Armenia Is The Only Thing That Unites The Whole Nation

By Gohar Gevorkian

AZG Armenian Daily

Grikor Bandikian, who is in Armenia through AGBU YSI program,
believes so

"We were very much amazed when we learned that we too were going to
dance at the Youth Center. During the dance classes organized for us
we learned how to dance and today we were on stage. I don’t know how
we danced but we were trying hard to dance well", said Lia Sarkissian
from Los Angeles to "Azg" daily after the concert held a few days ago
at the Nor Nork Children’s Center. She arrived in Yerevan together with
17 youngsters aged 18-25 on June 30 within the framework of Armenian
General Benevolent Union’s (AGBU) Yerevan Summer Intern Program
(YSIP). The program, which is held for the first time, brought to
Armenia Armenian youngsters from America, Canada, Egypt and Romania.

AGBU also holds Summer Intern programs in New York and Paris, to
which Armenia joined this year. The program is unique in two senses:
first of all it gives a chance to the Armenians studying in different
educational institutions all over the world to increase their
professional experience. Secondly, it also returns them to their
roots. During the five-week program of AGBU, Armenian youngsters
from all over the world, who are still in Armenia these days, take
an internship program in the best organizations and enterprises
of our country; foreign ministry, National Assembly, Central Bank,
American University of Armenia, "EuroTerm" company, medical agency,
medical centers, Cafesjian Fund, "Sharm" enterprise, etc.

During the weekdays they work in the mentioned organizations and
companies in their fields, while in the evenings and weekends they
go sightseeing.

The interns also had the opportunity to get acquainted with the AGBU
Armenian programs. They visited the American University of Armenia,
Ultrasound Training Center founded together with the Heratsi Medical
University, participated in the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra
concert, and in the exhibition and concert organized by the Children’s
Center. They also learned about the devoted activities of AGBU in
Artsakh. The interns visited Karabakh and got acquainted with the AGBU
projects in Karabakh. They saw school #7 of Stepanakert reconstructed
by the AGBU, the building for war veterans, the chess school, visited
the Alex Manoogian monument on Alex Manoogian Street, were present
at the concert of Karabakh Chamber Orchestra, which functions in
Artsakh again thanks to AGBU. The Diaspora-Armenian youngsters also
got acquainted with the AGBU Repopulation Project visiting Norashen,
Bareshen and Jrakn villages of Hadrut region, which have been and
are being constructed by the AGBU.

Norashen is already populated. It also has a school and a
kindergarten. Jrakn is under construction. The interns met with the
NKR NA Speaker Ashot Ghulyan, with whom they had a long and very
useful conversation.

This summer intern program also includes classes of Armenian language,
dancing, history, as well as meetings with government members. Thanks
to these dance classes the interns too participated in the concert
organized in their honor in the Children’s Center. They also had the
opportunity to listen to the lectures of Ashot Melkonian, Director
of the History Institute, and Hayk Demoyan, Director of the Genocide
Museum. They were also received by Deputy Foreign Minister Armen
Bayburtian. Besides the classes and work the interns went sightseeing
too – Garni, Geghart, Sevan, Dilijan, Khor Virap.

"Experience proved that every event organized abroad, no matter how
good and effective it is, because it unites the Diaspora Armenians, the
events organized in Armenia give a completely different result. This
is a huge core of Armenianism. This is the first time we are doing
this program in Armenia and we had a great response – we had 17 young
applicants", said Ashot Ghazarian, Director of the AGBU Armenian
Representation, who added also that the program will continue. AGBU
is already constructing the Melkonian Center in Nork, which is a part
of a big educational program. Ashot Ghazarian is convinced that it
will be the best educational program for the Diasporans. The center
in Nork will have a hostel complex, educational building, classrooms,
to provide every condition for the Diaspora youngsters to participate
in the educational program.

AGBU Armenian Representation Director spoke about the Study Abroad
international education project, which helps the students go to other
countries, continue their study in their field in other universities
for one semester, and then come back and continue their education
in their own country. "Now we want to bring Armenian students
from different countries of the world to Armenia. We will find
corresponding educational programs for them in different universities
of Armenia. They will live in the mentioned center and also attend
classes of Armenian language, Armenian history, and get in touch
with Armenian culture. We did this summer intern program only for
the summer, and now we want to implement this program the whole year
round. The students will go to accredited universities, collect their
credits and return home. They will both spend a whole semester in
Armenia and not lose their credits", said the Representation director
and added that all the higher educational institutions of Armenia
have introduced the credit system of assessment being integrated to
the educational system of the Bologna agreement. "A few more years and
our whole educational system will pass to the credit system and we will
have all the mutual agreements and recognition", said the director.

