18 Jun, 2019

Building Bridges Empowers Our Youth and Fosters a Deeper Connection between the Diaspora and Armenia
 

Sightings of leopards like this in Khosrov Forest are a conservation success story, and Armenia has declared 2019 to be the Year of the Caucasian Leopard! (Camera trap photo by WWF Armenia)

By Jeanmarie Papelian, Executive Director

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” We find these words by the late revolutionary political leader Nelson Mandela to be a source of inspiration.

Back in 2010, with the support of the Thomas A. Kooyumjian Family Foundation, ATP launched the Building Bridges education program in the diaspora. Building Bridges focuses on raising environmental awareness among students outside Armenia, while providing them the opportunity to be connected with likeminded students in Armenia.

School groups are invited to plant trees in Armenia while making connections with their peers. We also offer a free Teacher Kit which provides training and classroom materials that guide environmental learning and emphasize the importance of global citizenry in maintaining a healthy environment.

The latest Building Bridges newsletter is one of the educational resources we developed for the program. This edition focuses on the important theme of Forest and Wildlife Preservation. The illustrations and characters were developed by artist Alik Arzoumanian and Sarah Hayes, ATP’s West Coast Operations Manager.

The newsletter features stories with characters like Aram, Maral, and Tchalo, a gampr dog who has been teaching about fire prevention. The newsletter is distributed free of charge to students, and is available in PDF format on our website (click here) or by contacting one of our offices.

A jaw-dropping example featured in the newsletter is the Caucasian Leopard. The photo of this magnificent animal was taken with a motion-activated “camera trap” by experts at World Wide Fund for Nature aka WWF Armenia.

The Caucasian Leopard is a subspecies listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The leopard pictured here, nicknamed Leo/Neo, has found his way back home to Armenia’s famed Khosrov Forest! It’s a conservation success story, and Armenia has declared 2019 to be the Year of the Caucasian Leopard.

Our Building Bridges program is now in more than 150 schools in North America, including day schools, Saturday schools, Sunday schools, and even non-Armenian public schools. It is led by ATP’s team in Woburn and Los Angeles, which includes the remarkable Anahit Gharibyan. Anahit was ATP’s first employee in Armenia. She is a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for our cause and, since relocating to the US, has introduced ATP to thousands of students.

The newsletter encourages students to participate in the “coin box challenge.” We ask young people to pay it forward by using the foldable donation box to collect modest sums of money for our programs in Armenia. When students send their donation boxes in to our headquarters in Woburn, I usually jump for joy about their proactive work, and send them personalized Building Bridges certificates thanking them for helping us plant trees.

We also offer to feature students on our website in recognition of their volunteer efforts. We’re planning to highlight the student who raises the most money with a feature story in the next edition of the newsletter. The winner of the coin bank challenge will be announced in September, so please share this information with a budding environmentalist in your family or community!

As you may know, this year is ATP’s 25th anniversary. We’re planning events in several communities so stay tuned for details. In the meantime, we launched this new website, and I invite you to check out the “Kids and Family” tab at for more educational information and activities.

Of course these youth programs require ongoing support, and I invite you to make a gift to bring Building Bridges to more students in the diaspora. Please support ATP’s education programs with a donation to empower our youth, foster a deeper connection between the diaspora and Armenia, and raise awareness about our rich natural heritage.

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