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SPRING | 2016



- Table of Contents Pathway to Armenia________________________________ 3 Birthright Connect App_____________________________ 4 Our First Ever Music Video_________________________ 4 New Ambassadors_________________________________ 5 Catching Alumni Doing Good_______________________ 6 Professional and Academic Achievements__________ 7 Alumni Gatherings________________________________ 10 Babies____________________________________________ 11 Three Alumni Moms Set to Join AVC_______________ 11 Alumni Spotlight: Kristine Jegalian________________ 12


Pathway to Armenia: 24 and Growing The Birthright House got a lot of alumni action this past year thanks to an ever growing interest. We started 2016 off strong at maximum capacity—even after the addition of a fourth bedroom! Since early 2013, the Pathway to Armenia program has been offering job search and temporary lodging assistance to those alums who want to make Armenia their home, for any length of time, beyond their volunteer service. To date 24 alums have come through the program, the vast majority of whom successfully found paid positions in their desired fields. In which fields you ask? For starters, in architecture, IT, tourism, hospitality, engineering, business development, urban planning, non-profit work, filmmaking, and more. But it isn’t about our success record or quantity of participants. It’s really about Armenia being a livable place filled with a multitude of opportunity, and living up to the now famous Nora Injeyan Bairamian’s quote, “not your Grandmother’s Armenia!”

Astghik Davtyan, from Skadovsk in southern Ukraine, is currently living in the Birthright house as she seeks employment in the tourism development industry. Our staff will continue to help circulate her resume to contacts within our network and offer her work space to conduct her job search and much more. We ask you do the same, for one of your own, if you have beneficial contacts in Armenia that could propel Astghik’s search further. That’s the real beautyl of being part of a strong, viable network!

Should you yourself be seriously considering applying to Pathway to Armenia now or in the distant future, The group of you who have already taken the click here to learn more about the simple Pathway to Armenia plunge to date includes: application process. Or contact Shant at to talk in deeper detail about what to expect and • Faye Khatchadourian • Gabe Armas Cardona how it all works. • • • • • •

Maral Firkatian Wozniak Lena Tashjian Karine Vann Razmig Karamanoukian Parandzem Saakyan Florence Low

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Arthur Dolmajian Gayane Bagramyan Marisol Khadeyan Astghik Davtyan Achod Papasian Sirarpi Grigoryan Gayane Gyulkhandyan

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Danniel Roumian Arpa Vartanian Sofia Sargsyan Arpine Qtoyan Marcelo Kervorkian Emily Kaldjian Hagop Bedrosyan


Birthright Connect App: Coming Soon! The development of our BR Connect APP is on track for delivery in fall 2016! BR Connect is a mobile app designed for our community members to connect, share information and content, and communicate within the application. Which means you’ll soon get to utilize its full functionality via connections, notifications, events, messages, and so much more with your fellow alums. Did we mention that Meredith DerianToth (2011) is the project manager for BR Connect? Kudos to Mere!

Our First Ever Music Video: “Watch the River Change Course” by Capital Cities |Sebu Simonian

On April 14th, we launched our very first music video! “Watch the River Change Course,” written and performed by Capital Cities Sebu Simonian and featuring Jivan Gasparyan Jr. playing the duduk. The song’s theme is about collaboration and discovery. The video shows real Birthright Armenia participants from all over the world singing and dancing to the upbeat music in a series of fun clips shot at locations all across Armenia. We’re sure this will bring back pleasant memories for all of you! Please share it on your social media platforms and with Armenian organizations that you’re a part of. In your post, please tag Birthright Armenia and Sebu Simonian while using the hashtags #BirthrightArmenia and #SebuSimonian. The more Armenian youth that see this video, the more interest it will spark in submitting their applications and experiencing Armenia for themselves – just like you. Click here to watch the video. 4—

New Ambassadors During the past three months we have welcomed four new ambassadors. We now have seven ambassadors total representing regional alumni groups in Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal, United Kingdom, France, Washington, DC, and Armenia. We are working on welcoming another two or three regional heads in the coming months.