This means that the credits of the students who will study one
semester in different universities of Armenia will be recognized by
the universities of their own countries. Ashot Ghazarian remembered
that once they have already done such a program in 1995-96 and today
we have a young Diasporan professional who, thanks to the AGBU project,
stayed in Armenia and now works here.

"Coming to Armenia through this program, they later search for
other ways of returning to homeland. This is the best way to bring
the Diaspora Armenians back to their roots and connect them with
Armenia. There’s no other more effective way", he said. Armenia should
be represented to them with its best sides, so that they feel proud
to be Armenians. "We have Diaspora-Armenia mutual responsibilities,
to help each other, and it’s important that they see the best of
Armenia and get linked to it", said Ashot Ghazarian.

Lia Sarkissian, who moved with her family to Los Angeles when she was
three, is now in Armenia within the framework of AGBU Summer Intern
program and spends it in the Karagyozian Clinic. "The impressions
are both good and bad, but I re-estimated everything here.

I am working in the medical field and there are differences between the
clinics. But at the same time I am proud to be given the opportunity to
participate in an internship program here. I cannot describe or fully
explain the emotions that I felt here in Armenia. Dancing united us,
Armenian group dancing. I will never forget these five weeks that I
spent here".

Lia promised to come to Armenia in every possible occasion.

Group coordinator Tamar Shahabian assured that the interns are
satisfied with the AGBU program and impressed with the trip. She
mentioned all the places that they’ve been to. "We were very well
received here. Now we understand deeper why we are patriotic.

There are difficulties here, but the interns want to come back again. I
myself am staying here".

The grandmother of Romanian-Armenian Louisa Tanasie is an
Armenian. Knowing only a few words in Armenian Louisa expresses
her wish to come to Armenia with her hands and poor Armenian, and
then adds in English, "I wanted to come to Armenia because I have
Armenian blood in me. I wanted to see Armenia and I am so happy that
I am here. I work at "EuroTerm". I will come back to Armenia again. I
learn Armenian words in an Armenian school in Romania. I learn dancing
too. Here we were received very well. I hope to come back again,
this time with my grandma".

Armen Keshishian from Los Angeles is on a "government job" in his
homeland. He works in the Foreign Ministry of Armenia. It’s his
third visit to Armenia and he highly estimates the progress of the
country. He also did not forget to thank the AGBU, for being the
participant of this program.

"This is my third visit to Armenia and my impression is very good and
I’m happy, as I could imagine. We spend our time here, and we love
the people. Armenia is the only thing that unites the people. It’s
the only thing that is not divided into half-American, half-Lebanese,
half other things. This is purely Armenian, this is the country that
unites us all, the whole nation. I work at the Central Bank. I will
come to Armenia again", said Grikor Bandikian from Los Angeles.

Shushanik Ghaltakhchian, the AGBU YSIP coordinator from the Armenian
side, who was directly involved in the implementation of the program
finding jobs for the interns, believes that the program was a success.

Despite the differences of work style in Armenia and other countries
Shushanik Ghaltakhchian is sure that the interns got adjusted to the
jobs here better than they expected. "The biggest achievement of the
program is that most of these youngsters have decided to come back
to Armenia and this time not alone, with their families, grandmas,
sisters and other family members", said the program coordinator during
yesterday’s reception at the Folk Art Museum. The AGBU had organized
this event to thank all the employers of the interns. All the interns
participated in the event with their supervisors.

"It was a great pleasure for us to have two young men working with
us whom we loved very much and who’s leaving will be difficult for
us. They saw all the processes going on in our bank. They got in touch
with the bank employees and what is more important learned a lot about
Armenians", said Harutyun Poghossian, Head of Marketing and Quality
Department of ACBA Credit Agricol Bank. For Mary Ghazarian, Executive
Director of "EuroTerm" company, the AGBU offer was unexpected.

"Louisa perfectly substituted our employee who was on vacation. My
assessment of this project is very positive. Children from Diaspora
come to Armenia, get in touch with us and get acquainted with our
businesses", said the executive director.