Wednesday, September 7, 2011


There are a lot of reasons why someone would join the Peace Corps. Maybe to travel, learn another language, or the experience of living abroad. But I don’t think most people would admit that a lot of times its because they want to find an identity. Now u may know who u are, what u want, and where u want to go, but that doesn’t mean u have an identity. An identity is the Fact of being who or what a person is. The Fact, of what u are. It is a strange term to put into that context. I know who I am, I know what I am, but I cannot say that I am the Fact of my being. That would mean that I am undisputedly exact and without variance. Which I know is not the case.

Everyone joins Peace Corps for a certain reason, and to me all those reasons are legitimate. But I honestly think, within Peace Corps, we are all looking for something. We want some blinking sign that says where to go or what to do. A sign that we discover, in a moment of darkness, that brings us back in to the warm, glowing light we want to be in. Maybe we weren’t even in darkness, but just a rut that we were stuck in. Or maybe no rut at all, and we were just looking for a change and did something we always wanted to do. But that doesn’t change the fact that where we were, compared to where we want to be, is a far away and distant place. I don’t think someone completely content with there life would join Peace Corps. Its either something you have always wanted to do, which shows in the amount of over 60 year old + volunteers that we have. Something you feel could lead to something great or make a difference, which is where all us 20-somethings come into play. Or something to take you away from where you never thought u would be, which is where the in-betweens come in. You could have had a great job, but decided u wanted to take a different path, and that is why u are here. Whatever the case, it all comes down to one thing I think… Identity

Being lost in a world that wants production and advancement 24 hours a day, we can sometimes be shoved under the rug. Or maybe you own the rug, and realize, you know what, rugs are over rated. I don’t want a rug. Maybe I like hard word floors, or maybe I like linoleum for my floors. They are easier to clean. Either way, something strikes each of us in a way that we know we are not who we wished out to be.

So we join Peace Corps. To save the world and all that crap. It’s about seeing a child’s smile when they learn about bla bla bla. Most of us go into a sector or job that we aren’t trained for, and get only beginner training for it at best. We realize that a lot of time will be spent arguing about nonsense and not actually putting into place life changing polices or programs for children. And the best part about being a Peace Corps Volunteer is when you realize that.

Countries like Armenia have a very rich and deep history. And even though Peace Corps has been here for almost 20 years, Armenians have their own beliefs and ways about doing what they think is the correct way to do things. Now. I would never come in to this country and say, “Well we do it better in America because we do it this way.” No way. Even if it is true… that will never come out of my excessively, large lipped mouth. I would rather learn how they do it; maybe offer some suggestions, if asked. And then I would do the same thing in a way that they have never seen before, only to compare the two. This way, they can take solid principles of what they know, and add new ideas that they could honestly see working better in their society. That is called utilizing a reference for positive change. Amen and all the more power to u if u can get this done.

So back to Identity. We all look for it. We all want it. Maybe in High School u were the Captain of the Cheer Leading team. In college u were playing NCAA sports and fighting for the national championship. Or maybe u were Joe Schmo working at 7-11 making my coffee at 8am when I was running late for work. I appreciate that by the way Joe. Either way, the point is that we all strive to find that calling. The calling that makes us lose sleep and decline invitations for drinks cause we think an hour more of focusing at work will make all the difference. It could be anything in the world, or it could be something u have always known, just never had the guts to realize. Anyway u put it, u want it to become your identity. Your zest for life; Your reason for breathing. The only thing u want to do for the rest of your life because u have decided that this thing, this thing is all u ever wanted. And once you have found it, u wont let it go, or let if waiver. It’s in the air u breath, and its in your dreams at night. It is your identity as a person. You. Maybe it’s a Job, or a Person, or a Cause. Either way, it’s a direction u know u want to move in.

And this, readers and gentlemen, is what I think most Peace Corps Volunteers are doing. Trying to find the yellow brick road, the butter for their bread, or the Tabasco to their eggs (ya, I am a big tobasco fan, and as of lately, eggs as well). The questions is… Do we find it in the 2 years abroad…? Sometimes. Not always though. But I think one of the best parts about Peace Corps, is realizing that your identity is out there, and that you just have to find it. Self-discovery is certainly the first step, and the most important in realizing what you want your identity to be. And once you do realize what that is… the skies the limit.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Goris Camp

So about 2 weeks ago i did a camp in a town 45 min south of where i live. The camp was amazing, and I think it was one of the best programs I have been able to be apart of, if not the best. Enjoy!

In August 2011, Partnership and Teaching NGO implemented a five-day leadership camp entitled “We Are Our Future” in the town of Goris of Armenia’s Syunik marz. Designed by the organization’s Peace Corps Volunteer, Austin Sherwindt, the goal of the camp was to increase the level of understanding and mutual respect between students of the Goris community, irrespective of physical, mental, or socioeconomic differences, while simultaneously promoting the ideas of cooperation and leadership. Held in Goris’ School No. 6, 36 children (ages 11 – 14) participated in the weeklong camp, of which 12 of the children were disabled and/or disadvantaged. The theme of the camp was relating our own structure to that of the earth, working from the inside out.

