An ambitious student at the AGBU Lazar Najarian-Calouste Gulbenkian school, Dr. Kalayjian participated in the Antranik Youth Association Scouts and sports leagues, making him a life-long member of AGBU. These early experiences inspired him to give back to the Armenian community of Aleppo by serving as a member of the District Committee of AGBU Aleppo and as chair of the AGBU Syria Health and Medical Committee, which provides medical and counseling services to families in need. This role has become crucial after the Syrian War devastated the economy and the resources available to patients. Now an obstetrician/gynecologist with his own medical dispensary, Dr. Kalayjian continues to carry the AGBU torch of the AGBU founders: to help ensure the prosperity and well-being of the Armenian people.
I call on future generations to stay true to the AGBU mission and serve the global Armenian nation. Be proud to be an Armenian, wherever you live.
What were the highlights of your early experience with AGBU? During my school years, I was active in the Antranik Youth Association (AYA) scouts and sports. I was also involved with the university students/youth movements and came to appreciate all the important humanitarian and educational initiatives of AGBU.
What motivates you to serve in the leadership of AGBU today? In addition to my work as a physician, I’m passionate about serving the Armenian community and playing an active role in the preservation of the Armenian identity. It is difficult to imagine our homeland Armenia and the Diaspora without AGBU’s contribution and presence. AGBU sided with all three republics in Armenia irrespective of the state of the regime or the internal politics of the country because serving the needs of the people was its priority.
How has AGBU’s presence in Syria touched and improved lives? AGBU’s presence in Syria has always been vital, but especially during the years of crisis. We intensified our humanitarian activities in Syria, when the entire county was witnessing the consequences of a decade-long war.
As a result of the deteriorating economic situation in the country, the role of the AGBU Syria Medical and Health Committee has become even more paramount. During the early years of the war, an emergency committee was established at our center by AGBU-affiliated doctors to provide emergency support to Syrian families. Every other month, we work to provide medicine to applicants and we financially contribute to the hospital for patients in need of surgery.
We also wanted to fight hunger and provide nutritious food to our community. The Kessab Summer Center, or Gaztourman Gayan, currently operates under the supervision of the Medical and Health Committee. In the pre-war years, this center hosted and fed vulnerable youth and children, acquainting them with the history of the AGBU and the organization’s activities in Syria and around the world.
Why is youth leadership development so important? Our young people are the cornerstone and the future of our organization. Through them, we will assure our continuity through AGBU and as a nation.
One way we encourage youth leadership is through Antranik Youth Association (AYA), an organization under the umbrella of AGBU. Through AYA, university students and youth committees organize lectures and social gatherings that empower Armenian youth. They are given the tools to collaborate, brainstorm and solve problems.
We are also keen on including the youth in decision-making processes and honoring their voices in order to make our Armenian community an inclusive space.
As a role model, what values do you wish to instill in our youth? I call on future generations to stay true to the AGBU mission and serve the global Armenian nation. Be proud to be an Armenian wherever you live. Even better, try to preserve and speak your ancestral language. Above all, stay united. As our AGBU motto says, “In unity is strength.”
Banner Illustration by Luis Tinoco