Every year, to enhance the Armenian education they provide, AGBU’s schools and youth groups from around the world visit Armenia and carry out various charity projects. In 2015, more than 100 students together with their teachers and chaperons, from AGBU’s Vatche and Tamar Manoukian, Manoogian-Demirjian and Alex Manoogian Schools of USA, as well as Alex and Marie Manoogian School of Buenos Aires, spent time in Armenia, getting to know their homeland and creating closer bonds with their peers. 
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The official opening ceremony of the AGBU Vahe-Karapetian Center took place in Yerevan on September 24 attended by RA President Serzh Sargsyan, RA Diaspora Minister Hranoush Hakobyan, Mayor of Yerevan Taron Margaryan, AGBU President Berge Setrakian, US-based Armenian benefactor Vahe Karapetian, Member of AGBU Board of Trustees Karnig Yacoubian, AGBU Central Board Members Sinan Sinanian, Vasken Yacoubian and Yervant Zorian, as well as by more than 200 guests. American-Armenian benefactor Vahe Karapetian donated his building at 1 Zakaria Kanakertsi Street in Yerevan to the Armenian General Benevolent Union in 2014. It is now called “AGBU Vahe Karapetian Center” and occupies an area of 5500 sq. m. “This center will serve to strengthen ties between the youth of Armenia and Diaspora. Our main purpose is to bring students from various communities of the Diaspora to their Homeland, show them what it is like to live in Armenia and ensure their future communication and friendship with their Armenia-based peers. To serve this purpose we intend to hold various educational, cultural and networking initiatives inside the walls of this center”, AGBU President Berge Setrakian said. Welcoming speeches were made by AGBU President Berge Setrakian and benefactor Vahe Karapetian. The word of blessing of His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, was delivered by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, Primate of Tavoush Diocese. During the opening ceremony, Vahe Karapetian was awarded AGBU Golden medal and AGBU Benefactor Member certificate in appreciation of his benevolence.“I have never been an AGBU member, but this union has always been very close to my heart. For years, in the United States, whether on TV or elsewhere, I have always followed the activities carried out by AGBU, as an organization with a distinct policy and mechanism of national unity. I am familiar with the biography and activities of Boghos Nubar Pasha. We didn’t intend to build this into such a center. We worked very hard and I was very meticulous about this building. And then, when everything was ready, we just realized we didn't want to use it, neither did we want to give it out for rent, nor sell it. And I thought that I can only give it to AGBU - the organization that has always thought about the unity of our nation", Vahe Karapetian said. Accompanied by Berge Setrakian, Vahe Karapetian, Vasken Yacoubian and others, RA President Serzh Sargsyan toured the center, got acquainted with the facilities, as well as the programs to be implemented in the center. Serzh Sargsyan also visited the office of the “Syrian-Armenian Relief Coordination Center” NGO, which already operates in the AGBU Vahe Karapetian Center. AGBU Central Board Member Vasken Yacoubian presented the interior design concept of the 3rd building of the center, developed by “Storaket” Architectural Studio.
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On September 23, a new MRI unit was inaugurated at the Heratsi Hospital in Yerevan thanks to a $1.4 million donation by AGBU Board of Trustees Member Nazar Nazarian, his wife Artemis and their son, AGBU Central Board Member Dr. Levon Nazarian. The ceremony was attended by AGBU President Berge Setrakian, Minister of Education of the Republic of Armenia Armen Ashotyan, Minister of Health of the Republic of Armenia Armen Muradyan and Yerevan State Medical University (YSMU) Rector Mikayel Narimanyan. The MRI unit is an addition to the AGBU-YSMU Levon and Claudia Nazarian Radiology Center, founded in 2010, and will allow the center to perform medical tests unavailable at other hospitals in Armenia. The new device provides high quality images that enable accurate diagnoses. Narimanyan said that, due to the new MRI unit, doctors will be able to see cardiovascular pathologies at an earlier stage, observing changes, without endovascular interventions, that may lead to heart attack and stroke. “The machine is a 1.5 Tesla ‘high-field’ unit, and therefore, expands the range of MRI services that the hospital can offer patients,” said Dr. Levon Nazarian, a radiologist and vice chairman of the Department of Radiology at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. “State-of-the-art imaging is essential if Armenia is to be seen as a center of medical excellence.”
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For the third consecutive year French Simon Londre, has participated in the UGAB Jeunes’ (AGBU Youth of France) Arménie, Terre de Vie (Armenia, Land of Life) project. He spent his third summer in Armenia, helping to carry out a number of voluntary projects. This time he participated in the program as a veteran and was entrusted to lead this year’s Arménie, Terre de Vie team. We met Simon in the AGBU Yerevan office. In answer to our “bonjour”, we heard his “µ³ñ¨” in wonderfully pronounced Armenian. He was a little tired, but very happy. He came to the office directly from the construction site. Simon’s third visit to Armenia was a turning point for him. Being a son of catholic Jewish parents, Simon decided to be baptized in the Armenian church.

“I found a spiritual aura here, in Armenia, which I think every faith should have. I have never noticed such a thing in France. Church is not just a place for prayer for Armenians”, said Simon. The holy christening had taken place the day before at the Geghard Monastery. Simon was christened and received his new holy name: Azat, and in his own words he felt much freer. Before leaving AGBU he said “goodbye” to everyone in Armenian.

Arménie, Terre de Vie by AGBU Youth, France takes place once every two years. The first two programs took place in 2011 and 2013 respectively, during which, the program participants volunteered their time and service in construction, education, environmental and health programs around Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh (NKR), including the renovation of a two-storey Berdzor Youth Center in Artsakh, the partial renovation of AGBU and Mother See’s Malatya Children’s Center, solving part of the water supply and heating system issues, etc.
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The best way to discover Armenia in all its glory, its everyday life and traditions is, perhaps, participating in the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s (AGBU) various summer youth programs, one of which is simply called “Discover Armenia”. This year 50 young men and women participated in the 12th Discover Armenia (DA) Youth Program from the USA, France, United Kingdom, Lebanon, Canada, Dominican Republic and Turkey. As part of the three-week program, participants stayed at the newly-opened AGBU Vahe Karapetian Center. The AGBU Discover Armenia program is open to students, aged 15-18. Participation in voluntary community projects is one of the key components of the program. As part of the community projects the AGBU Discover Armenia Youth Program has cooperated with Fuller Armenia, reaching out to disadvantaged families with housing issues. This year support was offered to the Hayrapetyan family living in Khor Virap village. The family had dreamed of having their own home for 20 over years.

“I have been dreaming about this day for years. Now even my grandson has joined the volunteers in building our house, our own house. I have waited so long to have my own house. I am very grateful to everyone, all the organizers, sponsors, and of course, these young people”, says Raya Hayrapetyan, the new homeowner. One young man, 14-year-old Isahak Karadanayan, will be remembered for a long time to come. Isahak’s parents had given him some pocket money, and during the construction, he decided to give the money to the Hayrapetyan family. He wanted to help.

“I noticed that the family needed money, so I decided to give them some to make them happy. It’s so sad to see Armenian families in need. We should help each other, so that they become happy and enjoy their lives as well”, said Isahak.

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