I believe that the greatest success of Arménie, Terre de Vie lies in its ability to facilitate exchanges and to create a spirit of solidarity among the youth.
Born in the Paris region, Méliné Ignatevossian moved to Yerevan in 2020 where she continues her career as a graphic designer in a French digital communication agency. Involved with AGBU for many years, Méliné is a volunteer and coordinator of the organization's humanitarian and social program Arménie, Terre de Vie.
How did you get involved with AGBU and why were you drawn to the organization?
My involvement with AGBU began in 2009 when I became a camp counselor at Colonie de Vacances alongside Herminé Duzian, Director of AGBU Youth Programs. My family has always been involved with AGBU, but I had never been a member of an association, although I was a student at Collège Samuel Moorat of Sèvres and a dancer in the Yeraz troupe. After four years as an animator at the camp, I participated in 2015 in the program Arménie, Terre de Vie as a volunteer — and my commitment to this program has only grown over the years. I even became the co-leader in 2017 and 2019. Alongside my humanitarian commitment, I was also vice-president of the AGBU Paris youth section and actively participated in the organization of the youth vigil for the April 24 commemoration and events at the AGBU Alex Manoogian cultural center. I think what attracted me most to AGBU was the range of programs, projects, and events it offers, for all ages and in many areas.
Since 2021, you've been the coordinator of the Arménie, Terre de Vie program. Can you describe your role and the objectives of this program?
As coordinator, my main role is to ensure the mission runs smoothly. In close collaboration with the program manager, Simon Landré, I identify the project to be renovated in Armenia and make sure that the rough work is done before the group of volunteers goes to the site. I am also in charge of the communication and the creation of the graphic elements for the recruitment of the volunteers and for the fundraising. Finally, I supervise the group of volunteers on their missions, during the four weeks of the program, and I am the privileged to contact of our partners and providers on site.
This program allows the youth of the diaspora to create a long-term link with the local population. I believe that the greatest success of Arménie, Terre de Vie lies in its ability to facilitate exchanges and to create a spirit of solidarity among the youth. Moreover, the program is important for the moral and financial support it brings to the local youth, to the displaced population of Artsakh, and to the inhabitants of rural and border villages. Finally, it allows non-Armenians to discover Armenia, its cultural richness, its heritage, and makes them aware of its problems, its challenges, and the aspirations of the country's youth.
Can you describe some of the program's recent achievements and successes?
Since 2011, Arménie, Terre de Vie has been committed to helping the youth of Armenia through the reconstruction of schools, the implementation of activities for the youth, and programs covering hygiene and environmental issues. Since 2017, our work has focused on the village of Sarigyugh, in the border region of Tavush. We are proud to have been able to renovate all the educational structures in the village: the elementary school in 2017, the middle school in 2019, and the kindergarten — which we just completed in July 2022. From now on, the kindergarten will be able to welcome toddlers and offer a daycare to parents who wish to drop off their children. Thanks to the constant mobilization of volunteers and the support of donors, this village now has safe, modern, and welcoming educational facilities. I am also proud of the trust placed in us by our sponsors and donors, who have been loyal to the program for over ten years.
What are your aspirations for the development of the program in the future?
This summer, we had the chance to develop a partnership with the Fab Lab* of Dilijan for the renovated rooms. For the next edition, I would like to see new partnerships with local companies and structures to allow the program to gain visibility and present innovative concepts. This will be a way to promote Armenian crafts and Armenia's potential in new technologies and innovation. In addition, I would like to involve more local youth in the missions and integrate young people from Armenia in the volunteer group to create more links, empower them, and raise awareness on major issues such as education, health, and the environment.
How has your involvement in this program shaped your identity within your family, with your friends, and in your career?
Arménie, Terre de Vie has been a real trigger and inspiration for my personal projects. First, it made me want to mobilize my family more, to make them discover the richness of this program and the incredible memories it offers. Furthermore, being in charge and then coordinator gave me the opportunity to have responsibilities on a large-scale project, to manage a group and to apply my skills in graphic design and creation in general. Finally, I became aware of my desire to live in Armenia and build my future there. This program allowed me to take a step back on who I was and how I wanted to invest myself for Armenia. Following the Artsakh war of 2020, I made the decision to move to Yerevan to help the people affected by the war. I am glad that I followed my instincts to experience Armenia while continuing my work as a graphic designer.
What would you say to a young person wishing to settle or invest in Armenia?
I would tell them not to be afraid and to go for it. Armenia is a country with incredible resources and is a source of innovation in many fields. One should not hesitate to invest and create new projects. It is them, and therefore us, who develop our global nation and create connections between the diaspora and Armenia. For those who want to get involved in a concrete way, participating in a program like Arménie, Terre de Vie is an incredible opportunity. Finally, come to Armenia for the holidays, introduce non-Armenian friends to the country to boost local tourism. Our country has extraordinary resources that deserve to be known and recognized.
*A Fab Lab (or Fabrication Laboratory) is a place open to the public where all kinds of tools, including computer-controlled machine tools, are available for designing and making objects.