Uniting for Artsakh: Repat Armenia's Panel Sheds Light on Humanitarian Efforts
YEREVAN – On November 30, 2023, Repat Armenia hosted the latest installment of its ‘Meet & Greet’ series, aimed to introduce the Diaspora and repatriate-led NGOs actively supporting the displaced compatriots from Artsakh. The event, which took place at the H. Hovnanian Family Foundation building in downtown Yerevan, included a panel discussion featuring representatives of Armenia’s humanitarian and non-profit sector, followed by an expo and networking session.
The panel discussion, moderated by Vartan Marashlyan, co-founder and executive director of Repat Armenia, set the tone for the evening. Marashlyan emphasized the critical role of Diasporan Armenians and repatriates in supporting the ongoing crisis in Artsakh and urged the repatriate community to collaborate more effectively. “Through this event, we want to engage the repatriate community in our support efforts, enhancing the effectiveness of our collective response.”
Shoushan Keshishian, the first panelist and a repatriate from Beirut, shared her experiences with Hub Artsakh, a community space she founded in Stepanakert. The hub, initially a beacon of creativity and innovation, was forced to relocate to Yerevan following the recent conflict. “Our mission continues to empower the people of Artsakh,” Keshishian asserted. She highlighted their focus on providing employment and legal support to displaced families, each with unique needs. “Each family [from Artsakh] has a different set of needs, and we need to address these needs accordingly,” she explained. Hub Artsakh has become a key player in driving community engagement and fostering a sense of hope among displaced individuals from Artsakh.
Haik Kazarian, representing Transparent Armenia Charitable Foundation, shared insights into the organization’s transition to a sustainable support model for displaced people. “Instead of ‘giving people fish,’ we’re ‘teaching them to fish,’ enabling self-sufficiency in these challenging conditions,” Kazarian explained, emphasizing the importance of equipping individuals with the necessary tools for employment. Transparent Armenia, which Kazarian co-founded in 2020, has been pivotal in offering not just immediate aid but also long-term solutions for economic independence and resilience among the displaced population.
Karine Bitar from Frontline Therapists discussed the evolving needs of displaced Artsakh residents. She highlighted the organization’s focus on emergency mental health services, including individual and group therapy, and the education of mental health professionals in Armenia. “The trauma and sense of loss really set in for the displaced once they settled in Armenia,” Bitar remarked, emphasizing the depth of the crisis. Karine came from Beirut to Armenia with the Birthright Armenia program, where she volunteered with Frontline Therapists for five months. After completing the program, Karine moved to Armenia and now works as Frontline’s full-time Social Worker and Case Manager. Frontline Therapists’ work has been instrumental in addressing the psychological impact of displacement and conflict on individuals and communities, offering much-needed mental health support in these challenging times.
Dr. Tatiana Hovhannisyan, VIVA Foundation’s CEO and co-founder, discussed the foundation’s comprehensive approach to aiding displaced Armenians from Artsakh. Supported by several volunteer physicians, the NGO’s efforts encompass medical, educational, and basic needs support. VIVA Foundation’s work extends beyond immediate relief, focusing on the overall well-being and sustainability of healthcare systems and educational programs, ensuring that those affected by the crisis have access to essential services and opportunities for growth and development.
An insightful Q&A session followed the panel discussion, where attendees engaged directly with the panelists, discussing the need for greater collaboration among organizations for more effective support.
The event concluded with an expo featuring various organizations like the Tufenkian Foundation, the Armenian Relief Society (ARS), the Karo Hovagimian Charity Foundation, All For Armenia, the Hurry To Good Foundation, UpGrade Armenia, Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC), Birthright Armenia, as well as the four organizations featured on the panel. Participants mingled and exchanged ideas, furthering the event’s goal of fostering a collaborative environment for those working with displaced people from Artsakh.
The latest installment of Repat Armenia’s ‘Meet & Greet’ series not only highlighted the ongoing humanitarian efforts in Armenia but also underscored the vital role of community engagement and collaboration in addressing the complex challenges faced by displaced people from Artsakh. The panelists’ insights and experiences provided a deeper understanding of the situation, encouraging a unified approach to support and empower those affected by the crisis.