by Sevak Hakobyan

“We’re all part of the big human family,” says Dr. Chandrika Seneviratne, a native of Sri Lanka who has lived in the United States for many years. “We may speak different languages, and we may have different cultures and cuisines, but we’re all human beings and must help one another.” Ever since completing her medical education in Los Angeles, Dr. Chandrika has worked at Adventist Health Glendale (AHG).

She says she signed up for the joint Armenia Fund-AHG medical mission to the Noyemberyan Hospital in order to help her sisters and brothers in Armenia, and adds that she has felt at home here right from the start.

“Armenia reminds me of Sri Lanka,” Dr. Chandrika says. “You know, there are quite a few similarities between the two. In Sri Lanka, too, many people live in poverty, but their kindness knows no bounds. I find it amazing that the residents of Tavush are so hospitable, despite the fact that many are economically insecure. I know a lot of Armenians back in Los Angeles, but they’re different from their compatriots here. I can’t find the words to describe my positive impressions of Armenia. The nature is so beautiful in this country!” Dr. Chandrika also says she was surprised by certain things in Tavush, such as the fact that residents have no problem drinking tap water, and that they grow their own fruits and vegetables.

“For those like me who live in big cities, it’s strange to see people cultivating their own gardens and growing their food with their own hands,” the doctor says. “Everything is natural in Tavush. And the food is delicious. I think these are the reasons that people here are, over all, very healthy.”

During September 16-21, 2017, Dr. Chandrika has examined 70 female patients at the Noyemberyan Hospital. Only one of them was diagnosed with cancer — a fact which the doctor finds astounding. “As a pathologist specializing in women’s health, I was pleasantly surprised by such a low incidence of cancer,” she explains.

Dr. Chandrika regrets the fact that most Tavush residents don’t speak English, as she would’ve loved to find out more about their lives and traditions, she says.

“Yet in the short time that I was in Noyemberyan, I managed to learn a few Armenian words and phrases,” she continues. “Having enjoyed our Armenian patients’ extraordinary kindness and warmth, I wished I could spend more time with them. That’s why I’ve decided to learn Armenian. I know it’s a complex language, but I will try my best. My hope is that if I’m able to return to Armenia with our mission next year, I’ll be able to communicate with our patients in their mother tongue.”

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Photo Credit: Areg Balayan