Volunteering

As all of you know, our ANCA Telethon is rapidly approaching. With posters, television commercials, Facebook reminders, and newspaper ads, it would be hard to overlook this event. As an ANCA-WR intern, I’m helping out with whatever preparation I can. This includes organizing and distributing flyers, and being present at various events to get the word out and collect donations.

When I applied for this internship, I thought I was getting myself into a 20 hr/week commitment. With various events to attend throughout the week, my work time has definitely surpassed 20 hours. Still, if the commitment works with my work schedule, I’m not complaining.

All of this is nice, but I’m pretty disappointed by a few things lately. What I’m disappointed by is a general lack of commitment to our culture that I’m noticing beginning to notice. While telephoning people on our list of those who have signed up as Telethon volunteers to verify their shifts, I received many more ‘no’s than I expected. I couldn’t believe how many people signed up, only to later say something like, “Sorry, I made other plans. I’m going to my neighbor’s house.”

I am disappointed to see that being Armenian means so little suddenly that volunteering for a two-hour shift is an investment that no one expects to get any return on. By the time I’m done with this internship, I may have put in around 500 volunteer hours. I can’t explain why, but it’s something I needed to do. I realize that many people don’t have a concept of working without money exchanging hands, and I’m not saying that this internship has been easy, but we cannot forget the unique responsibilities that we Armenians have.

Most of us are here as a result of sacrifice. Most of us have not enjoyed white American privileges for 3+ generations. My great-great-grandfather made a sacrifice when he left his two young daughters with a stranger for safekeeping while he was marched to his death. He originally wanted the girls to die with him to avoid the horrific fate of harem life. But he didn’t want his line to end that way, so he made a choice no parent would ever want to make, left them behind, and prayed that everything would be right.

When I think of this man, I know that in those few moments, he wasn’t just thinking of his daughters. He was thinking of me somehow, in a hazy, amorphous form. He couldn’t see or imagine me clearly, but he knew that by making that sacrifice and leaving his daughters in the hands of a stranger, I may exist one day. I will live a hundred years later in a more stable place, where being Armenian is something to be proud of, not something that will get me killed. And I will remember that sacrifice and do whatever I can do honor it.

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