By Lisa Manookian
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
YEREVAN — In this third and final part of the series, we showcase Birthright Armenia’s alumni.
In the past six years, more than 500 young adults have passed through Birthright Armenia’s doors from 26 different countries. These “ambassadors of love” presently serve as many of the leaders in today’s local Armenian communities throughout the world.
The Alumni Committee of Birthright Armenia works closely with the organization in recruiting new volunteers through local community presentations, raising funds via their own Alumni Give Back Fund for Birthright Armenia and the organizations with which they intern, and implementing “Next Step” projects that they create for Armenia’s direct benefit. In 2010 alone, over 20 outreach presentations were given on four continents at schools, churches and other community events. This collaborative relationship between the organization and its alumni speaks volumes about the quality of Birthright Armenia’s program and its ability to perpetuate its mission.
Leadership is a trait stressed by the alumni organization and is eminently displayed by Birthright Armenia Alumni Committee president, Tania Sahakian. As a volunteer in 2005, she interned with the Armenia Fund and upon her return, has spent the last six years assisting the Armenia Fund telethon, coordinating many of the volunteers who man the phones for the donations which pour in worldwide. Actively involved with the AGBU Young Professionals is Colette Seter, a graduate student at Temple University pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology. She was a 2005 Armenian Assembly intern, whose participation through Birthright Armenia allowed her the best of both worlds, to immerse herself in the many opportunities offered by the organization and share in the Armenian Assembly experience. She was placed with the Armenian Ministry of Health and worked in the Statistical Division on a USAID project, which was conducting an Armenian demographic health survey that year.
This past year, regional chapters were created throughout the US, Canada, Argentina, Europe and Lebanon, and the alumni committee recently launched a global “I Love Armenia” campaign, kicking off its first event in Philadelphia with the help of the AGBU Young Professionals. The successful event drew more than 55 people. The evening marked the beginning of a nationwide grassroots effort by alumni, creating a platform for people to share experiences and disseminate information on how traveling to and working in Armenia as a volunteer can be both meaningful and rewarding. Additional presentations will follow in Washington, DC, New York, Los Angeles and Montreal in the coming months.