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FALL //2015



- Table of Contents Simple Words, Not-So-Simple Journey By Armen Babajanian _______________ 3 2015 Heritage Tour___________________________________________________________ 4 Catching Alumni Doing Good________________________________________________ 6 Pathway to Armenia___________________________________________________________ 8 Weddings & Babies___________________________________________________________ 9 AVC: Call to... Recruit Your Parents__________________________________________ 10 Alumni Spotlight______________________________________________________________ 11 The Quiz______________________________________________________________________ 12 Connect Professionally_______________________________________________________ 12

Fall Edition 2—

I have become a lot more adventurous when I compare to how I was before coming to Armenia. I think if I hadn’t lived in Armenia, I wouldn’t have ever considered living in Iran. - Casey Edgarian

Simple Words, Not-So-Simple Journey By Armen Babajanian (2006) Personal reflections captured during Heritage Tour 2015 Excited, anxious, uncertainty setting in, pilgrimage. Starting in Gyumri, remembering those who didn’t survive Mother Nature’s wrath in 88’ Going through the Georgian border, unpleasant, unfair, patience, Thinking of our friends, left behind. It’s going to be ok. Breathe, it’s ok. Would rather be in Atlanta not this Georgia. Turkish border. Unbelievable! We are asking to enter our own home. I’ve never disliked red as I do now. Now I can understand the rage a bull feels when pricked and prodded by its master. A brand new day The sun is up ready to share its day with us Ani welcomed us with open arms today Our first introduction to our magnificent artists and engineers The Mother Cathedral infused our minds and imaginations about our foremother and fathers, walking the same paths and praying within the same ornate walls built over 1,000 years ago. The tremendous, glorious, beautiful Ararat is before us. But this time from the other side. The other right side. Many of us awed by its history and beauty. It’s our first visit, so unjust The village kids playing, swimming and swallowing the Ararat air These kids playing should be little Armenian brothers and sisters. Envy. Pain. Memories. Blame. Love. Peace. It’s ok. This is our place. Crisp blue. Seagulls galore. Salty waters. We all adore. Sandwiched between decrepit homes. Varagavank stands tall and strong and alone. Others here, walk around, as if it’s their home. A prayer in the church, with my brothers and sisters. Chills. Tears. Birds. Dust. All gone, the fears. A lot of pride. We meet the Mushetsees. A lot of memories. Turquoise Lake is no Van. But also fun. Bonding. Sisters, brothers, friends. Narrow streets, where our families sold, bought, and traded Now, nowhere to be found. Not true! Our brave, Diyarbakir families not hiding anymore, Have planted the seeds of roses, truly rising through the tarred and feathered khachkars. Dudan gorge. No words. Lots of excitement. Rocks and memories. Some bottled in our minds and others bottled up to share with our loved ones not with us. Together. Unanswered questions. Tears. Pain. Anger. Forgive? Together. Love. Peace. Birthright.

The right to live, The right to pray, The right to remember every single blessed day.


2015 Heritage Tour On July 23rd we set off by bus at 5:00 am from the office, headed for Akhalkalaki, Georgia, as the first leg of the 9-day Heritage Tour to historical Armenia. This was the very first alumni trip of this kind to ever take place. Fortunately, considering the brewing political situation on the ground at the time, we traveled safely throughout the trip from start to finish. Our group of 53 alums was led by our founder, Edele Hovnanian, executive director Linda Yepoyan, country director Sevan Kabakian, and alumni program coordinator Shant Meguerditchian plus Khatchig Mouradian as our historical guide. Yes, we were the largest youth group to have ever visited historical Armenia, ever! The trip’s purpose was to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide by visiting the land of our ancestors, and to celebrate our first decade of success together. We visited Kars, Ani, Mt. Ararat, Van, Tatvan, Mush, Diyarbekir, Urfa, Ayntap, Malatya, Kharpert, Marash, and Erzerum. Although the entire trip was noteworthy, a few of the key highlights follow in photos and description. The group powered through a very difficult hike up a mountain to get to Sourp Arakelots monastery in Mush, which dates back to the 10th century. It is said that the main church was dynamited in the 1960s.


The group walked together to the base of Mt. Ararat and danced to Armenian music. It’s definitely an amazing experience to be on the other side of the mountain that is the symbol of Armenia. It was an unforgettable moment and we were happy to share it with each other.

A two hour boat ride on Lake Van got us to Gdouts Island, so worth the journey to see. We are almost positive that 60 Armenians haven’t been on this island for over 100 years. The Armenian monastery on the island dates to the 15th century. As you can see, we formed a human shield with all of the alumni.

One of our first stops was to the ruins of the city of Ani. It was very difficult to walk through the destruction of the city of 1000 churches. Visiting Ani helped us put into perspective as to how much the Armenian people had lost. That one city already felt like so much.

