By: Anna Masis
The Village of Margara lies on the right bank of the Arax river. During the Soviet Union, Margara was gated and Russian soldiers would not allow anyone in without proper documentation. It is on the Turkish border. The river Arax is the dividing line. As a child I remember how on weekends we would get calls from the Russian gatekeepers. They would ask my father to go to the gate with proper documents, so they would allow our relatives to get in by showing their passports. My grandpa was born and raised in Yerevan. However, his love for my grandma had brought him to Margara and my father was born in Margara. Every time the family would visit, they had to go through the gatekeepers.
My grandfather loved this village. He had always had the opportunity to move to the city, but he never did. The same or even more goes for my father. He loves Margara with all his heart. He has built a house in Margara. The balcony faces Mount Ararat. That was the view I grew up with. I would stand there and gaze at the mountain. Sometimes, I would imagine that the mountain grew all the way to the skies. There was some enigmatic power in gazing at Ararat. We have always called it “Masis sar” (Mount Masis). Now you know where I got my last name Masis.
As far back as I can remember, my father was the Mayor of Margara. I would attend Margara’s school with my brother. We would learn Armenian, Russian, and German as our third language. After the Soviet Union felt apart, the school got to choose English as a third language. However, we didn’t have specialists to teach English classes.
When I graduated from collage my father asked me to go teach at Margara’s school because they had a shortage of teachers. My major was International Relations, so I learned English in college, but I wasn’t a teacher. Even though I had different dreams, I agreed to teach at school until they could find an English teacher.
It was an amazing experience getting to work with those beautiful students. They were full of enthusiasm and curiosity. It was a unique experience which awakened in me a tremendous love for teaching. I recall all the positive energy I was surrounded with in the classrooms and around the school. Inside the classrooms, I enjoyed looking at my students’ eyes, full of questions and eagerness to learn more. When I looked out of the classroom windows, there was always the forever courageous Mount Ararat looking back at me. The mountain would whisper to me quietly, “There is nothing impossible in life. Keep your head up and go forward.” I followed my heart and pursued my dreams. After taking some government classes and tests I moved to Yerevan to work for the Ministry of Finance. For a long time after that, I was in touch with my students. Somehow, everyone’s achievements would make me happy. I felt very connected to the students and to school even long after leaving the village and the school.
It’s been many years. I have since left Yerevan and moved to California. I am currently one of the AIWA-SF Board members. During one of our AIWA-SF meetings I asked our amazing board members to support the school by hiring an English teacher to teach an after-school program at Margara’s school. It is very much needed at this school because they are behind at English language compare to other schools in the region. I know firsthand how impactful education and specifically learning English is to inspire opportunity and helping change the course of one’s life. One of AIWA members noticed that I was very passionate when talking about this project. I got emotional. I realized that it was very close to my heart. I still care very deeply for the school, the village, and the people living there. After the project plan and strategy was set, the AIWA-SF board voted to support this great project. We hired Marine Karapetyan to teach the after school English program to three groups of students at Margara’s school.
As project lead, I am delighted to share photos and a recent update we got from Marine Karapetyan:
“A distant village ..aloof, isolated , situated just at the border which divides the Great Armenia in two pieces; western and eastern (such an artificial division). Margara is the name of this village, and the school of Margara is where I have started working for almost six weeks.
First of all I want to give a brief introduction about me and reflection on my inner self.
After graduating from Yerevan State Linguistic University after V. Brusov and working for two years in different language centers in Yerevan, I travelled to Romania for 7 months to do a European volunteering project at several high and middle schools. This experience helped me gain useful knowledge, develop my entrepreneurship skills and discover myself in various ways.
While being in Romania I pondered a lot about my future and asked myself who I wanted to be and what to do when I come back to my Homeland. Doesn’t exist a place more sacred for me than my homeland-Armenia! I applied for ‘’Teach for Armenia’’ project, which provides workplaces for teachers in the far away villages and towns in RA and Artsakh, at that time, this was exactly what I wanted to do- to be an English teacher in one of the villages and live in that community and try to make a change. I went successfully through the selection process but ended up taking a different path.
I returned to Armenia and founded a language centre in city Armavir and busied myself with teaching English. But later, to my greatest joy, I was offered a job at Margara school.
Now if you ask me, I will say, this is what I EXACTLY dreamed of when I was in Romania and gave up on it, regretted for giving up on that idea and now, in fact, with this serendipitous turn of events in my life, I am here, at the point in my life, where I full super-satisfied with what I have- THE SCHOOLCHILDREN WITH EYES AS BIG AS THE SUN ..and so cute, that you begin merely to adore each of them!
Two more unbelievably things –
There are lots of storks with their nests all over the village and they stand on one leg and make amazing sounds when you pass them by.
And, of course, ARARAT, our holy mountain, so big, so divine that simply drives you crazy. From this village Ararat can be seen with all its glory!!! As a teacher who wakes up before sunrise and starts her road with sunrise, the sun rising before you as you drive to the school and you see Ararat, the sun and the storks- all of these fills you with mega-inspiration, deepness and brings forth the realization that you have the most important task working with children, the greatest responsibility – to guide them, to inspire them, to make them believe they can be and do more, to dare, to learn and dream!
You were asking me “what is your vision?’’
-Well, that’s my vision, that’s what I really want to do. In an endless need for sense and reason in my deeds, here I feel that I have a bag of knowledge and skills and experience that I REALLY want to share with the children. I’ve got a bunch of things to say, to tell, to give and share…
I think that this after school classes can be a good chance to use my skills and be helpful to the children. I want to use my time at these schools as efficiently as possible. My vision is that through English language acquisition they can be awaken to the many opportunities that await them. Education and language skills are very important. I feel honored to help change peoples lives and thank AIWA-SF for the opportunity to help me achieve my dreams and help our Armenian youth. Thank you.”
About AIWA-SF: The Armenian International Women’s Association is a dynamic global 501(c)3 dedicated to empowerment, education and enrichment. Through many projects and initiatives, AIWA is dedicated to inspiring, empowering and connecting Armenian women worldwide.
AIWA-SF is an affiliate chapter of the Armenian International Women’s Association, the EIN #: 04-3113182. Donations marked for AIWA-SF are routed to the affiliate chapter.
To get involved with the AIWA-SF affiliate, please visit http://www.aiwasanfrancisco.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are grateful for all donations. To help us promote progress, contributions can be mailed to: AIWA-SF 15559 Union Ave #227 Los Gatos CA 95032