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Contents • • • • • • • •

Hearing it from within Academic and Professional Achievements Now and Then Le Quartier Français Weddings and Babies Staff Corner The Quiz Famous Figure in History

Hearing It From Within Anahid Yahjian (AVC ‘11)

Media and Content Manager at ONEArmenia “It’s been nearly two years since I first showed up on the scene here, fresh-faced like all Birthrighters are in the beginning. I’m older now, out of love and no longer charmed by the novelty of this place. Thank goodness for that. Armenia is real in the sense where I feel like Los Angeles, my true home, is right around the corner. Time and space are now permanently bent in my mind’s eye as I reckon with the smallness of our planet and the increasing simultaneity of experience across oceans and continents. I am here. In fact, I am typing this on an iPhone while zooming down a country road in Sisian, an hour away from what is technically still a war zone. I will send this out over 3G, along with a photo, in a moment. I am here, in real-time. So is it really that interesting that I have a job here? Maybe for some. I create and manage media and write content for ONEArmenia, a new platform for innovation and social good. Sometimes I translate short stories, or make films, or just recede into the landscape and dream. I’m alive, and I’m here, and I rarely ever have to sit in my office. I’m working right now, actually: surrounded by technicolor hills and good, country folks. I don’t want to say that I’m numb to it all, but maybe that’s how you know things are finally real.”


Academic Achievements Congratulations to all of you! We have a new doctor in the house! From Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio, Armen Yerevanian (AVC ‘09) graduated with an M.D. degree.

And another doctor in the house! Lori Baltazar (AVC ‘10) graduated from medical school at the University of Montreal. She will be pursuing her residency in psychiatry.

Liana Mayilyan (AAA ‘08) graduated with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from University of California Davis School of Law. This last spring semester, she also externed for Justice Liu on the California Supreme Court. Below, Liana is shown with Justice Baxter, another associate justice on the CA Supreme Court who is Armenian.

In February, 2013, Fernando Avakian (OLA ‘10) was admitted to F.L.A.C.S.O. and the University of San Andres, to the postgraduate program in International Relations.

This fall Zavin Nazaretian (AVC ‘05) graduated with a PhD in Sociology from Wayne State University. The happy grad is pictured here with his son.

On May 17th, 2013, Justin Kalemkiarian (AAA ‘06) graduated with a J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law.

Garric Nahapetian (AVC ‘07) graduated from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, and was admitted to the State Bar of California in December of 2012. Likewise at USC, Amaras Zargarian (AVC ’10) received her law degree. Cerise Fereshetian (AVC ‘09) graduated from Villanova University with a Master’s degree in Chemistry.


This past May, Nyree Abrahamian (AVC ‘07) earned her Master of Education degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, specializing in International Education Policy. Nyree hopes to delve into projects aimed at improving the quality of education in Armenia. In June, Nyree and her husband, Areg Maghakian, (AVC ’07), returned to Armenia, where Areg has been appointed by the Armenia Tree Project as their Director for Operations.

Shoghik Chilingarian (YSMU ‘08) graduated California State Polytechnic University of Pomona with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and a Minor in Cultural Anthropology. She also earned a Certification for Professional Life Coaching from International Institute of Professional Coaching.

Sevan Holemans (AVC ‘12) graduated in June from the College of Europe (post-master European Studies), and got accepted for an internship at the European Commission in the cabinet of the trade commissioner starting October 1st.

