Hub Artsakh Blog

Engage Armenia 2024: A Tour in Review

#EngageArmenia2024
A Tour in Review

Hub Artsakh Blog

For over a week, Hub Artsakh embarked on a journey through 8 different European cities as an invited organization to the #EngageArmenia2024 tour, an initiative organized by Repat Armenia.

 

This edition of the annual #EngageArmenia event went big. While it wasn’t the first time this event was held, it was the first year that the delegation reached out to the Armenian diaspora in so many different cities in a single trip.

 

From London (UK) to Marseille (France), passing through Amsterdam (Netherlands), Brussels (Belgium), Paris (France), Alfortville (France), Geneva (Switzerland), and Lyon (France), over 700 participants answered the call of the #EngageArmenia2024 tour.

 

Hub Artsakh, alongside 10 other Armenian organizations and companies, showcased various ways to engage with the country and build new bridges between the Armenian Diaspora and Armenia.

 

For Shoushan Keshishian, Co-Founder and CEO of Hub Artsakh, this event was an opportunity to present our initiatives developed to support the displaced population of Artsakh and the responses provided through our most recent programs. Shoushan also invited the audience to join our community of changemakers, either by volunteering for the organization’s activities or by financially supporting our programs.

You too, can contribute to our mission by donating your time or supporting us financially

Throwback to these 8 days of meetings and exchanges with the Armenian community from Europe.

LONDON, March 6

The delegation’s first stop was in the British capital, where they were hosted by the University College London, with Tatiana Der Avedissian, head of business development for Economist Impact’s World Ocean Initiative and fundraising specialist, as well as co-president of the Harvard Kennedy School Women’s Network, in attendance.

 

150 individuals attended this kickoff evening. The initial contacts were fruitful and demonstrated the interest shown by the audience, motivating the delegation for the week ahead.

Amsterdam, March 7

In the land of bicycles, participants were warmly welcomed by the Surp Hoki Armenian Apostolic Church of Amsterdam, with 70 attendees filling the room to capacity. Heiko Jessayan, a journalist since 1985, moderated the discussion.

 

The interaction with the audience was lively, with numerous questions about investment opportunities in Armenia. 

 

We greatly appreciated the contribution of one attendee, who emphasized to the other members of the audience that “not only do you love Armenia, but Armenia loves you too”, encouraging them to take the leap to build stronger ties with the country.

Brussels, March 8

The gathering in the European capital took place at the Hay Doun center, founded by André Gumuchdjian, a Belgian-Armenian philanthropist and entrepreneur who established the center when he was elected Vice-President of the Armenian Committee of Belgium. 65 participants attended the event and joined us during the meet & greet.

 

As the founder of My Forest Armenia as well, André shared his vision of connection with Armenia: “Armenianness is like a seed. It grows more and more as you get older.”

Paris, March 9

The first of the 4 French cities visited during the tour was none other than the capital. The delegation headed to the offices of UGAB Paris in the heart of the 17th arrondissement to meet with 70 individuals who responded to the call.

 

Tigrane Yégavian, author of numerous works dedicated to Middle Eastern geopolitics, Eastern minorities, and Armenia, facilitated the discussion this evening.

 

The Parisian audience shone with dynamism and engagement in the debate, notably raising, for the first time during the tour, the question of the country’s security situation.

 

Sevan Kabakian, Director of Birthright Armenia, acknowledged that the current threats facing the country must be taken into consideration when developing a project in Armenia. However, he emphasized that “what guarantees Armenia’s security is the mentality of its people, inviting the diaspora to engage constructively and positively with the opportunities presented by Armenia to contribute to the visibility of the challenges faced by the country and thus strengthen its security.

Alfortville, March 10

Next, we visited the city known as “The Little Armenia of France”, due to its Armenian-origin population making up nearly 25% of the total population. Over 50 participants gathered on this Sunday.