Mane Saakyan

Volunteered in 2015 BR/DH Ambassador for France

Olga Markarian

Volunteered in 2008 BR/DH Ambassador for Montreal

Patrick Bairamian

Volunteered in 2012 BR/DH Ambassador for California

Nora Bairamian

Volunteered in 2010 BR/DH Ambassador for Armenia


Catching Alumni Doing Good Rachel Nersesian (2014), from San Leandro, California, was recently nominated to serve on the board of the Armenian International Women’s Association San Francisco (AIWASF). After graduating from Georgetown University in 2014 with a degree in International Relations, Rachel volunteered in Armenia for one year. While in Armenia, she interned with FAR Children’s Support Center, International Center for Human Development, and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Wanting to continue her engagement with Armenia upon her return to California, she certainly found a rewarding way to do so. We are proud of you and wish you the best of luck, Rachel! Click here to learn more about the great work being done by AIWA-SF. Charlotte Poulain (2015) from Saint-Maur, France, has returned to Armenia three months after she ended her volunteer service. During her time volunteering in Armenia she co-founded an organization called HAYP Pop Up Gallery with Anna Gargarian, the Manager and Creative Director. HAYP Pop Up Gallery aims to set up and curate exhibitions in vacant places throughout Armenia. They provide spaces for contemporary artists to make their voice heard, to engage in public live performances (dance, theatre, live painting, music, etc.), and run fun, constructive tours of exhibitions for both adults and children to make contemporary art accessible to everyone. Recently they hosted an event called “Lips of Pride”: A Collective Exhibit” which took place in an old house in Yerevan. The exhibit’s aim was to begin a discussion on a taboo topic, and to give a voice to those whom are often silenced. HAYP had 25 women artists from Armenia and abroad to share their perspectives on the intertwined topics of sexuality, pleasure, shame, femininity, identity, discrimination and injustice within a patriarchal culture. Click here to watch video of their exhibition. Click here to find out more about HAYP and future exhibitions in Armenia. 6—

Ani Jilozian (2007) has been working on a crowd funding campaign with the Tufenkian Foundation which aims to raise money in order to provide humanitarian assistants to soldiers and families in Artsakh. The 15-day campaign launched on April 18 th with the goal of raising $30,000 which is being matched dollar for dollar by a major donor. The raised funds will go to purchase emergency medical supplies, housing construction/ repair, and to get journalists to provide fair, balanced and impactful media reports. Tufenkian Foundation has been on the ground for over a decade, serving Karabakh residents through the promotion of resettlement, infrastructure, health care, and other development programs. Click here to support to donate now!

Raffi Wartanian (2007) recently had his short documentary released which explores the reflections of the oud master Ara Dinkjian as he travels to Istanbul to perform in a historic concert commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Raffi has been working on this documentary for the past year with the purpose of sharing Ara Dinkjian’s ability to unite Armenians, Turks, Kurds, and Greeks through his music. “This video profile was my attempt to unpack the voice and mind behind the music during this momentous performance, and its implications upon the past, present, and future.”, said Raffi. A profile about the documentary has been released on The Huffington Post and you can find it here.

We are very happy to see that Jamie Kolar (2013), the founder of Aid to Armenia, was able to complete the 100th Village training in Antarut on April 22. In the last year, while visiting 100 villages, Aid to Armenia trained 2,314 Armenians in basic first aid and distributed 1,918 first aid kits. Through the BR ”Next Step” Alumni Fund, Jamie was able to cover costs for 1000 first aid kits. It has been wonderful to see this project from its start to completion. We thank Aid to Armenia for its commendable work and continuous engagement with Armenia. Click here to find out more about Aid to Armenia.


