No matter where globetrotter Hripsime Nourikian finds herself, AGBU is never far away. Whether it was studying at the Melkonian Educational Institute in Cyprus, working at the AGBU Head Office in New York City, or founding the AGBU Plovdiv Dance Group for Ladies in her native Bulgaria, she is always looking for ways to engage other Armenians in their community. In addition to volunteering, Nourikian writes for the AGBU Plovdiv bi-monthly newspaper AGBU Voice as a correspondent and regular contributor.
I believe to continue the legacy of our ancestors is a privilege that is given to every Armenian worldwide.
What do you enjoy most about volunteering with AGBU? By far, working with the youth. A couple of years ago, to serve as an example for our youth who dance at the AGBU Dance Group for Children, a group of mothers formed their own Dance Group—‘Nreni’. We gather once to twice a week and the two dance groups rehearse together to instill a love for Armenian music and dance. We have a number of festivals and cultural events that we participate in and represent our cultural heritage through dance. I have also organized fundraisers in the past few years, helping young Armenians from Bulgaria participate in AGBU programs in Armenia—Discover Armenia, Yerevan Summer Internship Program, and Cultural Forums for the Youth. I believe to continue the legacy of our ancestors is a privilege that is given to every Armenian worldwide. Involving the youth gives every community the chance to bloom and provides hope for the future.
How would you describe the Armenian Community in Bulgaria? The Armenian community in Bulgaria has a lot to catch up on compared to Western communities in the Diaspora. The political regime in Bulgaria up until 1990 repressed ethnic development and our community in Bulgaria suffered a great deal as a result. After 1990, the community and Armenian organizations that were reestablished, have had the difficult task of reviving themselves. Living in a country that is economically challenged has hindered that process. After almost 30 years, however, AGBU Plovdiv has been able to stand out as a leader in the community by establishing associated chapters in five cities in Bulgaria, including Haskavo, Sliven, Dobrich and Rousse, in addition to Armenian Saturday schools, publishing a bi-monthly newspaper AGBU Voice, maintaining an online news platform Gantegh Araratian, Dance Groups, Womens’ Clubs, and helping young Armenians participate in international programs such as Camp Nubar, Goriz, Discover Armenia, Ari Tun, and other Summer Internship Programs. Integrating that AGBU global vision into the local Armenian community is a recipe for success.
What concrete steps can Armenians take to help the community flourish? The best way to sustain smaller Armenian communities like in Bulgaria is through art and cultural programs. They have a vast following in the community. They also provide exposure to the Armenian language and history in ways that are easily accessible to young Armenians. This gives them the option to showcase Armenian culture to the public at large, beyond the community.
What are your future plans? To continue challenging our youth with activities and projects that will help them identify as Armenians wherever they happen to be in the world.
Banner Illustration by Luis Tinoco