NYC forum on Diaspora cooperation with the Republic of Armenia
by Nanar Nakashian
On 15 November 2019, at 6:00 PM, Armenians from a variety of fields came together at Fordham University at Lincoln Center, New York City. The goal was to share the work that they are doing both inside and outside of the Republic of Armenia, as well as to learn about the work being done in the diaspora to support Armenia and establish bridges of collaboration among NGO’s and with the Republic of Armenia. Experts in the fields of engineering, medicine, behavioral sciences, mental health and economics discussed their mission, vision, activities, and outcomes.
Opening remarks were made by Dr. Harold Takooshian, professor at Fordham University, on the large number of Armenian organizations in the New York Tri-State area that are solely aimed at bettering the Fatherland. Dr. Takooshian mentioned the Velvet Revolution in Armenia in May of 2018, and how a reformed country calls for organizations in the diaspora to contribute to the transformation from political oppression to democracy.
The first presenter, Allen Berber, spoke on behalf of Armenian Engineers & Scientists of America (AESA), which is a “philanthropic organization focused primarily on addressing the professional, technical and scientific needs of fellow Armenians throughout the world.” (aesa.org). Mr. Berber explained that AESA works directly in Armenia, in the National University, as well as in Gyumri, where professors, arranged by AESA, teach novel courses that might otherwise not be available to students studying engineering and other sciences. In the town of Aratashen, AESA provides education and materials, making it accessible to workers and students in that area.
President of the Armenian American Health Professionals Organization (AAHPO), Dr. Lawrence Najarian explained that AAHPO’s mission is to educate and advance health services of Armenians in the metropolitan area, as well as in Armenia (aahpo.org). AAHPO is engaged in medical philanthropy, where all types of healthcare providers work together on different projects, such as a medical workshops and educational programs, both in Armenia and Artsakh. This includes a one-month training program for medical students and physicians to gain expertise in their field as well as to obtain continuing education.
Dr. Takooshian then elaborated on the work that has been done in the Armenian diaspora in the behavioral sciences. In 1987, Armenian Behavioral Science Association (ABSA) was founded during meetings of the International Council of Psychologists (ICP) and the American Psychological Association (APA), and in 1988. ABSA also serves the Armenian community of America and abroad through conferences and educational programs at national and regional conferences such as the APA, ICP, EPA (Eastern Psychological Association). During these conferences annual ABSA Outstanding Achievement Award is given to an identified Armenian professional in that city. In 2019, at APA in Chicago, the ABSA award was given to Jackie Kazarian, an artist focusing on generational healing post genocide.
Continuing with the topic of behavioral sciences, Dr. Ani Kalayjian presented on the organization she founded in 1988, the Association for Trauma Outreach and Prevention (ATOP) MeaningfulWorld, that works specifically in mental health and healing generational trauma, horizontal violence, and nurtures Emotional Intelligence (meaningfulworld.com). Affiliated with the United Nations, ATOP MeaningfulWorld was born before the devastating earthquake in Armenia, focusing on scientific research of the Ottoman Turkish Genocide of the Armenians. MeaningfulWorld’s mission is to nurture a generation of conscientious individuals guided by love, compassion, empathy, forgiveness and meaning-making. MeaningfulWorld has delivered humanitarian relief volunteer missions to 48 countries, including Armenia. October 2019 was the latest mission, where MeaningfulWorld launched the first Suicide Prevention Lifeline in Armenia. Members of MeaningfulWorld were acknowledged in the audience: Lorraine Simmons, Dr Justina Medina, and Nanar Nakashian.
Next was Dr. Aleksandr V. Gevorkyan, an economist and professor at St. John’s University, who noted the importance of macroeconomy and history when analyzing Armenia and the diaspora. Dr. Gevorkyan stressed the importance of continued research in the mutual interdependency between the Armenian diaspora and Armenia. He also spoke about the Armenian Diaspora Survey, which he designed and conducted between December 2015 and April 2018. The anonymous online survey attempted to analyze diaspora’s inner individual motivations to openly engage with Armenia’s economic development. The survey results offered a better understanding of the diaspora’s diversity, a dispersion, based on origin, time period settling outside of historic Armenia, and other factors. The survey also revealed a wide range of practical means for professional and cultural connections between diaspora individuals and Armenia peers. As an immediate engagement infrastructure solution, Dr. Gevorkyan proposed a web-based Diaspora Portal that would help create such connections (see Note 1 below). Dr. Gevorkyan concluded by stating that just as diaspora’s expertise and experience are useful for Armenia, so is Armenia’s success vital to diaspora.
Dr. Lernik Essayei, (MD, MPH, CPSS) was the discussant, and she stressed the significance of the event, and importance of collaboration among Armenian organizations in the diaspora, to share and to learn about what each organization is doing, in order to best support Armenia post-Velvet Revolution. Dr. Essayei led a lively Q&A, where the audience, as well as the speakers, discussed the extent of aid that Armenia needs from Armenian organizations in the diaspora, and the extent of aid that is given to Armenia.
A reception followed with networking, discussing further plans for collaboration and the possibility of an annual gathering. This community forum was hosted by Fordham Institute in cooperation with the aforementioned professional Armenian organizations.
For more information, contact Dr. Takooshian at email@example.com.