 

Philippe Car, Deputy Mayor, opened the session by addressing members of the diaspora: “We are here to help you help Armenia, Armenians, and the entire Armenian community worldwide.”

 

Vartan Kaprielian moderated the evening’s panel. He is notably the founder of the new, fully Armenian social media platform, MIASIN.

Geneva, March 11

It was impossible not to visit the international capital of humanitarian action during this tour. The Armenian Union of Switzerland, along with the local branch of UGBA, invited us to the premises of the Warwick Hotel to host nearly 100 participants.


Vicken Bayramian served as our moderator in Geneva, an international business lawyer and serial entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience advising international trading concerns, banks, multinationals, and shipping companies.

Lyon, March 12

The final two stops of the tour concluded with the cities in France hosting the largest Armenian diasporas in the country.

 

In Lyon, speakers presented their projects to 120 participants in the hall adjacent to the Saint-Jacques Armenian Church of Lyon. Pascale Gostanian, Deputy Secretary of the parish council and Special Envoy to Armenia for Radio Armenia, introduced the session.

 

The discussion was moderated by Vaner Harutyunyan. He served as Deputy Consul at the Consulate General of Armenia in Lyon between 2013 and 2015 and was a diplomat at the Embassy of Armenia in Paris and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia (2000-2017). He is the co-founder of Passenger.am and currently serves as the director of the French-Armenian Council (CFA).

Marseille, March 13

We were fortunate to conclude this tour in the sunniest of French cities, at the Théâtre l’Acte 12, with the participation of over 75 individuals.

 

Charig Osipian served as the discussion moderator. She has contributed to the international development of Armath labs abroad, aiming to foster the Armenian technological ecosystem outside of Armenia. She is also an active member of the Armenian Relief Society and co-founded the Kevor Karabian Franco-Armenian school in France, where she serves on the board of directors.

We express our heartfelt gratitude to Repat Armenia for inviting us to join this tour, which has allowed us to convey our vision and mission to members of the Armenian diaspora around the world.

In each city, we met, exchanged, and discussed with our community to invite them to reinvigorate their ties with Armenia alongside us. We found supporters and sponsors who were moved by the experiences of those whose stories matter most: the remarkable innovators and changemakers of Artsakh. They shared with us their energy and confidence so that Hub Artsakh can continue its mission with motivation and dedication: empowering the people of Artsakh to recover and rebuild sustainably.


Thank you for joining us, thank you for responding to our call and making us heard beyond the frontiers. We are hoping this will be the new beginning of a great history

of community fostering and solidarity.

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A Year in Review at Hub Artsakh

2023
A Year in Review at Hub Artsakh

Hub Artsakh Blog

As we bid farewell to the past year, we find ourselves reflecting on the collective journey we’ve undertaken amidst unprecedented tragedies lived by the men, women and children from Artsakh. This year has tested us in unique ways, yet it is precisely in these moments of adversity that the true spirit of our community shines most brightly.

 

Living Under Artsakh’s Blockade and Through Forced Displacement

 

Despite the adverse circumstances stemming from the imposed blockade starting in December 2022, Hub Artsakh not only sustained its activities but revealed itself to be more diligent than ever. The solidarity among our community deepened, and the Hub Artsakh premises became a vibrant hub, actively bringing together the youth of Stepanakert and beyond

Over the course of these 10 months, we conducted 25 workshops, both in person and remotely. These workshops aimed to mitigate the impact of the blockade on the personal and professional development of our participants, with a specific focus on digital skills and self-management to adapt to the challenging conditions. 

Amidst these obstacles, one of Hub Artsakh’s most significant accomplishments was ensuring the uninterrupted delivery of our services to beneficiaries. The resilience displayed by our team in the face of tragedy was possible thanks to the unwavering support of our international and Armenian partners and, undoubtedly, our community. Through these experiences, we have come to appreciate the true strength of solidarity and the indomitable spirit that binds us together.