One of the participants of the trip, Arthur Dolmajian (2009), tracked our journey through historical Armenia with GPS and created a map of the trip. You can see exactly where we went and how long our whole journey took. He also included a photo journal of the trip. You can check it out by going to Thank you for this great addition, Arthur.

Dudan gorge turned out to be one of the most emotional parts of the trip, our “aha” moment so to speak, as it visually put everything we’ve heard and read in our lives into clear perspective. Chunkush, which is a village two hours away by foot from Dudan gorge, had about 10,000 Armenians living there before the Genocide took place. All 10,000 were forced to march and were eventually thrown into this gorge, which is several hundred feet deep. It wasn’t easy listening to the stories. We even met Asiya, 98 years old, who is the last Armenian living in Chunkush. Her mother was able to escape from what seemed to be the inevitable at the time.


Catching Alumni Doing Good

Areg Maghakian (2007) and Nyree Abrahamian (2007) have recently opened a new café called Victory Point Café in Berkeley, CA. It is the result of a combined effort of Areg with business partner Derek DeSantis, with a joint passion for tabletop gaming and the community-building social benefits that they provide. The best part about this café is that you can play board games while enjoying a nice cold beer! Visit www.victorypointcafé.com to read more and if you’re in the San Francisco area, make sure you stop by. Click here to follow them on Facebook! Areg and Nyree, who met through Birthright Armenia in 2007, with their beautiful son, Aramé.


Armen Babajanian (2006) is originally from California, now living in Warsaw for over a year, and serves as Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Poland. He joined us on the Heritage Tour to historical Armenia this past summer and upon his return felt the need to connect with the Armenian community in Poland. He organized a presentation on his trip with the Foundation of Culture and Heritage of Polish Armenians on September 19th. Around 20 people from the Polish Armenian community were in attendance, including Edgar Ghazaryan, the Armenian Ambassador to Poland. “I was humbled to be able to present my pilgrimage to historic Armenia to the Polish Armenian community in Warsaw I have been invited to make two more presentations, including one for the Polish Museum in November.”

Emily Mkrtichian (2011) and Alex Igidbashian (2013) are at it again. They signed on to a very meaningful Centennial project that afforded them the opportunity to travel around the globe. The Luys i Luso project of Tigran Hamasyan premiered in March 2015 and then continued with performances in 100 churches in Georgia, Turkey, Lebanon, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Czech Republic, England, Germany, Luxembourg, Russia and USA. The entire concert tour was recorded by a professional camera crew under the supervision of Emily and Alex. The film will be released in 2016. For now, you can take a look at a short teaser by clicking here. Natalia Sookias (2013), who has her own studio in Berlin, Germany, called Studio Ondé, is also working on the projection and sound design for the project. To find out more about the Luys i Luso project, visit

Natalia Sookias (2013) opened her project, “Projection: Seeing the Unseen”, to the public in Yerevan on September 29. The project includes projection mapping that is choreographed around the Վիշապ - the mythological Armenian dragon. The project itself is a concept developed by Hrach & Avetik Vardanyan, brothers from Gyumri, Luys Foundation, and herself. She had met all of them during her volunteer service two years ago. You can find out more about all the great work Natalia is doing by visiting



arisol Khadeyan (2013), from Córdoba, Argentina, is currently looking to work with an NGO that deals with social and political issues in Armenia. She volunteered for eight months in 2013-2014 serving in

Artsakh with Aravni NGO, Haiky Serund (scouts), The Lady Cox Re-

habilitation Centre, and the Shushi City Museum of History. She also volunteered in Gyumri with the Regional Museum of Shirak State and in Yerevan with both the International Child Development Center (ICDC) Autism Centre and the Naregatsi Art Institute. After returning to Córdoba, Marisol continued to work as a teacher at the Manuel Belgrano School. She has a degree in Political Science from the Catholic University of Córdoba.



rpine Qtoyan (2014), who is also from St. Petersburg, Russia, was able to find work as dentist at Telia Stom Dental Clinic after a one month job search. She volunteered for one month in Yerevan with Prkutyun Disabled Children and Young people and Alfastom. After returning to St. Petersburg, Arpine worked as a dental therapist for about a year prior to returning to Armenia. Arpine has a degree in Dentistry (DMD) from Pavlov First Saint Petersburg State Medical University.


arandzem Saakyan (2014), from St. Petersburg, Russia, is currently seeking employment that has to do with socio-cultural event planning. She volunteered in Yerevan with HIGH FEST International Performing Arts Festival and 5 stars, a tourism company. After returning to St. Petersburg, Parandzem just knew that she wanted to return and live in Armenia permanently. She has a degree in Social and Cultural Technologies from St. Petersburg State University of Culture and Arts.


Weddings Babies& Araz Boghossian (2012), from Toronto, Canada, married Amalya Grigoryan in June at the St. Gevorg Church in Mughni. They currently live in Canada.

Hovig Khatcherian (2014), from Montreal, Canada, and Siranuysh Papikyan (2014), from St. Petersburg, Russia, met through Birthright Armenia in 2014 and got married on August 16th at Geghard monastery in the Kotayk Province. The couple is currently living in Armenia.

