Valuable Assets: The importance of volunteering for the Armenian CommunityBy: Araz Hasserjian | Posted on: 11.07.2012
I like to consider myself a career volunteer.
I am one of those people who spend more time at the Armenian Community Centre than in their own home. I am part of countless committees and organizations housed in the Armenian Community Centre and have served, both officially and unofficially, as part of executive committees, sub committees, and perhaps most frequently, as a helping hand. Some people do not understand why I am so quick to sacrifice aspects of my life for “The Cause”, but I have never known any other way. I grew up watching my father head to “joghov” every other night, and it was something I inherited. As soon as I was old enough, I joined the AYF and suddenly it seemed as though my father and I had switched roles. Rather than have him rush home after work for a quick dinner, only to run to a meeting right afterward, I was the one running home from school for a bite to eat before heading to my own meetings.
I am sure many of you can relate to my “agoump lifestyle” while others are quick to side with my sister’s point of view. To those of you who scoff I say this: the time volunteers put towards the community are not a waste. In fact, it’s essential to the success of our community.
Sometimes, being a volunteer in the Armenian community can be a very unrewarding experience. It takes away from your studies, your sleep and even your social life. You spend hours, weeks, months, or even years planning parties for other people to enjoy, or accomplishing things that others try to take credit for. I am here to tell you that your efforts have not been in vain: Every victory for our community that I have ever witnessed can be traced back to the hard work and dedication of our volunteers. However, this doesn’t mean victory achieved through the effort of volunteers is a new concept for the Armenian people. Thinking back to historic events like Vartan Mamikonian and the Battle of Avarayr, the Resistance in Musa Dagh and the Battle of Sartarabad, none of these moments would be remembered was it not for the dedication of average, everyday people volunteering themselves for the greater good.
I have borne witness to the hours others have dedicated to the community, either by choice, or through a little (or sometimes, a lot) convincing from a friend. One thing that all of our volunteers have in common, going back to those who died at the Battle of Avarayr, is their belief in justice and the desire to pursue it.
While Turkish and Azeri lobbyists use seemingly endless funds to support their campaigns of denial and deceit, the Armenian lobby has only managed to keep up using its most effective resource: the support of people like you and me. When it comes to the recognition of our cause, we are fighting an uphill battle and it would have been easy for us to give up a long time ago, but it is our desire for justice that has led us down this path, and it is what drives us forward and what continues to push us forward.
In a way, we are lucky that we have an unresolved past as it binds our community together. In a country like Canada, where a large percentage of the population can identify themselves as a member of a diaspora, it is easy to become lost in the cultural and political landscape. But as Armenians we have been able to set ourselves apart from other groups solely based on our work ethic. The reason we have been able to achieve more than many of the larger ethnic communities in Canada is through the strong work ethic of our volunteers and the impression it leaves on people of political influence. Other communities may have larger numbers, but we have managed to convince others that our worth is ten times those of other groups, simply because we have proven time and time again that we are willing to work for what we deserve.
In that sense, the Armenian community is truly a grassroots community: individually, we are each just a small blade of grass, but together, we can truly make a difference. You and I are the most valuable assets at the disposal of the Armenian community. That is why I ask our dedicated volunteers to keep on working, and the skeptics and cynics to give us the benefit of the doubt, and join us to see what we can do together. Each and every volunteer is integral to our success as a community because our value isn’t determined by the worth of each individual, but rather what we are able to accomplish together.