On the other side of the checkpoint was Shoushan Keshishian, Hub Artsakh Director, who, unfortunately, found herself separated from the team due to the abrupt closure of the border. It took 10 long months of online communication and video calls before the team could reunite, under circumstances we had hoped to avoid at all costs.

During the exodus of the Artsakhtsi population after the horrific events of September 19th, Hub Artsakh acted as a safe haven for our community. Our basement was made available for anyone that needed shelter during the air raids, including children and elderly. Our emergency kits and medical supplies were at the disposal of anyone staying in the shelter, including candles, blankets, flashlights, power banks, painkillers, and more.

When thousands of people flooded into Stepanakert, having been displaced from surrounding villages/towns, Hub Artsakh opened its doors to anyone in need. Our chairs and tables were used for community lunches, our showers were made available for refugees, and our books provided some entertainment, particularly for the young kids.

We are proud to have been able to serve our community one final time, and we are determined to continue doing so in the years to come. Now based in Yerevan, Hub Artsakh will continue its activities and remain true to its vision and mission, responding to the new and evolving needs of the people of Artsakh that have been forcibly displaced to Armenia.

 

Highlights from our Programs

In the past year, our team experienced a significant surge in our activities against all odds, actively engaging with beneficiaries from Artsakh in the development of their projects. Gratitude is extended to our supportive partners and donors, facilitating the completion of two projects, with three more currently in progress, impacting the lives of not less than 82 individuals.

Idea to Impact

Launched in March, during the blockade, this program supported six entrepreneurs in transforming their ideas into operational projects. It was generously sponsored by the Philippossian & Pilossian Foundation.

Read our blogpost and discover the success story of Gurgen Baghdasaryan, a program alumni having made his project a reality.

Digital You

Aimed at empowering 20 women in Artsakh, this initiative equipped the participants with digital skills and provided soft skills training with the objective to secure remote employment. The program, supported by Linaster and the Fondation Arménie, aimed to enhance opportunities for women in the digital space.

MEDIA+

Launched in June, this ongoing program strengthens the capacity of young journalists in Artsakh. Conducted in collaboration with HETQ Media Factory and renowned journalists, it provides a long-term training program for participants to gain in-depth knowledge and practical skills in journalism.

Hovnanian Youth Fellowship

Supported by the Hovnanian Family Foundation, this fellowship aids 10 young individuals from Artsakh, aged 18 to 30, in developing innovative and socially impactful enterprises. Launched in November 2022, the program continues in Yerevan to support fellows in pursuing their learning and projects in their new environment.

Emergency Support Hotline

Initiated in October 2023, this hotline addresses the needs and challenges faced by refugees forced to flee Artsakh. Supported by the Hovnanian Family Foundation and through a strategic partnership with the ELL Partnership Law Firm, the hotline provides ongoing assistance, including support in securing employment and legal assistance.

 

Advocating for the Rights of the Artsakh Society

The need to share the experiences of the men and women of Artsakh has never been more urgent than in this past year and continues to be so. Our team, led by Shoushan Keshishian, actively contributed to advocacy efforts shedding light on the challenges faced by our compatriots.

Starting in August, Hub Artsakh’s first in-house research report was published. A rapid needs assessment was shared with numerous media outlets after several weeks of investigation and interviews on the living conditions of the population of Artsakh under blockade. This aimed to inform humanitarian, diplomatic, and regional/international political actors about the serious humanitarian crisis unfolding in the territory.

To further increase international visibility on this issue, we launched the campaign “Your Time for Artsakh” through our social media platforms, calling for volunteering, both in-person and, mostly, online. Over 80 individuals across continents responded to the call, offering their services in fields as diverse as marketing, management, finance, political science, aviation, and architecture.

Now in Yerevan, we are pursuing our efforts to highlight the tragedy that unfolded. Ensuring that refugees are aware of their rights and can advocate for them in the public sphere was a fundamental step. In November, Lawyers from the ELL Partnership Law Firm organized an information session for the Artsakhtsi public to answer their questions and inform them of their rights.

