Birthright Armenia Alumni Newsletter | Winter 2016

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- Table of Contents 2015: A Year in Highlights____________________________________________________ 3 Catching Alumni Doing Good________________________________________________ 7 2015 Professional and Academic Achievements_____________________________ 8 Pathway to Armenia__________________________________________________________ 11 Babies________________________________________________________________________ 12 AVC Voluntourism Trip 2016_________________________________________________ 13 Alumni Spotlight: Յարութ Մանուկեան (Harout Manougian)_______________ 14

Winter Edition

2015: A Year in Highlights And What a Year It Was! It was a milestone year, a 100th anniversary year, one we memorialized in so many ways. In early February we planted the #AG Campaign seeds, our social media effort that picked up traction fast and engaged tens of thousands of people via social media. The #AG campaign stressed the importance of genocide awareness and remembrance, and resonated with so many, who participated locally or virtually to show their support. The campaign triggered a desire for many to begin asking questions about their ancestral stories and researching their lineage for the first time. #AG’s success was in great part attributable to you, our alums, who activated your local communities in 23 countries. It felt like we were all unified in Armenia on May 23rd, whether we were physically there or not, when Renee Bunn from Petaluma, CA, landed at Zvartnots airport to start her service, becoming our 1000th participant. If you never got a chance to see the surprise welcome Renee received upon arrival, (and even if you did), click here to watch the fanfare! This summer we served volunteers in four regions at the same time. We had a total of 105 in-country volunteers for the first time, carrying out volunteer service in Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor and Artsakh! Since the needs are greater in the outer regions of Armenia, community service “give back” projects will be taking place more frequently to buttress job placements in our satellite locations. In July, we took a trip of a lifetime to Western Armenia, 58 of us in total. Aside from our BR connectivity, all of us also shared a mutual desire to experience our homeland together, in the centennial year, from another historical angle— Depi Medz Hayk! The emotionally charged Heritage Tour bonded us as sisters and brothers for life! This fall we strengthened our regional alumni force by launching organized committees in Toronto, Washington, DC, and the United Kingdom, with nominated Ambassadors to lead professional networking, social and recruitment efforts. (See story below). It was with a great sense of accomplishment and pride that we wrapped up this most memorable year in which we welcomed 181 volunteers, reached five new countries--Turkey, Italy, Poland, Uzbekistan, and Mexico, and reached an alumni base totaling 1085, who represent 38 different countries around the globe! Engaged advocates for a stronger Armenia in 38 countries—that’s what it’s all about. As we continue to work together, certainly great things are in store for all of us in 2016 and beyond.


Highlights of 2015 in Pictures

1000th volunteer

#AG Campaign Photos from archives, from individuals, and families across the globe were submitted to the #AG Campaign site in solidarity of genocide awareness.

Heritage Tour 4—

Launch of the Ambassador Program

Harout Manougian Volunteered in 2005 BR/DH Ambassador for Toronto

Aline Kazanjian Volunteered in 2015 BR/DH Ambassador for Washington, DC

Daron Aslanyan Volunteered in 2011 and 2015 BR/DH Ambassador for UK

In 2016, we aim to have another six regional alumni groups formed with designated ambassadors, including Buenos Aires, France, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Russia.


Catching Alumni Doing Good Following the birth of her daughter Ani, Christine Serdjenian Yearwood (2008), from New York, has launched her own initiative called UP-STAND. UP-STAND aims to make public transportation safer for pregnant women by connecting them with their supporters. Christine said she listened to horror stories from women who used public transportation while pregnant; they described being shoved onto crowded trains, fainting from motion sickness, and health complications from standing too long. She shared their pain and frustration, but also understood that these same women rarely asked for seats because they realized other riders might have hidden disabilities, or felt dejected from prior bad experiences. The way UP-STAND works is to get people to buy an UPSTAND pin that alerts the person in front of you that you’re open to giving your seat to a pregnant woman on public transportation. Or it can alert the person in front of you that you yourself are pregnant and can use a seat on public transportation. If you’d like to join Christine’s advocacy for this amazing movement, you can buy your pin at


