited and enthusiastic and had called home to tell her parents that she was staying in Armenia.
Translated by the AGBU Yerevan office, Photo caption: Nanor Balabanian filming in Akhpradzor village, photo courtesy Nanor B.