 

Embracing Resilience and Celebrating Our Community

Amid adversity, we wanted to continue celebrating resilience and moments of solidarity within our community—moments that are even more vital to bring some relief to our team, members, and compatriots during these challenging times.

Generous supporters enabled Hub Artsakh to invite the beneficiaries of our programs for a day of escape on the shores of Lake Sevan. The days were filled with games, film screenings, and enriching discussions, all made possible by the warm hospitality of our hosts. A necessary moment to warm our hearts.

An invitation from our partner, Impact Hub Yerevan, to participate in their Christmas Bazaar also was the occasion to bring together the creative minds and small businesses of Artsakh. More than twenty stands showcased honey producers from Artsakh, fashion designers, and artisans. The cuisine of Artsakh was also featured with stands offering zhingyalov hatz and bakhlavas that were continually enjoyed.

In the face of uncertainty and daunting challenges, we’ve united, offering support and demonstrating resilience that defines our organization. Our heartfelt appreciation goes to each member of our team for their unwavering commitment, adaptability, and hard work. 

 

Thank you for being an integral part of our collective journey. Wishing you and your loved ones a joyful holiday season and a new year filled with peace, joy and prosperity. 

Warm regards,

Hub Artsakh team

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Hub Artsakh welcomes Shoonch Art Center, A center providing art therapy for Artsakh children.

Hub Artsakh welcomes Shoonch Art Center, A center providing art therapy for Artsakh children

Hub Artsakh Blog

We are honored to have been chosen by the NGO Shoonch Art Center to host their activities for the children of Artsakh, within the premises of Hub Artsakh.

Promoting Artsakh cultural life

Founded in Stepanakert in 2019, Shoonch Art Center had the vocation to deliver courses and masterclasses for a public wishing to develop their skills in singing, oratory art or music, in order to promote and develop cultural life in Artsakh. 

Gurgen Baghdasaryan, Head of the vocal department of Sayat-Nova College of Music in Stepanakert and a well-known musician in Artsakh for his passion for transmission, organized masterclasses, workshops and singing competitions for adolescents and young adults from Artsakh. Several students were awarded during national competitions and had the opportunity to benefit from the recording studio also founded by Gurgen to share their creations.

Artistic creation as a therapeutic tool

When the second war in Artsakh was declared in 2020, some students were forced to interrupt the courses at Shoonch Art Center. That’s when Gurgen sought a way for his organization to pursue its support for the young people of Artsakh in this new difficult context

The first art therapy workshop was held in January 2021, with the aim of providing a space for people affected by the war to express their emotions and to overcome the psychological traumas in the post-war period through art. “Art therapy is a branch of psychology”, explained Gurgen in an interview with Step1.am. “It is a popular, experimented method across the world. After the first Artsakh liberation war, it was not applied and the results were visible for decades. Based on these observations, we will start rehabilitation works in Artsakh”, he wrote on the Center’s Facebook page to announce the first art therapy cycle.

Since then, the Shoonch Art Center is closely collaborating with the German NGO “Miassin”.

In parallel supported by a cultural Swiss foundation, the NGO resumed its activities by providing three 2-month cycles, made of drawing and music therapy workshops, to several groups of children and young adults. It’s within this program that Gurgen and six of his students also founded the first post-war band in Artsakh, “Kings Band”, and produced themselves all around Artsakh between 2020 and 2022.

The NGO was again forced to stop its activities from the beginning of the blockade in December 2022 until September 2023 when the population was forced to leave the territory. 

It is during this laps of time that Gurgen made the decision to participate in Hub Artsakh’s Idea to Impact program, which was initiated in March 2023. His goal was to tailor his project to the current living conditions of the people in Artsakh, specifically focusing on offering relief through art workshops.

A safe space for Artsakhtsi children in Yerevan

After a period of adaptation, Gurgen then decided to relaunch the activities of his NGO in Yerevan, thanks to the generous support of Eurasia Partnership Foundation.