Professional Achievements Armine Bazikyan (AAA ‘06) opened her own law practice in May 2013. Her law office provides legal services in general civil litigation, real estate, insurance, contract disputes, landlord-tenant disputes, personal injury, premises liability, business formation, estate planning, trust administration and probate. Check her website:

As of January 2013, alum Varty Defterderian (NY ASA ‘05) moved over to Weingarten Brown LLP, a boutique business litigation firm in Los Angeles, CA. Here’s the press release from her firm announcing her hire:


Now and Then

Gabriel Armas-Cardona (AVC ‘12) volunteered at the Republic of Armenia’s Human Rights Defender’s Office. He is a licensed attorney in New York State and graduated from New York University School of Law in 2011. If you have any questions for Gabriel about Transparency Resource Centre or his Birthright Armenia experience, he can be reached at

Contributing to the Cause, even after the volunteer experience ends

“My Birthright Armenia volunteership started in the spring of 2012. I was quite happy that I got my first choice of working at Armenia’s Human Rights Defender’s Office. As a human rights lawyer, you don’t expect to get rich, but you hope to do important work. As with everyone’s experiences, there were good parts and frustrations, but I don’t regret it for a moment. I was sad that I had to leave Armenia when the position ended as I felt there was still so much more work to be done. One of the key problems I saw during my time is just how much need there was in Armenia and how few competent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) there were to provide support. While some of these organizations have passion, passion alone doesn’t ensure they are making a positive impact in the lives of their beneficiaries. Whether from professional ignorance or from lack of resources, very few organizations evaluate their work, unless their funder pays for an evaluation. This understanding is what caused me to create Transparency Resource Centre. Transparency Resource Centre (TRC) is a public organization (an NGO) registered in Armenia. The goal of TRC is to increase the transparency and accountability of direct-service Armenian NGOs. Our approach is to provide free evaluations for NGO programs, using the thoughts and opinions of the beneficiaries as the primary evidence for the effectiveness of the NGO’s programs. These evaluations, and subsequent recommendations, are made public to encourage the NGO to implement the recommendations and to bring more attention, and donor funds, to the NGO for its transparency. Transparency Resource Centre won’t resolve Armenia’s post-soviet NGO environment in a day, but it’s a step. As more NGOs are willing to open themselves up to evaluation, more pressure is put on other NGOs that compete for donor funds to open themselves up as well. As more NGOs commit themselves to transparency, public trust and participation will rise, and the people in need will receive better services that they helped shape.”

Andre Arzoo (Glendale Community College ’07) returned to Armenia for a year (2009-2010), following graduation from UC Berkeley. He worked as a Research and Programs Associate at The Civilitas Foundation; administering and initiating various projects aimed toward Armenia’s political, economic, and civil development. While living in Armenia, he participated in Imagine Center for Conflict Transformation (Imagine Center); a Conflict Resolution Program initiated by the U.S. State Department that took place in neighboring Georgia. He spent the summer of 2011 in New York City as a Delegate to the United Nations representing the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the UN. Upon his return to Los Angeles, he spent over a year receiving his training as a Legal Assistant at Geragos & Geragos, the Law Offices of Mark J. Geragos. Andre now works as an Assistant to the Managing Partners of McMurray Henriks, LLP, a civil rights law firm specializing in police misconduct, medical malpractice, and business litigation.

“In 2007, Birthright Armenia helped introduce me not only to Armenia, but to the people of Armenia. Through Birthright, I was able to experience the daily lives of Armenians who lived, worked, and grew up in the Republic, and not just in Yerevan - an experience far richer and more understanding of the realities in Armenia. The organizationconnected me with like-minded individuals from all over the world, and helped facilitate my return to Armenia with the aim of further immersing myself in the professional and social spheres of the society in Armenia; doing my part to help Armenia progress toward a more sustainable and democratic republic and creating new professional and personal relationships in the process. My time in Armenia, and working for Civilitas, helped instill an understanding of the issues, challenges, and potential benefits facing the young republic, and fostered a relationship with my homeland that I will cherish and continue to nurture throughout my life and along future endeavors; as I aim to combine my studies and practice in the field of law with personal efforts to help foster the development of a more independent and transparent legal system in Armenia. I can genuinely say that Birthright Armenia has aided me in creating and maintaining a foothold and life in Armenia, and in realizing what it is to be an Armenian in the 21st-century. I am truly grateful for my time spent as a volunteer, and just as importantly, the road that has led forward since.”