On December 13, 2015, the Armenian American Public Service Employees Association (AAPSEA) held their 9th Annual Christmas Gala in Burbank, California. AAPSEA is a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting Armenian American public service professionals at the county, city, state and federal levels for public benefit. This year they recognized our very own Jamie Kolar (2013), for her humanitarian work in Los Angeles County and in Armenia. Jamie Kolar is a Los Angeles County Firefighter who continues to do great service to her community. After Jamie completed her volunteer service in Armenia, she decided to go the extra step and create her own NGO, Aid to Armenia. Aid to Armenia promotes the advancement of first aid and emergency medical services in Armenia through supplying vital equipment, supplies and training. In the year of the 100th anniversary of the genocide, Aid to Armenia has been providing first aid training in 100 Armenian villages to commemorate 100 years of survival. Congratulations Jamie! Thank you for your dedicated public service and your continuous engagement with Armenia!

Manuk Avedikyan (2011) recently returned to California after living in Armenia for three years and receiving an M.A. in Political Science and International Affairs from the American University of Armenia (AUA). He is now employed by the USC Shoah Foundation as an Indexer, where he works on documenting survivor accounts of the Armenian Genocide. Manuk’s work will make audio visual testimonies of the Armenian Genocide available for wider public educational use. To find out more about Manuk’s work, click here.

Armina Khachatryan (2015) has started working at the DanceArt Academy in Armenia teaching a Master Dance class. Armina is an in-country alumni from Israel and has done wonders since her move to Armenia. In 2013, she was the winner of the project “So You Think You Can Dance” by “Shant” TV, and as a grand prize, she had been chosen to take part in a U.S. tour. This past October, she organized a charity concert of her own with many talented Armenian musicians and dancers. The proceeds from the concert went to Ayo!’s Music School project that helps provide children with musical instruments in the regions outside of Yerevan. It’s also important to note that Tatevik Khoja-Eynatyan (2011), from Baltimore, Maryland, is the Project Manager for Ayo!

Photo copyright: Diana Markosian Kohar Minassian (2014), Videographer and Editor, and Justin Mayfield (2014), Audio Engineer, worked on putting together a video through the Huffington Post in New York. The video gave insight to the project 1915 by Diana Markosian, an Armenian-American photographer whose work is captivating. In October 2014, Markosian set out to find genocide survivors residing in Armenia. She met 10 survivors, but only three -Movses Haneshyan, Mariam Sahakyan and Yepraksia Gevorgyan -- still had memories predating the Genocide. She then brought back mural-sized panels capturing potent landscapes from Turkey, and displayed them in the places these survivors now live in Armenia. Markosian’s project, exhibited at New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, profiles three living survivors of the genocide as they revisit memories of what they left behind, and what they lost. To watch the video, click here.

To find out more about Armina’s Master Dance class, click here. To find out more about Armina’s life experiences in Armenia, click here.


2015 Professional and Academic Achievements Hrag Vosgueritchian (2012) is completing his Masters in Social Psychology at the American University of Beirut after completing a B.A. in Psychology in 2014.

Tatevik Revazian (2010) has been working as the International Sales Manager at Momondo Group, an online travel search and inspiration network, for the past year. She is responsible for Momondo Group’s core market, Russia, and she works towards building a presence in Asia and Africa.

Mathew Armutlu (2014) started working in Business Development at Assante Wealth Management in Montreal in September. Assante Wealth Management is one of the largest Canadian professional services firms in wealth management. Mathew graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) in Finance from McGill University this year.

In 2015, Lily Abagyan (2009) completed her M.B.A. in Technology and Entrepreneurship at the University of California, Los Angeles. During her M.B.A. program she interned at Apple in Cupertino, California, which led to her current employment at Apple as a Program Manager.


After four years of law school, Chloe Ghoogassian (2011) earned her J.D. this year in International and Comparative Law from UC Hastings College of Law. After passing the Bar Exam she started her first job as an Associate Attorney at Michelman & Robinson, LLP.

After working at Tesco CEE as the Commercial Management Program – Junior Buyer in Hungary, Arpine Szarkiszjan (2014) started her new position as the Commercial Fresh Food Buying Manager in May 2015.

Nora Kayserian (2011) recently made a return to California after living in Armenia for the past three years. Shortly after, she started her new job at AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School as the College Counselor.

Danielle Saroyan (2014) finished her Master in Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California this year then made the move to Washington, DC, in September to start her new job as a Public Affairs Associate at the Armenian Assembly of America.

