The Jinishian Memorial Foundation this week announced it will be conducting study tours in Armenia, intended to give tourists the opportunity to Experience the best of Armenia and gain first-hand insight into the work of the foundation. The two tours will take place in May and September of this year.
Among the key aspects that make the Jinishian Memorial Foundation unique is its profoundly compassionate approach to the design of its programs and, ultimately, its beneficiaries. Rather than provide quick fixes or handouts, the organization invests in the lives of individuals and communities, guided by both an abiding sense of empathy and a vision of long-term development — in terms of fostering economic self-sufficiency, social equality and vibrancy, educational excellence, and spiritual growth.
Sponsored mainly by the Jinishian Memorial Program of the US Presbyterian Church, the Jinishian Memorial Foundation operates a comprehensive program in Armenia, focusing not only on direct aid to disadvantaged families, but also community development, education, economic development, civil-society growth, health services, and spiritual uplift.
Since 1993, the foundation has assisted some 2.2 million individuals in Armenia and supported the work of over 150 grassroots NGOs through collaborative projects. Given the enormously positive impact of its work in the Armenian homeland, today the foundation enjoys the partnership of major aid organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development and Delegation of the European Commission, as well as the support of a number of Diaspora and Armenia donors.
The following is a conversation with Eliza Minasyan, Country Director of the Jinishian Memorial Foundation in Armenia. I caught up with her in Yerevan, at the headquarters of the Jinishian Memorial Foundation, where she was busy responding to a flurry of overseas inquiries about the upcoming Study Tours.
Sona Hamalian: How did the idea of organizing the Study Tours come about?
First, the needs:
The Armenian tourism industry needs to introduce unique, extraordinary tours that offer visitors the sights, sounds, and aromas of modern Armenia and also explorations of the country’s timeless historic destinations;
Current and potential donors and supporters are also seeking to gain first-hand insight into Armenia’s economic, social, cultural, and educational aspects as well as the ways to address core issues in a proven and effective manner.
And finally, there is a need for external expertise and funds to help Armenia’s overcome ongoing social and economic adversities.
Our foundation has extensive development experience throughout Armenia, with projects dedicated to economic and community development, education, health, and spiritual uplift. This means that those taking the Study Tours will get to see most of the country’s regions, interact with people from all walks of life, and visit all the institutions around which Armenian life thrives ‘s such as universities and schools, children’s art centers and theaters, churches, community organizations, and hospitals. It’s important to note that these visits will not be “passive.” Rather, they will give Diaspora visitors the chance to communicate and spend time with students, priests, and professionals from various fields including NGO representatives, farmers, and community activists;
The Study Tours are being jointly organized by our mother organization in the U.S., the Jinishian Memorial Program, whose great reputation gives tour takers the confidence that they will enjoy a professionally planned, well thought-out, and profoundly fulfilling travel experience.
S.H.: Are the Study Tours open to all tourists or just Jinishian Foundation supporters?
S.H.: What will the sightseeing components of the tours entail?
S.H.: So it seems to me that tour participants will get to visit not only popular destinations but also unusual, off-the-beaten-track sites.
S.H.: In terms of becoming familiar with the work of the Jinishian Foundation, what are some of the sites that tour participants will be taken to?
All the site visits included in the Study Tours are designed to encourage meaningful communication and socialization. Thus local-community members and leaders will be meeting us, telling us their stories, expressing their feelings, and even joining visitors for dinner or lunch.
S.H.: What were some of the major achievements of the Jinishian Foundation in 2008?
S.H.: What are some of the foundation’s priority-assistance areas for 2009?
S.H.: Is there a major challenge or hurdle that the foundation still faces in implementing its projects?
S.H.: Do you agree that beneficiary participation is a core element of the success of your programs? In this sense, how would you generally characterize the foundation’s relationship with its beneficiaries, at both the individual and community levels?
S.H.: What would you say is the role of the Diaspora in the ongoing success of Jinishian projects? And what can the Diaspora do to help ensure the long-term viability of these initiatives?
For more information or to book a Jinishian Memorial Foundation Study Tour for 2009, please visit www.jinishian.org or contact Sara Todd, Program Manager, Jinishian Memorial Program, at 502-569-5291 or Sara.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Sona Hamalian is a philanthropic advisor based in Yerevan. She also heads Creative Networks, an international public-relations firm promoting nonprofit organizations, cultural and educational institutions, and artists.