Now and Then Originally from Los Angeles, Sevana Sammis (OLA ‘08) has been living in Washington, DC, for the past four years. Since her time as a Birthright Armenia volunteer, she has worked with refugees in Los Angeles through the International Rescue Committee and completed an MA in International Affairs from George Washington University. She was able to return to the Caucasus in 2010 as a summer intern in Tbilisi , Georgia, working on youth leadership through the Eurasia Partnership Foundation’s Youth Bank program that also operates in Armenia. During this time she returned to Armenia to visit her students! She is currently a middle school ESL teacher in DC public schools. Below Sevana shares her experience.

Sevana and Chinar ( 12-year-old group leader) “It has been five years since I completed my service in Armenia with Birthright Armenia. I worked with Diramayr, Our Lady of Armenia Educational Center in Tsaghkadzor and at their main Gyumri center. I remember the first day at Jambar when I joined my group I was amazed to find out the group leader was only 12 years old! Everything she did that summer blew me away; her maturity and leadership were commendable. I found myself constantly asking her questions, listening to her stories and following her lead. For three months I continued to be amazed by all the children and young adults I met. I will soon begin my third year of teaching, and when I think back, my first experience was teaching in Armenia. Although it was informal, I learned that I loved to teach! While I still hope to work with international education projects and return to the Caucasus, I am very happy to be working with kids from all over the world in DC! My kids in Gyumri were full of energy, hope and a willingness to learn despite the obstacles they faced in life. The kids I meet each year in DC display the same dedication and will to learn despite their own challenges. In Armenia while I did learn about myself, I learned more about the power of youth. As you all know, in our culture family is extremely important. One of the hardest things was to see so many young Armenian children who were orphans. Despite the lack of a traditional family unit and the extreme poverty they faced, the kids worked diligently and supported one another. They created their own family at Diramayr. Everyone had a role in the family – the high school students while working on their own schoolwork and chores also tutored and mentored the younger children. At such a young age they took on so many responsibilities, but what was most inspiring is that all of them had big dreams. I remember towards the end of my volunteer work, we had a session where everyone discussed their dreams; from singing across Europe to studying at prestigious universities, they wanted it all, although some of them didn’t believe it was possible. And while the obstacles they face are great, with enough love and support they will hopefully reach their goals. At that moment I realized how much it meant to them that I listened to their dream, supported it and talked about steps they could take to get there. As a teacher my biggest goal is to help support my students’ dreams. Teaching the skills they need to accomplish their goals is equally as important to listening to their ideas. The first kids who taught me how important this is were my kids in Gyumri and they are forever in my heart.

Sevana and the kids from OLA center


Looking back, it seems like the pieces all lined up so clearly. I was working with children, I taught English, my partner was a K-12 educator, but it took me a few years after Birthright Armenia to put it all together. At the time I knew I had a phenomenal experience, but now I understand how it was much more than an experience; it really shaped my professional career. So thanks Birthright for helping me find my place in the world as an educator!

Le Quartier Français We are happy to see the growing number of participants from France. So far we have hosted close to 30 volunteers from France and have three more participants coming this year! Mariam Gharagyozyan (AVC ‘12) volunteered at the Center of Information and Public Relations in the Office of the RA President, and shares her post-volunteerism reflections below.

Lorsque j’ai postulé à Birthright Armenia, j’étais alors étudiante en dernière année de Double licence en Droit et en Sciences politiques. Je recherchais une expérience qui puisse à la fois m’être bénéfique d’un point de vue professionnel mais aussi, et avant tout, qui puisse être un enrichissement personnel. Sur ces deux points, Birthright a su combler mes attentes. Moi qui était habituée à venir en Arménie chaque été depuis l’âge de sept ans, j’ai pourtant redécouvert une Arménie que je n’avais pas pu percevoir durant toutes ces années. Mon engagement en tant que volontaire, je le faisais certes pour moi mais également pour servir ce pays où je suis née. J’ai alors que laissé de côté mon statut de simple touriste pour apporter mon concours en tant que membre à part entière du fonctionnement de ce pays. En étant volontaire auprès du Centre d’information et de relations publiques de l’office du Président, j’ai pu réaliser un stage qui soit en adéquation parfaite pour mon parcours universitaire et qui correspond exactement à mon projet d’avenir. J’ai, entre autres, eu l’opportunité de travailler sur l’affaire Safarov, qui a compromis les relations arméno-hongroises sur fond de conflit gelé en Haut-Karabagh. J’ai ainsi travaillé sur l’accord international