Nyree Abrahamian (2007) lived in Armenia for five years and moved to Berkeley, California. She continues to work in Armenia’s educational sector as the Director of Development Communications at American University of Armenia.


Patrick Bairamian (2012), a freelance writer by hobby, has also been working as a Senior Product Marketing Specialist at InMotion Hosting since April 2015. InMotion Hosting is an industry-leading provider of business class web hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated servers.

Aleek Kahramanian (2006) is completing her Master of Public Administration (MPA) at American University in Washington, DC. This past June, Aleek started her new job as an Analyst at Marwood Group. The Marwood Group is a healthcare focused strategic advisory and financial services firm headquartered in New York City with offices in Washington, D.C. and London.

After completing her Master of Science (MSc) in Political Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2014, Narine Esmaeili (2013) moved to Washington, DC, and started her new position as the Operations Assistant at Global Zero. Global Zero is an international movement to eliminate nuclear weapons around the world.

This year Levon Sarmazian (2014) completed his Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) in Intermediate/Senior Education with a focus in Business Studies and Politics Teachables at York University. He then successfully landed a position at Birchas Shmuel Private School in Toronto as a Business Education Teacher.

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Meet All Nine of Them!

2015 was an active year for Birthright House residency, as we had nine applicants living in the House as part of the Pathway to Armenia program for BR/DH alums. Seven of the nine found employment in Armenia and have taken up residency in Yerevan. They are pictured below, and represent the US, Russia, Belgium, Canada, and Argentina. We already have four alums accepted for early 2016 to jump start the year with new initiatives and job seeking efforts! The Birthright House can now accommodate four alums living together, as we did the necessary construction in the month of October to build-out an additional bedroom. If you are interested in employment opportunities in Armenia, apply to Pathway to Armenia today. Living accommodations at the Birthright House are available for up to three months and the staff at the Birthright Armenia office will be your back office support system during your job search.


Arthur Dolmajian (‘09)

Faye Khatchadourian (‘14)

Arpine Qtoyan (‘14)

Gayane Gyulkhandanyan (‘14)

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Gayane Bagramyan (‘14)

Marisol Khadeyan (‘13)

Parandzem Saakyan (‘14)

Razmig Karamanoukian (‘14)


Sofia Sargsyan (‘14)

Nick Bazarian and Arpi Paylan, who met during their volunteer service in 2006, welcomed a baby girl, Seta Bazarian, into their lives. Seta was born on October 20th in Vermont. Congratulations to all of you from all of us!

Lalai Manjikian (2005) and Hrair Yapoudjian were recently blessed with their son Sevan Yapoudjian. Sevan was born on November 4, 2015, in Montreal. Congratulations to the both of you!

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AVC Voluntourism Trip 2016 Please be sure to tell your family and friends there is a way to make their visit to Armenia more meaningful – whether it is their first trip or 50th! Our “Voluntourism 2016” program bundles both volunteering and tourism into an 11-day trip, so they can discover the country and work side-by-side with local citizens. The feedback on the pilot “Voluntourism 2015” trip this past June was so overwhelmingly positive that AVC is running it again for this upcoming summer. Here are the details: it is scheduled for June 18-29th, is limited to the first 12 registrants to keep the experience personalized, and costs only $1250 for the entire land package! In addition to historic sites and adventure, the Voluntourism trip into the heart and soul of Armenia’s south includes four days of physical labor and lots of satisfaction in the village of Gomk, in Vayots Dzor region (8 km from the Nakhichevan border). So help us spread the word by telling others about this wonderful opportunity to discover Armenia and do rewarding work at the same time! To read more about Voluntourism 2016, click here.

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Alumni Spotlight: Յարութ Մանուկեան (Harout Manougian)

Harout Manougian (right side) Where were you born? And where do you currently live? I was born, raised, and currently live in the Greater Toronto Area. When you were a volunteer, how old were you, where did you volunteer and for how long? Back before the rules had changed, I arrived in Armenia for the first time when I was 18. I completed a four month volunteer term at the renewable energy lab at the Engineering Research Centre of the American University of Armenia from May to August 2005. For part of that time, I was seconded to a company called H2ECOnomy, which produced hydrogen fuel cells for the academic market. The experience also counted as a coop term towards my engineering degree in Canada. What did you do after you finished your volunteer service? Haha...You mean the last third of my life? 1. Became involved in the Armenian Youth Federation, especially with the smaller communities of St. Catharines, Hamilton, and Cambridge 2. Helped to coordinate Armenian Student Associations throughout Southern Ontario