Professional and Academic Achievements Haroutioun Boyadjian (2015), from Lebanon, is currently living in Chicago as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University of Chicago Medicine.

Karine Papikian (2015) recently moved from Ukraine to Russia and has opened her very own bakery called LemonBar Bakery in Moscow. The bakery combines American and British traditions with a hint of Armenian. Make sure to visit if you’re in town!

After completing her volunteer service in Armenia, Salpi Apkarian (2015) was hired by Armenian Eye Care Project as a Program Assistant. She has recently also started a second job in Armenia at the Children’s Support Center also as a Program Assistant. Salpi holds a B.S. in Neuroscience and Behavior from Columbia University in New York.

Fernando Avakian (2010), from Argentina, has recently completed his M.A. in Political Science from the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences in Paris. He started a new job working for the International Hydrological Programme for UNESCO in Paris, France.

Nairi Tahmassian (2014) from Isfahan, Iran, has been living in Armenia for two years. She recently started a new job as a Farsi Online Support Operator at Infrotrade LLC in Yerevan. Nairi holds a B.A. in English Language Translation from the University of Isfahan.


Setta Mushegian (2007) has recently been made Director for the Sexual Abuse Response Team at Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut. She has been working in Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling for the last five years. Congratulations Setta!

Varak Ketsamanian (2014), from Lebanon, is currently completing his M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago. He was recently accepted into a PhD program for Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University which he will begin in Fall 2016.

Dina Apovian (2004) recently started working as the Associate Director & Program Manager – R&D IT at Biogen in Boston. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration with a focus in Finance and Marketing from Northeastern University.

Nieri Avanessian (2011), from New York, graduated from Columbia Law School last year and was recently admitted to the First Department of the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

Alina Aslanian (2013), originally from San Francisco, recently moved to Bangkok, Thailand to work as a Migrant Assistant Unit Intern at the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Alina holds a M.A. in Public Administration from Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey.

Look who is an Assistant Media Planner at Neo@Ogilvy in New York City! Anthony Antreasyan (2015), that’s who! Anthony holds a B.A. in Economics from Binghamton University in New York. Congratulations!


Alumni Gatherings During the past two months we’ve had two alumni gatherings take place – in Montreal and Yerevan. Thanks to the hard work of ambassadors, our alumni in these two communities were able to reunite and some met each other for the first time. On March 17, Nora Bairamian organized the very first gathering this year in Armenia at “The Club” restaurant where wine and cheese was served. Current BR/DH volunteers were also invited so they could meet alumni who live and work in Armenia. Over 40 alumni attended the event and about 20 current volunteers. Announcements were made about the timeliness of the upcoming BR Connect app launch, as well as two community “give-back”service projects for which in-country alumni have been asked to take the lead. On April 14, Olga Markarian, ambassador for the Montreal region, also organized the very first alumni gathering this year at La Touche - Bar à café, a local coffee shop owned by a young Armenian from Marseille. The event attracted 13 attendeesfrom the Montreal area and Olga spoke about the Alumni Program and what opportunities are available to them if they’re interested in engaging further with Armenia. During the gathering they all agreed on future events like a picnic during the summer and a fundraiser that will contribute to future alumni projects. They will also be holding gatherings every now and then when new alumni return to Montreal after completing their volunteer service in Armenia.


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Babies Anabela Avedisian (2008) and her husband Ignacio Kekedjian welcomed Paula Kekedjian into their lives on June 26, 2015, in Rosario, Argentina. Felicitaciones a los dos!!!

Nigel Sharp (2010) and Yeva Sharp were recently blessed with the birth of their daughter, Victoria. Victoria was born on March 18th in Boulder, Colorado. Congratulations to the three of you!

Three Alumni moms set to join AVC! Whose parent will be next?

