Birthright Armenia Celebrates Its Inaugural Year

Contact: Linda Yepoyan
[email protected]

July 30, 2004


Yerevan, Armenia – Armenian youth from a cross section of our diasporan
institutions came together, joined by the newly repatriated diasporan youth
and their Homeland peers, to celebrate the launch of a new and truly
forward thinking organization, Birthright Armenia/Depi Hayk. The inaugural
festivities, under the name ” Gateway 2004″, symbolizing the organizations’
promotion of an ever-widening bridge between the Diaspora and the Homeland,
was held on July 16th in Yerevan with lively dancing, food and drink.

“Gateway 2004” marks this non-profit’s first year of operations in Armenia.
It also served as a means to highlight the diversity of the first group of
young participants which Birthright Armenia/Depi Hayk sponsored from seven
different summer volunteer, cultural, and study programs serving our
diasporan youth. It was an unprecedented evening of unification and
networking in one, under the main “Journey of Self-Discovery” theme. The 40
Depi Hayk participants of 2004 and other diasporan attendees represented the
following organizations: Armenian Volunteer Corps, Armenian Students’
Association-NY, Armenian Assembly of America, Armenian Youth Federation,
Land and Culture Organization, Armenian Medical Association and the Armenian
Church Youth Organization of America, the University of Michigan Summer
Language Institute and the Christian Youth Mission to Armenia .

Welcoming the 160 plus attendees, Birthright Armenia founder Edele Hovnanian
commented that “It is refreshing to see a truly integrated group of youth
gathered together under one roof, all of whom understand the importance of
our presence here in the Homeland at this particular time in the history of
our building a nation-state”. She then introduced Foreign Minister Vartan
Oskanian to continue the welcome and opening remarks. Addressing the group,
Minister Oskanian stated:

“The first time I heard about the Depi Hayk program, I immediately jumped on
the idea, committing the Foreign Ministry to help this new organization in
any way necessary. This is the first step in really increasing the number
of diasporan youth who can experience the Homeland, and I am confident that
it will continue to grow and expand beyond North America to include young
people and groups from all over the world. This will enable young adults to
see Armenia, in all its beauty, to see its progress, to understand the good
and the bad, to take in everything that Armenia is at this moment.

The message I want to leave you with today is the following: please don’t
take what you see in Armenia today for granted. It took us a great deal to
build this and to keep this. We’ve come a long way since the early days of
independence. A long, long way. Our main source of pride should be this
Armenia. Believe in Armenia. Be committed to it. When you get back home,
stay involved, join efforts with others, influence your governments, and
become more engaged. Yes, there are many differences between the Diaspora
and the Homeland, as a result of many things like history and geography. The
result is different upbringing and different thought processes. We can
certainly bridge these gaps, and one of the best ways to do so is through
the younger generations. One of the most effective ways to do so is through
interaction among youth here on Armenian soil, so we can reach our goal and
say we are one nation, comprised of two entities, the Diaspora and the
Homeland. The two together through joint efforts will make Armenia the
place we will all be proud of.”

The Gateway 2004 celebration took place at the spacious art showroom of the
Armenian Center for Contemporary Experimental Art – graciously offered to
Birthright Armenia by co-Founder Edward Balassanian. Live international
music was provided by Arsen Nercessian, a local musician with a
Latino/Calypso touch.

It is foreseen that “Gateway” celebrations will be an annual affair, to
capture the energy and spirit of Birthright Armenia/Depi Hayk efforts at the
peak of the summer programs, and to continually serve as a networking and
relationship building event for Armenian youth worldwide.

Birthright Armenia’s mission is to strengthen ties between the Homeland and
diasporan youth by affording them an opportunity to be a part of Armenia’s
daily life and to contribute to Armenia’s development through work, study
and volunteer experiences, while developing a renewed sense of Armenian
identity. This is accomplished by supporting and complementing the
initiatives of existing diasporan organizations that offer youth programs in
Armenia, and encouraging them to expand their offerings in depth and breath.
Birthright Armenia assists with travel fellowships, language instruction,
in-country seminars, orientation and excursions in exchange for community
service in Armenia. Please visit our Web site at
for more information.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress