Returned Peace Corps Volunteer groups are a linchpin of our community, and whenever possible, we like to spotlight what they are doing. Friends of Armenia (FOA) only incorporated as a non-profit this year, but already they have 50 dues-paying members with active fundraising, grants, and membership committees. Their top priority is to support innovative, charitable projects in Armenia led by current Peace Corps Volunteers—projects that show real promise but may be too unconventional for USAID/Peace Corps Small Project Assistance (SPA) or Partnership Grant programs.
To strengthen the fledgling FOA community and to honor Armenian culture, Armenia RPCVs gathered in Seattle, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. this August to celebrate Vardavar, a mid-summer Armenian holiday that dates back to pre-Christian times. The ancient festival is traditionally associated with the goddess Astghik, who was the goddess of water, beauty, love and fertility.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenians continue to suffer problems with their infrastructure and public utilities, such as maintaining a stable and safe water supply. Nonetheless, to celebrate the progress that has been made, families host Vardavar cookouts while children (and grownups!) chase each other with small pails or cups of water, looking to douse their siblings and friends.
The DC-area RPCVs hosted an Armenian "khorovatz" (skewers of pork tenderloin cooked over hot coals) with mulberry vodka, lavash bread, cheese and fresh vegetables. The celebration also included Armenian dancing and a water balloon toss. For pictures of the celebration, visit the Friends of Armenia website at: www.friendsofarmenia.org/vardavar.