permettant Haut-Karabagh. J’ai ainsi travaillé sur l’accord international permettant aux personnes condamnées sur le territoire d’un Etat d’être transférées pour purger le restant de leur peine sur le territoire d’un autre Etat. J’ai pu analyser les violations des Droits de l’Homme et de la démocratie invoquées dans le cadre du transfèrement de Ramil Safarov en Azerbaïdjan. Grâce à cette expérience professionnelle hors du commun, j’ai pu acquérir plus de maturité dans ma conception du Droit international. Ce stage m’a en outre permis de mettre à profit ma pratique des langues étrangères, qui n’en ai devenue que meilleure. Durant mon volontariat, étant donné que la semaine je travaillais, je profitais du week-end pour rendre visite à ma famille à la campagne. Avec grand plaisir et non sans étonnement, je me suis rendue compte que ma grand-mère, ma tante et mes cousins étaient fiers de ma contribution auprès de Birthright. Eux qui étaient auparavant indifférents, à force d’avoir été désabusés, à la politique du gouvernement, parlaient avec intérêt des prochaines élections municipales prévues en septembre 2012. Une fois revenue en France, j’ai alors été licenciée en Droit et en Sciences politiques et entrepris pour l’année universitaire 20122013 une double cursus en russe et en chinois à l’Institut des Langues et des Civilisations Orientales (INALCO) de Paris. En 20132014, j’entends poursuivre l’étude des langues étrangères à l’INALCO et, dans le même temps, faire un Master 1 en Droit international des affaires à l’Université Paris 1 La Sorbonne. Ce par quoi j’ai été le plus marquée par mon expérience auprès de Birthright c’était sans conteste la diversité des personnes engagées en tant que volontaires. Durant tous ces été passés en Arménie, je n’avais côtoyé personne d’autres que les membres de ma famille et les quelques amis d’enfance que j’avais à Erevan. Je n’avais alors jamais eu l’occasion de rencontrer d’autres Arméniens venus des quatre coins de la Terre. J’étais loin de m’imaginer que les Arméniens issus de la diaspora étaient autant investis et concernés par l’état et l’évolution du pays. Enfin, j’ai pu découvrir l’Arménie sous un nouveau jour. Cela peut paraître étonnant mais je n’avais auparavant jamais fait de visites de sites historiques et culturels. Au terme de mes études, j’envisage de retenter l’aventure Birthright afin de contribuer une nouvelle fois aux efforts qui sont fait pour aider et soutenir l’Arménie.


Creating a pocket of joy in a war torn city, Hagop V. Cutujian (AVC ‘06) married Caroline Yvonne Iskenderian on March 3, 2013 at Asdvadzadzin Church in Aleppo, Syria.

On January 6, 2013, Sara Sarkisian Bell (Habitat for Humanity ‘06) and her husband Morgan welcomed little Sona Jaclyn Bell in Geneva, Illinois. She was baptized this past April at St. John Armenian Church in Detroit, Michigan.

Weddings and Babies Many kilometers away, on April 7, 2013, Cintia Astardjian (AVC ‘10) and Hagop Sarkissian tied the knot in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Lena C. Adishian (AVC ‘06) gave birth to baby girl Talar Angele Adishian on May 23, 2013. Below is the picture of the proud parents Chris and Lena and big brother Mark.

In the picturesque seaside town of Tarragona, Spain, Raffi Keuhnelian (AVC ’06) and Armine Petrosyan were married on August 17, 2013.

On August 6, 2013, Taleen Moughamian (AVC ‘08) and Armen Moughamian (AVC ‘12) welcomed baby Noor Jeannette.