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3. Represented AYF at meetings in Santo Domingo, Yerevan, California, Sydney, and throughout Canada. Spearheaded an overhaul of its constitution. 4. Helped start the AYF Camp Vanatsor based off the Camp Gyumri model 5. Graduated from electrical engineering at the University of Waterloo with Distinction at age 21, Masters 18 months later 6. Was elected to the Board of Trustees of Canada’s largest school board, where one of my focuses was on promoting genocide education. 7. Hosted public speaking workshops for middle and high school students through Toastmasters International 8. Visited my family roots in Syria and Lebanon in 2009, and then in Western Armenia in 2015 9. Led the Toronto chapter of the Armenian National Committee during the Centennial year 10. Earned a few promotions at my job 11. Jumped out of a plane, jumped off a bridge, stood over the edge of Canada’s tallest building, took off from the side of a mountain with a parachute, and won an axe archery competition. 12. Started a blog: freeandfaircanada.wordpress. com What are you currently doing? Right now, I’m taking a commuter train downtown to where I currently work at Hydro One, the largest electricity transmitter and distributor in the Canadian province of Ontario. How has Birthright Armenia’s experience played a role in your life, and when choosing your life’s path? It reconnected me to my Armenian identity, which has been a dominant part of my life since then. Have you been to Armenia since your volunteer experience? What year and for what purpose(s)? Yes, I came back for six weeks in 2007 to independently study the Armenian electricity sector, 2 weeks in 2010 for an AYF conference, 4 weeks in 2011 to run a summer camp in Vanadzor, and 3 weeks this past summer in 2015 for the Alumni Heritage Tour of Western Armenia. What is the biggest change you’ve had in your life since you were a volunteer? Realizing that it’s ok to fail at some things and that it’s actually necessary if you want to achieve something worthwhile.

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? Աստուած մեծ է: Maybe in a free Kurdistan, looking after Armenian heritage sites. Additional thoughts you might want to share with the readers: My experience volunteering in Armenia truly changed the course of my life. I had gone to Armenian school when I was younger but by the time I started university, my Armenian identity had taken a backseat in my life’s priorities. Birthright Armenia reset that. I had the honor of going through the experience with three Armenian friends from university: Ara Hasserjian, Armen Bakirtzian, and Eddy Davidian. We were friends before, but going through Birthright together gave us a much deeper bond. I remember first landing at a pre-renovation Zvartnots, with dim lighting, armed Russian guards, and a scramble of taxi drivers swarming the arrivals area inside. We arrived at our apartment at some ungodly hour of the morning, when the street lights were turned off and had trouble getting our suitcases up the stairs (I had a broken toe at the time). My first impression was nervousness about how patient I would have to be over the next 4 months. But we couldn’t sleep, the sun finally came up. We went to the balcony and I saw the real Mount Ararat with my own eyes for the first time. Suddenly, everything was right with the world. Any nuisances would be inconsequential. I was finally home.

I learned a lot from my Birthright experience. I went from not understanding a word of Eastern Armenian to being practically fluent and literate (though, the taxi drivers can still tell the difference). We met with major business players, saw every corner of the country (except Meghri), and explored what the future might hold. The most valuable thing I gained, however, is the new friendships. It’s a special kind of person that applies for this program (I should know) and bringing them all together makes for cool results. Cheers to the Birthright team for creating that magic. I also want to comment on how much Armenia has changed in 10 years. I was there when VivaCell launched and broke the mobile monopoly, when streets were not marked in Yerevan and traffic lights regularly malfunctioned, when you could eat out for under $2, when it was almost a crime to wear a seatbelt, before there was a cable car to Tatev, when Artsakh’s front was peaceful, and when it was a novelty for someone to repatriate. It was two Birthright offices ago. I wonder what the next 10 years will bring.

We spent our second weekend on an AVC trip to Artsakh. It was like diving into a fairy tale about a beautiful land threatened by an evil sorcerer. I thought a leprechaun might pop out from behind a rock at any moment. We made some lifelong friendships over that weekend and Nareg Seferian still starts a group email every year to celebrate the anniversary of the trip.


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