FAR Young Professional alums provide hope

Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Tel: (212) 889-5150; Fax: (212) 889-4849
E-mail: [email protected]

March 13, 2008


Nelli Poghosyan was born in Gyumri a few years before the earthquake.
Though she graduated from the Armenian State Engineering University
with an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering, there was
little hope she could stay in her hometown and earn a living.

Then, she heard about the Gyumri Information Technology Center (GITC),
a program created in partnership with the Fund for Armenian Relief
(FAR), which is providing advanced computer training to the young
people of Gyumri. "GITC gave me hope for being independent and
competitive," Nelli said.

FAR offers GITC training free of charge to the students, as long as
they promise to remain in Gyumri for two years after graduation, with
the goal of building up the area’s economy. When it looked like
budget cuts would force the GITC to charge tuition, FAR reached out to
the past participants of its Young Professionals (YP) Trip to Armenia.
Thanks to their generosity, FAR is able to provide training and hope
to more students like Nelli.

"We toured the GITC and were able to view the facilities, meet the
students and see first-hand the school’s resources," said one of the
sponsors, Chris Mensoian of Boston, MA who went on the YP trip last
year. "We were able to ask questions and gain a better understanding
of GITC’s mission. There are many intelligent, hard-working
individuals with expertise that are currently unemployed. The GITC is
re-training these individuals to become professionals in the
fast-growing IT sector in which there are domestic employment


Established in 2005, the GITC is a two-year, post-graduate program
with a market-driven curriculum. Its students get in-depth training
in computer hardware and software design, focused on skills that are
in demand by Armenia’s growing computer industry.

Already, with just one graduating class, the GITC is changing the
future of Gyumri. By creating a pool of talented new employees, the
GITC has lured several computer and software firms to Gyumri, where
they’ve opened branch offices providing well-paying jobs to the GITC
graduates. This keeps the graduates at home and helps the economy of
Gyumri along its slow recovery from the 1988 earthquake.

When it asked its YP alumni to sponsor students, FAR wasn’t sure what
type of response it would get. Happily, participants from six of the
last YP trips joined the effort to provide sponsorship for the GITC
students. In total, they have raised funds to support 11 students.

For most of the YP alums, there was no question of their support,
since the project strongly reflected FAR’s efforts to provide a
helping hand rather than a hand out.

"Giving people the tools to better their lives is a far more powerful
and meaningful act then simply donating money," said Ara Bohchalian, a
New York City resident who first went on FAR’s YP trip in 2000 and
again in 2001. "Everyone in Armenia should have a fair chance of
competing against others their age globally. We have the minds, all
we need is the education and the funds to take us to the next level."


The time they spent in Armenia helped encourage the YP alumni to
answer the GITC appeal. During the YP trip, they said, they saw
first-hand how their small donations are magnified by FAR’s ability to
tailor projects to the needs of Armenia’s people.

"I learned a lot of FAR during the trip," said one of the GITC
sponsors, Sosi Ermarkaryan of New York City, who went on the YP trip
in 2006. "Prior to the trip, I was a little uncomfortable with the
idea of visiting FAR project sites and not particularly interested in
that part of the itinerary. I thought it was going to be a propaganda
mission. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised that the visits were
highlights of the trip for me. It was an opportunity to mix and
mingle with real folks trying to work towards a future in a place with
almost no opportunities.

"There was a spirit in these folks, a twinkle in their eyes despite
their current hardships that I will never forget. It made me realize
what strong stock I came from, even if my family was not from the
specific area that are now within the borders of modern day Armenia,"
Sosi added. "I was part of a people that should have died off long
ago, like the Babylonians, but didn’t because of that spark within
them. We did visit the GITC and I was impressed with the concept.
They were truly being taught how to fish for themselves in a barren
land still stuck from a devastating earthquake 18 years ago."

For some sponsors, this was the first time they’ve directly sponsored
FAR projects. But it was a chance for them to make a difference by
providing the training that the Armenian people need to build their
own future.

"This was the first FAR project that I have supported," Chris Mensoian
said. "It’s important to support FAR’s work in Armenia for two very
simple reasons. First, the organization is incredibly well run,
organized and connected within Armenia. Second, FAR projects are
making a real and tangible difference in Armenia by helping its
citizens live better lives through improved living conditions, job
skill training and increased employment opportunities."


While most of the money was raised by alumni from the YP trips,
support for the GITC students also came in from friends of the YP
alums who heard of the need from their friends and could hear the
sincerity in the alumni’s appeal. Friends of FAR have also extended
their assistance, like Antranig Berberian who is already sponsoring
three students, or like Shant Madjarian, or like the Kurkjian family
>From the Boston area. Others who have visited FAR’s GITC site
independently of the YP trip have also jumped up to support the effort
to provide hope and opportunity to the young people of Gyumri.

"This is an extremely important project for Armenia. Not only does it
offer young students an opportunity to advance their technical
education, it enhances the high tech infrastructure in Armenia’s
second-largest city, and contributes to it’s economic recovery," said
Joe Dagdigian, who recently toured the site and worked to raise funds
to sponsor students. "Most important, these two factors contribute to
Armenia’s ability to retain young, bright, computer engineers and IT
professionals by providing both advanced training and fostering job
growth via the economic revival of Gyumri. I firmly believe retention
of Armenia’s intellectual talent should be one of the major goals of
all Armenians."

Most of those supporting this effort said they did so because they
trusted FAR to get the job done. FAR was recently honored by Charity
Navigator, America’s premier charity evaluator, which provides donors
with essential information needed to give them greater confidence in
the charitable choices they make.

FAR earned its second consecutive four-star rating for its ability to
efficiently manage and grow its finances. Only 15% of the charities
rated by Charity Navigator have received at least two consecutive
four-star evaluations, indicating that FAR outperforms most charities
in America when it comes to operating in a fiscally responsible way.
This "exceptional" designation from Charity Navigator differentiates
FAR from its peers and demonstrates to the public it is worthy of
their trust.


FAR’s Young Professionals Trip is open to people between the ages of
23 and 40. The unique trip gives them a chance to do more than just
see the country’s historic sites. Participants also tour FAR
projects, to see how the future is being built by the Armenian people
with the support of the Diaspora. They also learn about Armenia’s
place in the world and engage government and religious leaders in

The 2008 trip, the 12th year FAR has led the group, is scheduled for
May 31 to June 13. For more information on the trip, or to apply,
visit FAR’s website:

"I went on the Young Professionals Trip in 2000 not realizing the
experience would change my perception of what it meant to be
Armenian," Ara Bohchalian said. "I went in 2001 because the
experience was so captivating the year before, I wanted to experience
it again."


Email photos available upon request.

PHOTO CAPTION (1): The first class of graduates from FAR’s Gyumri
Information Technology Center (GITC) are already making an impact on
the local economy.

PHOTO CAPTION (2): Thanks to the generosity of the alumni of FAR’s
Young Professionals Trip to Armenia, more students like these are
getting an opportunity to change their lives by attending the Gyumri
Information Technology Center (GITC).