Greg Bandikian (AAA ‘06) and his wife Arpine Dallakian welcomed little Anahit Bandikian on June 10, 2013.


And finally, we celebrate the birth of little Patrick Ararat Nalbandov, to his proud parents Seta Iskandarian Nalbandov (AVC’ 05) and Robert Nalbandov.

Alumni Awards Congrats to two alums collaborating on the same project! The new film ABYSM, directed by Oksana Mirzoyan (AVC ‘11) and produced by Emily Mkrtichian (AVC ‘11) was awarded a grant of 15,000 CHF by the Open Doors Jury of the Festival del film in Locarno, Switzerland.

More from Oksana. She and Raffi Wartanian (AYF ‘07) collaborated to create a music video for the song "Electronic Flirtation" from Raffi's debut album of original music titled, "Pushkin Street". The video incorporates powerful imagery from a trip they took to Alaverdi in the Lori region. Click here to see the video.

Staff Corner It’s a given that the entire staff at Depi Hayk is committed to the alumni and to alumni success, and having a full-time Alumni Coordinator is the latest addition to our staff to make sure we can best support the growing alumni base worldwide. Please join us with a big WELCOME to Shoghik Chilingarian (YSMU ’09) as our first Alumni Program Coordinator, based in Yerevan. Shoghik will be joining us at the end of September, and will we working with many of you as we map ahead on many exciting activities.

The first person many incoming volunteers see at the airport in Armenia is our beloved Vahram. While not behind the wheel, Vahram is tries to find time to enjoy his second daughter! He and his wife Eva welcomed baby Nare, on May 29, 2013. Congratulations Vahram, jan! The Birthright Armenia House is now in full swing with several residents and other active applicants. When it’s your time to search for work opportunities in Armenia, visit our website page for a full application and description of the “Pathway to Armenia” program. We are also glad to announce the successful run of our summer program in Vanadzor which officially launched in June. We had 10 volunteers in Vanadzor this summer.

Work is underway on our


Stay tuned for a great new look!

Stay tuned for exciting news about an event in 2014 planned for our

10th anniversary It is time to celebrate a decade of success!


The Quiz The winner of the last quiz, and a $25 gift certificate is Gabriel Armas-Cardona (AVC ‘12) whose correct answers were: 1. 2. 3.

Which international organization did Armenia officially become member of on February 5, 2003? (World Trade Organisation (WTO) Where is this place and what is it called? (see the picture on the left) (Children’s Railway Park, Yerevan) In which region is Armenia’s only wind power plant located? (Lori)

Here are the questions for the next quiz: 1. 2. 3.

What percentage of Armenia’s energy production comes from nuclear power? Who is depicted on the 100,000 Dram note? In 1989, Armenfilm released a film called 13th Apostle. The movie was based on which Ray Bradbury novel?

As always, e-mail all answers to and the winner will earn a $25 gift certificate for

Famous Figure in History Hakob Hakobyan, a modern Armenian painter, was born on May 16, 1923, in Egypt. He took on his early education at Melkonian Armenian school in Cyprus. He later attended the Institute of Fine Arts in Cairo and then was granted a scholarship to attend Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. Hakobyan also studied at the studio of renowned painter Andre L’Hote during his stay in Paris. His early works are small-size oils: one-figure compositions in interiors and still lifes. Part of a massive mid-20th century wave of Armenian exiles and their families returning to their familial homeland, Hagopian immigrated to the Soviet Union to settle in the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1962, and his new world became the Armenian landscape. His personages are social or occupational types, static figures circumscribed by a space limited in depth, their mood of constraint and isolation suggest a miserable existence. Hagopian had numerous exhibitions in Yerevan, Moscow, and other cities. He passed away this year at the age of 89.


Birthright Armenia Summer/Fall Alumni Newsletter 2013  

• Hearing it from within • Academic and Professional Achievements • Now and Then • Le Quartier Français • Weddings and Babies • Staff Corner...

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