26 June 2017

An update from the Director

Two countries, three public events and 24 meetings...

Routine work-related travel is mostly about meeting people, building relationships and following up with partners and projects. It is, however, particularly rewarding when I get the chance to participate in the launch of new initiatives and in conferences that present pioneering research. 

Between 19 and 31 May I was in Lebanon for a few days, visited Armenia, and then returned to Lebanon before heading back home to Lisbon. Twelve days was not enough to visit all the initiatives we support in these countries (and a short report cannot possibly do justice to the many meetings held and events attended), but I do wish to highlight some elements of our work.

Following up on our continuing commitment to work with Armenian schools in Lebanon, and driven by local needs, we launched with Haigazian University the Professional Development Programme for Teachers of the Armenian Schools in Lebanon (Լիբանանահայ Վարժարաններու Ուսուցիչներու Մասնագիտական Մշակումի Ծրագիր). Over a period of one year, up to 150 teachers will benefit from this programme led by local and international experts in education. The aim is to strengthen Armenian schools by investing in their teachers.

During the second leg of my trip to Lebanon, I had to switch gears from pedagogy to academic research to give the opening lecture for the conference “Armenians of Iraq” organised by the Armenian Diaspora Research Centre of Haigazian University. It was a rare opportunity for me to combine my role as a representative of the Foundation with that of a former academic who has worked on diaspora-related issues. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation has been funding such conferences, and the publications that emanate from them, to encourage research on the Armenian diaspora.

It was also encouraging to visit the new Armenian “Miatsyal” school in Bourj Hamoud (opening its doors in September), visit some other Armenian schools in Beirut and meet community leaders.

In Armenia, I was pleased to be part of the conference “End of Transition: Armenia, 25 Year on, Now What?” organised by University of Southern California’s Institute of Armenian Studies. I spoke about broader issues, “Transition: Trends and Lessons,” drawing on my previous experience in this field. I also followed up on the work of the Secretariat we have helped to set up at the Ministry of Diaspora that is working on Armenia’s national strategy and integration plan for refugees from Syria. Follow-up meetings were held with other partners as well, including Wikimedia on the upcoming wiki writing camp in France, Boon TV on its educational on-line courses, and HySpell on its progress on making Armenian spellcheckers available for free to a wide variety of users (part of our “Armenian language in the digital age” initiative).

Finally, and importantly, with the American University of Armenia’s (AUA) programme “Certificate in Translation,” we launched the “Calouste Gulbenkian Translation Series Internship” to help us with the administration of the initiative, so that we do not fall further behind in its implementation. The partnership with the AUA will help us achieve our goal of making important social science texts in western languages available in Armenian.

My next trip is going to be closer to home, to France, to take part for at least a few days in the Zarmanazan summer camp on Western Armenian. The month-long initiative, which has both a children’s component and a teacher training component, is the culmination of a year of planning and preparation involving over 80 individuals of various ages simultaneously learning, teaching, creating and living in Western Armenian. I am certainly looking forward to that!


Razmik Panossian, Director 

Updated on 27 June 2017