2014 year alumnus Devon Boutelle’s mother, Patricia Levin, is set to join AVC at the end of May; 2011 alumnus Aleksan Giragosian’s mother Shoghig Giragosian will arrive in Yerevan on June 21; and 2012 year alumnus Sevan Holemans’ mother, Isabelle Barsamian, plans to be in Armenia in September. Patricia and Isabelle are experienced professionals with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in their respective fields. Patricia Levin (USA) has been a long-time professor of Art History at Saddleback College. She is also an independent curator and has taught and curated projects throughout the USA as well as in Canada, France and Spain. Isabelle Barsamian (Belgium) is a physiotherapist and psychotherapist who has had her own practice for many years. She specializes in body psychoanalysis, a form of therapy that combines psychoanalysis with body work. Shoghig Giragosian (USA) is a marketing professional who has worked with some of the largest legal firms in the United States. Her passion is mentoring and training individuals to become empowered leaders. All three of these fine women will join AVC’s Professional Corps, a program designed for mature professionals over age 32. All that’s required is a minimum commitment of 2 weeks and the desire to serve. AVC does the rest.

Immersion, discovery and fulfillment are guaranteed! Click here to learn more! — 11

Alumni Spotlight: Kristine Jegalian Where were you born? And where do you currently live? I was born in the United States in Los Angeles and currently live in Yerevan, Armenia. When you were a volunteer, how old were you, where did you volunteer and for how long? I volunteered in Yerevan from April 2010 – August 2010 when I was 25 years old. At the time I volunteered for TUMO and The Research on Armenian Architecture Foundation. What did you do after you finished your volunteer service? After I finished my volunteer services I went back to Los Angeles to start graduate school. In the fall of 2010 I started my Master’s program at The University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. I earned a dual Master’s in Public Administration and Urban Planning with a concentration in economic development. I spent three years in graduate school, but came back to Armenia every summer during that time to work on projects that were tied with my University and my studies. What are you currently doing? Currently I am living in Armenia, working with Gyumri Project Hope (GPH). GPH is a non-profit urban planning foundation focused on the improvement of Gyumri focused on different sectors. We are working with our partners Vahan Kololian, AGBU, ARS and IDeA foundation conducting a feasibility study in order to identify potential economic development projects that can have the greatest benefit in the development of Gyumri. Previous to this position I was at Tim Flynn Architects hired as a consultant to work on the Dilijan Master Plan.

Have you been to Armenia since your volunteer experience? What year and for what purpose(s)? After my volunteer experience, I’ve been back to Armenia every year at least once for various projects and short term consulting jobs. This year is the first time I’m back and planning to stay throughout the year. What is the biggest change you’ve had in your life since you were a volunteer? The biggest change I experienced since I was a volunteer was my awakened interest in international development. The experience also made me more fearless in pursuing these goals and made me much more aware of all the opportunities that are around the world and not just in Los Angeles.

How has Birthright Armenia’s experience played a Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? role in your life, and when choosing your life’s path? I haven’t thought much of exactly where I will be, but I know that I always want to Before I did Birthright, I had visited Armenia only make sure that Armenia stays a part of my once when I was 17 years old with my senior life. I would ultimately love to raise a family class at Alex Pilibos Armenian School. After that here and continue developing part of my experience I always wanted to return to Armenia career here. but didn’t know for what purpose or what I could do here. Birthright Armenia served as an amazing Additional thoughts you might want to share platform to help someone like me come back to with the readers: Armenia. Since my volunteer experience, my life changed in that, being in Armenia was no longer a Everyone should spend an extended period of time in Armenia at some point in their foreign or out of the norm concept. Through this lives, even if they don’t see themselves being experience I became very aware and familiar of what I could do in Armenia and what steps I could here forever. It will definitely change your take to make sure that Armenia was always a part perspective about what it really means to be of my life, regardless if I chose to live here full time Armenian as well as how you view the world. or not. 12 —

Birthright Armenia Alumni Newsletter | Spring 2016  
Birthright Armenia Alumni Newsletter | Spring 2016