A second-generation Armenian-American, Peninsula College administrator Bob Lawrence-Markarian travelled to Armenia in August 2012 to volunteer for the Fuller Center for Housing to build homes for families in need and to reconnect with his ancestral roots.
He will talk about his experiences in a program entitled “Building Homes in Armenia” at the college’s Studium Generale program on Thursday, March 7, starting at 12:35 pm in the Little Theater. Lawrence-Markarian will also discuss the country’s history and culture as well as its rich musical traditions.
The Fuller Center for Housing was created by Millard and Linda Fuller, the founders of Habitat for Humanity (1976). In 2005, the Fullers founded the Fuller Center for Housing, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building and renovating homes in 14 countries and 64 communities in the United States. The center’s mission is to help more than one billion people worldwide who live in poverty housing and 100 million who are homeless.
Lawrence-Markarian made his first trip to Armenia in 2007 to visit the homeland of his mother’s ancestors and immerse himself in the country’s culture, language and music. Although he grew up hearing the Armenian language spoken by his family, eating the food, hearing the music and basking in an extended Armenian family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, it wasn’t until much later that he really began to research the Armenian culture, and it was the language and music of Armenia that piqued his interest.
“My mother started teaching me to speak Armenian,” he says. “It was her first language, followed by Turkish and, ultimately, English. I also started being haunted by the sounds of the duduk, a double-reed flute indigenous to Armenia. As I learned more about the language, culture and music, I was determined to see and experience the homeland. I was the first in three generations to return. It was a life-altering experience to see this culture that at least part of me comes from,” Lawrence-Markarian says.
Lawrence-Markarian is the Executive Director for Community and Business Education at Peninsula College. In his spare time he is also a musician, playing with the group, Twisted Roots. While in Armenia in 2007 and later in California he took lessons on the duduk, an indigenous Armenian, double-reed flute. His teacher, Gevorg Dabaghyan, is world renowned and has played throughout the world, particularly on the Silk Road Project with Yo-Yo Ma.