Ani Saraphanian (2006), from Toronto, Canada, married Khajag Koulajian on July 28th at the St. Mesrob church in Oshagan. They live in Canada.

Peno Mishoyan (2014), from Aleppo, Syria, met his wife, Marianna Vardanyan, in our BR office!!!They got married on August 29th at the

St. Sarkis Church in Yerevan. The couple will live in Armenia.

Tamar Najarian (2011), from Toronto, Canada, met her husband, Nerses Isajanyan, in Armenia. They got married on August 15th at Geghard monastery in the Kotayk Province. They currently live in Armenia.

Karl Armen Hovhanness Boudjikanian (2008), met his sweetheart Taline Ekmekjian in Montreal in 2010. They got married at St. Gevorg Church in Noragavit on

August 29th. The couple resides in Canada.

Nader and Sophia Shahverdian Hawit (2009) had their beautiful daughter, Lucine Amal Hawit, on June 29, 2015. Congratulations to the both of you!.




hen you returned from your Birthright Armenia experience and raved about how great everything was – were your parents just a tiny bit jealous? Probably.

Well, now they can come see for themselves what the excitement is all about. Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) will customize a placement just for them so that they too can have their very own memorable experience. They can opt for a professional placement or they can explore a lifelong passion as part of their service, provided they can commit to a minimum of two weeks. AVC updates its list of exciting volunteering opportunities in Armenia every week and offers sector specific placements in accounting, architecture, business, community development, farming, nursing, teaching, and a whole lot more. And they can even enjoy all the perks you did like weekly language classes, forums, homestays and excursions.

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So do tell your parents, relatives, and friends – whether it’s their first visit to Hayastan, or they don’t want to just be a tourist the next time they’re here – they should try AVC Professional Corps. They can volunteer at any age, and married couples are more than welcome! They can learn more about AVC and Professional Corps, as well the newest sector specific opportunities on our website and on Facebook; or they can contact us directly at with any questions. So spread the word – your parents deserve to have some fun too!  

Alumni Spotlight What are you currently doing? I’m about to start a Master’s in Iranian Studies at the University of Tehran. In previous years, Americans who applied for the program weren’t able to secure visas, so I will be one of the first full-time American students in Iran.

Casey Edgarian spent five months volunteering in Yerevan at PINK, Civilitas Foundation, Teach for Armenia, AYB Education Foundation and School, and Matenadaran (The Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts). Casey also spent one month in Shushi, Artsakh volunteering with the Naregatsi Art Institute. He has a degree in History from the University of British Columbia. Where were you born? And where do you currently live? I was born in San Diego, California. I’m currently living in Tehran, Iran. When you were a volunteer, how old were you, where did you volunteer and for how long? I volunteered from September, 2014 to March, 2015 and I was 21 when I started Birthright. I spent most of my time in Yerevan, and I lived for about a month in Shushi. What did you do after you finished your volunteer service? After I finished volunteering, I backpacked for six months. I traveled around Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Georgia and the United Arab Emirates. After that, I went home for a month to figure out my life and then I found out I had received my Iranian visa, so I hopped on that opportunity and now I’m here!

How has Birthright Armenia’s experience played a role in your life, and influencedlife’s path? I truly believe that Birthright Armenia set the foundation for my career. I got to make connections with a lot of like-minded diasporans from around the world and work at internships that I wouldn’t have been able to secure in the U.S. BR was also a great bridge for coming to Iran. My family originally comes from the region around Khoy and Nakhijevan, so this was a natural transition after first living in Armenia. As a result of the connections I made in Yerevan, I got to connect with the Armenian community in Tehran, who are helping me get settled and better acquainted with the city. What is the biggest change you’ve had in your life since you were a volunteer? I have become a lot more adventurous when I compare to how I was before coming to Armenia. I think if I hadn’t lived in Armenia, I wouldn’t have ever considered living in Iran. Where do you see yourself in the 5-10 years? To be honest, I didn’t even know I would be here a couple of weeks ago, so I have no idea where I will be in the next 5-10 years. Hopefully I’ll be living comfortably with a nice-paying job. If you’re reading this and would like to hire me, please let me know.

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The Quiz 1. North America aside, on which continent do we have the most alums residing? 2. How many Birthright Armenia marriages have resulted to date? 3. On what day of the year do we have the highest number of alums born? Answers to the quiz questions will be posted in the Facebook group in 2 days!


Accelerate your career by joining our professional networking community on Linkedin. Connecting with alum can help you discover business opportunities, land exciting jobs, distribute job listings, and get introduced to inside connections, all through your affiliation to Birthright Armenia and fellow Depi Haykers. Our alumni base, which now represents 37 different countries across the world, is well connected and you may be surprised by who they know.


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Birthright Armenia Alumni Newsletter | Fall 2015  
Birthright Armenia Alumni Newsletter | Fall 2015