AIWA San Francisco Hosts Annual Celebration

Guests and members of AIWA San Francisco at the organization's third annual event

OAKLAND, Calif.—On Saturday, Nov. 15, AIWA San Francisco held its annual event at St. Vartan Armenian Church in Oakland, bringing together the strong and dedicated community members in support of the 3-year-old, growing organization. Guests were very pleased to learn about AIWA SF’s achievements, including supporting the ongoing personal and professional growth of women in Armenia and in the Bay Area.

The event was themed “Armenian Women Preserving Cultural Heritage” and honored Grace Andonian, Principal of Krouzian Zekarian Vasbouragan Armenian School in San Francisco. The event also featured comedy by Lory Tatoulian, an exquisite masterpiece auction of one of Arev Petrosyan’s paintings, and music by Singer Lilit Pipoian. Laura Dirtadian, an AIWA SF Executive Committee member, was the Master of Ceremony.

AIWA-SF President Gaiane Khachatrian welcomed the guests and provided an update on the many ongoing and future initiatives, including:

Mer Hooys at the Nakashian Children’s Support Center in Yerevan – Teens at risk are empowered through after school educational programs focused on English language, computer science, and comprehensive health education. In 2014, AIWA-SF began to offer after school English classes to youth at Dsegh Village School, as well as to children with special needs at Bridge of Hope in Dilijan and to the staff members working at the center.

Homeland Development Initiative Fund (HDIF) – In its efforts to help young women entrepreneurs develop strong business skills, AIWA SF continues to partner with the HDIF in pursuit of offering professional training opportunities to female business owners across ten regions in Armenia. These women have the opportunity to participate in wide range of professional seminars focused on accounting/business taxation, financial management, and marketing/media relations.

Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (WEP) – This umbrella project, led by the American University of Armenia, is designed to teach business management skills to women entrepreneurs in the country.

Khachatrian highlighted that, since its inception, AWIA SF has had a vision to address the healthcare improvement through knowledge advancement in rural Armenia, where the need is always greater. With great delight, three doctors serving on the Executive Committee of AIWA SF– Drs. Ani Tajirian, Hasmik Arzumanyan and Kohar Der Simonian– travelled to Armenia in October to carry out a pilot project in collaboration with the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF). The project was designed to carry out health education sessions for the medical field professionals in the Baghramian and Talin regions of Armenia. “Our trip was a success and left all three of us actively encouraged to remain engaged in working to improve health care delivery and education in Armenia,” remarked Dr. Der Simonian, who serves as Assistant Clinical Professor in both the departments of Family and Community and Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCSF.

In addition to advancing the welfare of women in Armenia, an annual grant from the IBM Corporation enables AIWA SF to provide educational and professional development workshops in the Bay Area, aiming to promote the personal, educational and professional growth of women and youth in the community.

After providing updates on the various exciting and important AIWA SF initiatives and projects, Khachatrian welcomed three new Executive Board Members: Kohar Der Simonian, Sophia Moradian and Varty Manoukian. She then provided a heartfelt warming conclusion by announcing that she will be stepping down as President as of January 2015 after serving as Founding President for three years. She introduced and welcomed her successor, Christine Soussa Saghatelian, who joined the affiliate in Spring of 2014, serving as the organization’s Vice President of External Affairs. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she currently lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two joyful daughters. Christine is excited to help take AIWA-SF to the next level of growth and expand the membership base so we can continue to work together to make impactful improvements for Armenian women.

“AIWA has been an incredible journey for which I am truly grateful,” remarked Khachatrian. “As our dedicated team worked hard to empower women in Armenia and in the Bay Area, I myself have been empowered in so many ways as a result of my association with the organization. AIWA helped me better understand my own environment, my own relationships, the community that I am part of, and interestingly, my own culture, for which I have developed greater appreciation.” She then emphasized that an individual commitment to team effort was the key in making AIWA SF work as an organization and succeed, along with the tremendous support of the strong community in the Bay Area.

Following the President’s remarks, the formal events commenced. Grace Andounian, the Principal at Krouzian Zekarian Vasbouragan Armenian School in San Francisco, honored for all she does to preserve our rich Armenian heritage. She expressed her appreciation to the executive team of AIWA SF for the recognition and award. She highlighted the importance of preserving Armenian language on a foreign land through the only Armenian school in the Bay Area.

As the evening progressed, Lory Tatoulian, a guest comedian from Los Angeles, filled the room with laughter, by performing one of her characters “Dandeegeen.” The room was filled with a constant roar of laughter. It was quite a treat to have Tatoulian perform!

The highlight of the evening was the auctioning of the breathtaking artwork called “Love” / “SER” created by talented artist, Arev Petrosyan, who generously donated her inspiring painting to AIWA SF. Proceeds of the sales went to support the affiliate’s initiatives in Armenia. “I met Arev this summer in Armenia, and after I learned about her accomplishments and fame, I couldn’t help thinking what a humble person she was,” remarked Marine Gouchian, AIWA SF’s Treasurer who presented the young accomplished artist and the generous contributor. “When you learn that someone won a competition amongst 160 artists around the world and her creation of stained-glass art embellishes the Parliamentary Assembly building of the council of Europe, certain arrogance would seem to be justified, but Arev is a proof that greatness can exist in a humble soul.”

The special evening was closed with gifted Lilit Pipoyan’s stunning performance, filling the room with magical tunes and creating a nostalgic mood for the audience.

It was truly a magical evening filled with empowerment, recognition, laughter, beauty, art and song celebrating “Armenian Women Preserving Cultural Heritage.”

To learn more about AIWA, please visit To get involved with the AIWA SF affiliate, please visit or send an email to


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