It's the end of January, departure day has arrived. Suitcase in hand, mask on my nose, I'm at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, heading to Yerevan.
In the air, sleep will be stronger than my anxiety, and the blanket on the lap, the bag under the seat, my eyelids won't be long to close. When I wake up, the sun begins to set.
Through the porthole, I see the high mountains of the snowy Caucasus, indicating my arrival. I marvel at the sun rays that light up this pristine snow. But I don't have time to linger any longer as the pilot announces landing. I made it to Armenia!
Leaving the mild climate of France, to discover snowy landscapes and negative temperatures of Armenia. But breathing the fresh air and finding the comfort of walks in the city is priceless.
For my first evening in this Caucasus country, I am blessed to meet the volunteers who will be working with me for five months. I am touched to learn from the testimonies and photos of the team, the history of the country, as well as the history of the inhabitants. I know that the persons I will meet during my mission will move me deeply and put me in front of life's struggles. Thus, what I've gone for: growing up, taking experience, giving everything I've received, makes sense to me. I am already moved by the poignant testimonies, that I can read on the faces of displaced people from Artsakh, and their deep faith. They suffered and yet they teach us to see the beauty of life and rejoice in what we have.
The mission in Armenia has opened up recently. This means everything is to be put in place and everyone has a role to play based on their skills. Quickly, I find my place in the team as a communication manager. It's up to me to capture the most beautiful moments of the mission and show them to those who follow us on social media.
After a good restorative night, I begin my first day of mission by assessing the needs of a dozen families of displaced persons from Artsakh, who have found refuge in Arshaluys village, near Yerevan. A kindergartener specifically closed to accommodate them during the winter.
We meet Eliza, a young Armenian woman who is helping the poor in her village. At her house, we make the different packages for families. I discover Armenian hospitality, which reminds me of my first mission country: Syria. I find again this warm welcome: Armenian coffee, accompanied by cakes and fruits.
After donating diapers and milk, we leave parents to rest and care for children ages 10 months to 10 years. Everyone, smile on their lips, welcomes us with laughter and amazing joy of life. They ran away, they left everything behind but they don't give up and keep living like they used to.
Negative temperatures don't stop them! When we arrived, freezing, and saw these little ones waiting for only one thing, playing, their enthusiasm made us forget the -10 degrees, and our motivation came back!
After the musical chair, ′′1.2.3 sun", or even the ′′Postman Game", they head to the garden to play football. Always lively with overflowing energy, they quickly exhaust volunteers on duty. Some try in vain, to stay with infants, who sleep peacefully in their mother's arms.
A first pass, a second, a shot and that's a goal. That's it, the first snowballs are launched! Everybody run, throw, dodge the frozen balls. Volunteers prepare their defense while youngest try harder. But these kids have more than one trick up their sleeve, and quickly we get trapped, in a swirl of snow.
That doesn't mean we surrender because after a few minutes we pull ourselves together and the match is restarted. Snowballs and football turn into only one game. For several hours, thanks to the laughs of the children, who move us all, we forget the harsh weather.
But everything comes to an end and slowly the sun sets to give way to the calm of the night. Everyone passes the door threshold to find their parents and to warm up. After thanking the kids for a beautiful day spent with them, we leave to hug the infants one last time. Eliza walks us to the car, in front of which we schedule a next visit.
This busy first day allowed me to meet a new people, exiled, forced to escape but so generous and caring. Their beautiful smile and communicative joy of life is a great lesson in life.
Help us give the displaced families from Artsakh, everything they need.
Josephine, volunteer in Armenia.