“The newly provoked war brought us to Yerevan, and after a break for some time, we decided to reshape Shoonch and expand its field of activity”. The Shoonch Art Center reunites specialists and psychologists to provide art therapy workshops to children of Artsakh, aimed at easing their post-war experiences and contributing to facilitating the adaptation period in their new contexts.

The workshops will be completed by visits to various art schools and development centers in Yerevan. 

We are happy to welcome Gurgen and his students to our premises and hope to create wonderful souvenirs of joy and hope in the workshops of the Shoonch Art Center.

For more information, follow the Shoonch Art Center on their social media:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shoonchartcentre2023/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shoonch.kentron/

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Entrepreneurship, courage and community fostering: 

Entrepreneurship, courage and community fostering: a discussion with Milena Avetisyan, Hub Artsakh’s program manager

Hub Artsakh Blog

« Originally written by Lou Terzian on the 20/11/2023 »

A year after the launch of Hub Artsakh’s Hovnanian Youth Fellowship program, we spoke with Milena Avetisyan, the program manager, to tell us about her work, the evolution of the program, and the ambitions she has for her young protégés.

Supporting entrepreneurship in Artsakh

“The goal of the Hovnanian Youth Fellowship is to support young social entrepreneurs, individuals or, aged 18-30 years old, interested in developing a project relating to education, healthcare, democracy building or community development”, explains Milena. “We received a consequent number of applications for the program, of which only 12 passed the final stage and are participating in the program, which started on November 28, 2022, in Stepanakert”.

Milena has taken the reins of the program since the transfer of Hub Artsakh’s activities to Yerevan in November 2023.

“The idea of the project arose after a needs assessment, when we noticed a lack of support and resources are preventing young people in Artsakh from implementing their innovative, changemaking ideas. That’s the reason why we, as a team, have come up with this program that will, first of all, contribute to the development of their professional and soft skills, but also to the development and promotion of their ideas and businesses. We are supported by the H. Hovnanian Family Foundation to implement the program, and we collaborated with various individuals and organizations for providing courses and seminars, such as BalLab, Impact Hub Syunik, and others.”

Balancing the consequences of the blockade

From now on, at the age of 20, Milena divides her time and energy between her studies in Management at university and her commitment to Hub Artsakh.

“The blockade imposed on Artsakh by Azerbaïdjian greatly limited us and the beneficiaries, particularly with regard to freedom of movement”

“Before the recent events in Artsakh, the program fully met its goals, as the participants were quite motivated to work on their programs. But the blockade imposed on Artsakh by Azerbaïdjian greatly limited us and the beneficiaries, particularly with regard to freedom of movement”, she pursues. “During the program, we had planned to make several visits to successful organizations in Armenia for the beneficiaries to build professional connections and take inspiration from, that we couldn’t honor anymore”.

While the forced displacement of Artsakh residents in November 2023 temporarily suspended the beneficiaries’ projects, Milena ensures that the program’s participants receive all the support necessary to rebuild themselves, before continuing working on their professional projects.

Adapting to new life circumstances

“The participants have since scattered all over Armenia, which is a new challenge for us, but one that I am sure we will be able to overcome. In addition to educational programs, we are holding a lot of entertainment activities to foster connection among the participants and to rebuild a sustainable and resilient community”.

“This is a new challenge for us, but one that I am sure we will be able to overcome”.

Despite their new life circumstances, the fellows have decided to continue working on bringing their ideas to life, fueled with motivation and courage. 

“For anyone looking to develop their own projects in Armenia, I would advise two things. Firstly, there will always be different obstacles on the way to the realization of one’s project, and many people just give up because they are afraid of these challenges. You should constantly generate new ideas, and pursue your goals to the end, fearlessly. Then, everything is changing very quickly in the 21st century, and it’s very important to stay on top of the latest knowledge and skills in your field. So my two final pieces of advice to take would be to be proactive and to pursue self-education continuously”.

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