Using interactive lessons and informational seminars, the first two days of the camp focused on our personal health (knowledge, ideas, and physical health) and the proceeding two on our roles as citizens, both in our communities and the world. Each day, the children participated in a variety of leadership and teambuilding exercises, arts and crafts, and informational seminars presented by guest speakers from local organizations such as the Goris Women’s Resource Center and Goris’ Human Rights NGO. Topics covered included Leadership, Group Dynamics, Healthy Lifestyles (Nutrition, Exercise, Anti-Smoking, Anti-Drinking), HIV / AIDS Awareness, Civil Society, Project Design and Management, Environmental Problems in Armenia, Diplomacy, and Human Rights and Discrimination.

On the final day of the camp, the three teams of participants implemented the civil service projects that had designed throughout the camp. Team “Sphinx” went on an anti-smoking campaign throughout Goris, talking to local shop owners and community members about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. Team “Eagles” cleaned up a local tourist attraction and posted anti-littering information. Team “Smilers” (which was my team! and we won the week for the most points! whoop whoop) traveled to two kindergartens to teach 85 children about basic hand washing and teeth-brushing.

Heghineh Hovsepyan, one of the camp counselors, stated, “I am very happy for this experience. In the five-day period, the children learned to love and respect one another and how to work as a team in different situations. Most importantly, the children learned that they are responsible for building their future and, in doing so, that each one of them can be a leader.”

In May 2011, Partnership and Teaching NGO (P&T NGO) with the cooperation of World Vision’s Sisian ADP concluded their “Building DPO Outreach for Greater Disability Inclusiveness” project, which was designed to promote inclusive education in the Goris and Sisian regions. Coming off the heels of this initiative, the We Are Our Future summer camp was intended to foster an opportunity for disabled and disadvantaged children to work alongside student council representatives from those schools practicing inclusive education. This camp was done with the support of many different organizations, including representatives of P&T NGO, World Vision’s Sisian ADP, Peace Corps Volunteers, and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summer Time in Armenia

Barev Reader,

So I know I havent blogged in a while. Sorry about that. It has been a busy summer. Had a surprise visit to America for 2 weeks, which was epic. The new training group of volunteers were swore in about a week ago, welcome to Armenia A-19's. Said goodbye to a lot of friends that were finishing their 2 years in Armenia, good luck A-17's. And helped out with 2 camps. One in Vanadzor which is about 6 hours north, and the other was in Goris, about 45 min south of Sisian. This post I will talk about the Vanadzor camp, and expect a post about the Goris camp within the week.

From August 8th to August 11th, Peace Corps volunteers, in collaboration with the Vanadzor YMCA, ran a hip-hop dance camps for all interested youth. 20 community members, ranging in age from 12 to18, participated. The camp was designed to promote healthylifestyles, individual self-expression, and confidence among the future leaders of Armenia, as well as increase the understanding of hip-hop culture, a widely misunderstood global phenomenon whose roots lie in America. Volunteers Maggie Woznicki (A-18, Sevan) and AlexLord (A-18, Sisian) choreographed and taught a hip-hop dance, and volunteer Matthew Crowley-Miano (A-18, Ijevan) ran sessions on b-boying, more commonly known as breakdancing. Micahel Zier (A-18,Vanadzor) provided rhythm demonstrations, and Kath Lestina (A-18,Vanadzor) facilitated. The camp originated from an expression of interest by the members of the Vanadzor YMCA during this summer’s Border2Border project, and culminated in a final presentation by the participants on the new skills they had developed during the camp.The community response was highly positive, and it is hoped that these camps will continue to run, both in Vanadzor and in other interested sites.

I had alot of fun teaching the YMCA children about dancing. The great part was that not only did we teach them a dance, which they rocked at, we also taught them the culture of Hip-Hop and the evolution of dance. Where it came from, the major influences, and where it is right now. The kids we so excited and interested, I hope we get to do this camp again. There is a video on FB of the kids doing there dance, hope you check it out! It was a long week, and our legs were tired, but the entire group enjoyed every minute of it, as well as all the PCV's. Hope to do it again soon!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

READ!!!! Great Project in Armenia!

Thanks to Amanda Pascal at the YIC in Gyumri, Armenia. Got her project on CNN!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Success Story, Here it is People

So i wrote this kind of as a report for our VAC committee in country as a success story, thats why its in 3rd person. I dont actually think im cool enough to talk in 3rd person about myself. Also, sorry it has been so long since i have written, and the quality (literal writing quality) is not good in this one. I pounded it out cause it was due the next morning.

