A team of Armenian alumni of U.S. Government-sponsored exchange programs were awarded a grant on May 3rd through the U.S. State Department’s 2016 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund competition. The Armenian team’s winning proposal, a project called “Unlimited Movement,” will address the challenges and the issues that people with disabilities face in society.
More than 829 projects from 137 countries were submitted to the competition, and 61 were selected for funding. More than $1.25 million is being provided by the U.S. State Department globally.
“The Armenians who go on exchange programs in the U.S. represent some of the most dedicated and active members of Armenian civil society. They are passionate about building a stronger, more resilient nation. And I think that passion shone through in their application to the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund,” said U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr. “I think their focus, building up an inclusive society, is one that resonates in Armenia. More and more Armenians realize that people with disabilities can be productive members of society. I think that reflects well on Armenian culture.”
The group of exchange alumni will be using the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund grant to fund performances that focus on the potential and the abilities of people with disabilities to be active members of society.
The five-person team leading the effort is made up of Shoghakat Galstyan, Arina Araratyan, and Artur Sahakyan – former participants in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP); Hayk Vardanyan – an alumnus of the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program; and Tsolak Galstyan – a past participant in the USAID Community Connections Program.
“We are really very thankful that the American community and government support inclusive projects,” said Shoghakat Galstyan. “With this help we have an opportunity to help people with disabilities become more immersed into our community. We also appreciate the fact that we have the opportunity to do this as alumni. Being an alum means having responsibility for our community. With the help of the U.S. we will try to make a community where we don’t have social limits.”
The International Visitor Leadership Program is the State Department’s premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program provides scholarships for high school students from Eurasia to spend an academic year in the United States. USAID’s Community Connections program offers homestay-based practical training opportunities in the U.S. for entrepreneurs, local government officials, legal professionals, non-governmental organization leaders and other professionals.
These exchanges, and others offered by the U.S. Government, are designed to help build bridges between the U.S. and Armenia. When they return, alumni have the opportunity to apply for a number of different grants to help strengthen their communities. Additionally, membership in the U.S. Alumni Association of Armenia (www.usaaa.am ) provides a variety of networking and training opportunities.
“There are so many great, active alumni throughout Armenia,” Ambassador Mills said. “Whether involved in the Alumni Association or pursing efforts to benefit the larger community, this is a group that is helping to build the future of Armenia.”