October 3, 2019
Unity + Synergy was the focus for the AGBU Western District Committee as they hosted the 2nd Annual Western District Conference on Saturday, September 28, 2019. Over 80 Western District Committee members, school representatives, volunteers, and young professionals gathered at the AGBU Vatche & Tamar Manoukian Center for the informative conference. AGBU Central Board member and Assistant Treasurer, Yervant Demirjian, served as the keynote speaker for the all-day conference.
Opening the conference was AGBU Western District Chair, Talin Yacoubian, who welcomed all attendees with a fun ice breaker activity. The activity sparked many conversations about hot topics such as fundraising. Following the ice breaker activity, all in attendance made their way to the center’s Multipurpose room to take their seats for the first event of the conference.
A special speaker event was organized titled, “Getting to Know You, Armenia” featuring Catharine Hamm, Travel Editor for the LA Times, Albert Manukyan, Co-Founder of YerevanRide, Jeff Paretchan, Special Advisor for USAID Armenia, and Varazdat Pahlavuni, Counselor at the Consulate General of Armenia in Los Angeles. The speaker event was moderated by AGBU Western District board member, Lucy Varpetian, and aimed at exploring the new surge in tourism in Armenia. The discussion that ensued was very timely following the visit of Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, to Los Angeles the week prior. Pashinyan had a public meeting with all Armenians in the Los Angeles community and during his speech, mentioned how important tourism is for Armenia’s economy. Hamm discussed the way in which tourism has shifted to cater to specific interests expressing, “You can build travel around any interest you have.” Paretchan confirmed Hamm’s comments by pointing out a study that was conducted, which showed that travel to Armenia has shifted from just visiting family to tourism. YerevanRide is one of those companies that has emerged from this new demand for tourism. It provides a unique way to explore cities in Armenia by allowing tourists to access their bikes around town using the YerevanRide app. Pahlavuni also showed a video that was specifically made to attract tourists by highlighting Armenia’s beautiful nature such as the mountainous regions and lakes.
AGBU YPLA also took the stage to talk about their recent revamp and how they have become a strong team of 15 professionals. Their strong unity and tireless efforts have led them to raise unprecedented amounts for important causes. Most recently, the committee raised over $13,000 for the Children’s Centers in Armenia for the global AGBU #CycleforWomen campaign. The new team is already leading the way and setting an excellent example for all young professional groups in the Western District.
AGBU Central Board member and keynote speaker for the conference, Yervant Demirjian welcomed everyone to the conference and told the story of his connection with AGBU. “My grandfather got me a membership for AGBU before I was given a birth certificate,” announced Demirjian. The purpose of Demirjian’s story was to stress the importance of volunteer involvement and its necessity for the continued success of the organization. After Demirjian’s speech, all groups in attendance were given a chance to speak during an Open Forum. The Forum was meant to hear the groups and understand the support that they need from the Western District in order to continue and grow.
Concluding the conference was AGBU Alumni Relations Coordinator, Christina Lalama, who made the trip out from New York to speak about Connecting with the Greater AGBU Network. Lalama provided an overview of all of AGBU global’s priority projects including alumni retention.
The AGBU Western District is proud to have hosted yet another successful district conference and looks forward to expanding its reach in the coming years.