On April 30 and May 1st, the Sport and Culture Progress of Sisian NGO organized the 1st "Kick The Habit" Anti-smoking/Importance of Exercising, Mini-Football Tournament in Sisian. This tournament was organized by PCV Alex Lord, with the help of Davit Hambardzumy
an, Director of the NGO and Alex's CP. It was for boys and girls, and they were divided into 2 age groups: 9-12, 13-15. We used a field that was constructed by the Armenian Football Federation in 2007, which they built for the Sisian Community. This field is a mini-football field, allowing each team to have 4 players on the field, and 3 substitutes waiting. The turn-out was great.
We advertised to all Sisian schools, as well as over a dozen Villages surrounding Sisian. The feedback was enormous, and we had over 20 teams participate in the event: 19 boys teams, and 3 girls teams. That is over 154 Sisian youth that played, participated, and was educated on the Anti-Smoking and Importance of Exercise information we were handing out. They were from multiple villages, as well as over a dozen different schools.
We also had an Armenia vs America game where PCV's Alex Lord, Tylor Dodge, Alex Schellhaus, Joel Gillen, and Bill Simonson all played against an Armenian team. The final score was a tie between the 2 nations: 11-11. The other PCV's were in attendance because they were helping organize, referee, hand out educational materials, and register teams. Also in Attendance was the Sisian Mayor, Sisian Football Coach, over a half a dozen local teachers, as well as over 150 spectating children, in addition to the 154 playing in the tournament. This event was so successful, we have been asked to repeat the event every year, and multiple times a year if possible.

"I think the best part for me was when I saw the girls teams playing. I think this was the first time in these girls' lives they have ever played an organized, real game of football with a referee, and most importantly without any boys on the field. They looked so happy, next time we are going to organize a tournament for only girls." Alex Lord

The winners of each division received a certificate of participation for each player, and each team received a trophy for winning their division.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hope Floats

So being in the Peace Corps has made me realize alot about myself, and more importantly, what I want to do later in life. I work at an organization called the "Sport and Culture Progress of Sisian" Non-Governmental Organization, and I have officially changed me Peace Corps Assignment from Community Health Extension, to Community Outreach Generalist. This means that I am switching from a Health Sector Volunteer to a Community & Business Development Volunteer. This is because they stopped the Health Sector here in Armenia with Peace Corps.

This happening has made me branch out and do other things that I have never done. Luckily, my situation keeps me involved with sports, which I have always loved. And after doing a few different things, I realized Sports is what I want to do. And not just coaching or working, but Sports Development. And for this I would like to stay in the international setting and do International Sports Development. Maybe not living abroad forever, but maybe working with an Organization that is based in the US but travels abroad to do Sports Development. I really enjoy giving other people the opportunity to play organized sports, and get everything that I got out of it. I think it is very important what you can learn through sports: Teamwork, Confidence, Self-Worth, Decision Making Skills, the Obvious Physical Benefits, etc. These things cannot always be picked up in the classroom. Im excited about this because it feels good to know what I want to do.

As I was reading some Sports News on the Internet, I read an article called "Hope Floats." This article, posted here, is about a small fishing island in Thailand that the entire village is made of houses and walkways on stilts. They have no actual soil. And the local children watched soccer but had never played it. So they made a floating field out of old fishing boats, wood, and nails. They went on to become the champions of the Southern Thailand Soccer League in 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, and 2010. And they never got an actual field.

This is the type of stuff that motivates me, it shows me that sports can not only change an individual, but an entire community. The power of sports is generally not realized and not many see the potential it can have.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Not The Normal Post, But A Must Read... and Listen

So my mother has been getting on to me about updating my blog. I know I have been quite slack about it lately, but you can take that as a good thing. Meaning that maybe I am so busy with spreading peace throughout the world... I dont have time to blog. Maybe my projects are going so well, and I am putting so much of my Western Education to work, that I dont have the mental stamina to blog.... So here is something a little different. You may never know....

I am a music dependant personality. Music can influence positively or negatively my mood. I love music. And when I hear albums like Esperanza Spalding's self-titled album... i know music loves me too. If you have never heard of Esperanza Spalding, click here and read, now you do.

I first fell in love with her about 5 months ago. Thanks to those geeks at the iTunes Genius Sidebar, she came up as an "Artist I should know" when I was listening to other music similar to hers. And i similar to hers and not the same as hers, because nothing compares. I listened to one song, and I was hooked. So i downloaded her album "Esperanza," and my early suspicions were confirmed, I had fallen for a girl from Portland.

Now one reason I am smitten over her is because of this...
Even if she didnt sing like a carmel covered angel and play that bass, I feel i still have good justification for my infatuation. Just look at that hair.

For you people that need proof of her entrance into the music scene... she just won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Click here and read. BAM, try that on for size.

The Basics. Ok, So, Here We Go.

She is a 26-year old, classically trained jazz/chamber music fusion musician, singer, and composer. Having attended the Berklee Academy of Music, where she immediately became a professor after graduating at 20, she began to travel with well known jazz musicians, and then the President.

These are my 2 favorite songs by her, but you should download everything she has. I celebrate her entire catalogue... (Meeting With The Bob's Reference if you are cultured enough) Click, Watch, but above all just Listen and Enjoy :)