A strong Armenia means a thriving Armenia and a thriving diaspora because after all, there is strength in numbers.
Natasha Der Avedissian is based in London working for a HNW family. Prior to that, Natasha was based in Cyprus where she spent 15 years in the events industry working both as a freelancer and full timer. Her main area of expertise is event operations and her portfolio comprises a wide range of global events, including corporate events, weddings and large-scale expos. Driven by her passion, Natasha has been an active member of AGBU since 2017 and volunteers with other non-profit organizations that are close to her heart.
How and when did you first get involved with AGBU and why were you drawn to the organization?
My family has always been involved with AGBU, especially my mum who was active with the organization in Iran and later in Cyprus. She is the driving force behind the annual dinner and dance organized on Armenian Christmas Eve. What I like about AGBU is that it’s non-political. The only criteria needed is that you want to get involved in your local Armenian community. I love the simplicity of it. If you’re willing and able, you’re welcome. That small step leads to great efforts both for your local community and Armenia as a whole. At the end of 2017, I got involved with AGBU when a group of us came together to launch AGBU Young Professionals in Cyprus. We were few but motivated and excited at the potential of bringing the community together and connecting to the wider YP community. I became Chairperson of the group and remained so up until I moved to London in 2021. Once I got settled in London, Heghine, who coordinates the global AGBU YP network, suggested I get involved with the committee here as well. I must confess I wasn’t keen on becoming an active member again. I was looking to support activities rather than be part of the organizing. But the YP network is contagious, and I missed being a part of it, so here I am, on the committee as Vice Chair.
Can you describe the activities of YP Cyprus and YP London?
Under YP Cyprus, we mainly organized social events. One of our most popular events was Bingo night, which we did at the AGBU club in Nicosia. Sometimes, we did it with the support of AGBU Nicosia and sometimes we ran it on our own. Each time, people of all ages came and for many it was an evening of nostalgia to reminisce on the days when Bingo nights were a regular event. Another successful event was the Tavli competition, where Armenians and non-Armenians took part. Tavli is one of our favorite pastimes on the island.
We also supported AGBU Nicosia’s fundraising activities with bake sales which brought women of all ages together – 90s, 80s, 70s, to children as young as 6/7 years old helping out. Our committee had its share of strong women and we also wanted to run an event in honor of Women’s Day. In 2019, we organized a talk on Equality vs. Fairness and in 2020, just before the first major lockdown on the island, we organized a panel discussion, “Women Taking Lead” which featured female entrepreneurs who were connected to the Armenian community. We considered this one of our more successful events because, like with the Tavli competition, we saw many non-Armenians in attendance.
I’m still a “newbie” to London so I can only speak for the events we’ve organized since joining the committee. The social events have been particularly great because people are still reconnecting since the COVID measures were lifted back in February. One of the more recent events we organized was part of the YP Connect campaign. We hosted a panel discussion on “Effective Networking” which sold out days before the event. We’re now preparing for our next event, Jingle & Mingle the YP Way. We’re going to end the year with a bang!
As an alumni of the Goriz Leadership Development Program, could you please describe how the program contributed to your professional and/or personal development?
I participated in the 2019 program which comprised of one seminar in Brussels and one in Yerevan. The course was great but the experience goes beyond the course content. It’s also the connection and the network that you build through bonding and memories. Whenever I think about the program, I smile because we had such a good time. Some of the participants I already knew, but the Goriz program gave me a unique opportunity to get to know these individuals in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise. On a professional level, there were two things that stood out to me. The first was the importance of recharging your energy and then reframing situations. I am a high-energy person, but I forget to recharge — and Goriz taught me the importance or recharging, which only increases productivity. Learning how to reframe situations was also important because it’s easy to get caught up in moments, especially when working in high-stress environments. Anyone working in events can tell you that the industry is built on stress and especially once onsite, you function purely on adrenaline, which means your judgement can get clouded. Learning to reframe situations means before you react, take a minute or two to reframe the scenario and then make decisions to have a better impact on productivity or reaching a solution. Goriz is a great program for Armenian young professionals to learn and grow within an Armenian environment.
How has your involvement with AGBU shaped who you are with your family, your friends and in your career?
I didn't grow up in an Armenian environment in the sense that I didn’t go to the Armenian schools in Cyprus. But I grew up in an Armenian household. Being involved with AGBU made me feel that I didn't have to speak Armenian to be Armenian. You can speak it, but you don't have to be perfect at it. You don't have to be Armenian Orthodox or religious or this or that. You have to have what I call “the calling” — that “Armenian calling” within you that says, “I'm Armenian, I feel it with every fiber in my being and I don't know how I want to help but I want to do something.” Through AGBU you get to do that, whether it's for your local community or for the country itself. And then, you have the AGBU network, the global network of all types of incredible people. It makes you feel part of something that is beyond just being Armenian. In whatever way you are involved with the organization, you learn skills that you can carry throughout your life and apply across the board, especially in your professional and personal life. I’ve always been a person that likes to help people. But more so now than ever, my attitude is that if I’m in a position to help, I have to help.
What is one thing about AGBU that you wish people knew?
I wish people knew more about the intricacies of what it takes to keep a beast like this going. AGBU is a charitable organization with a history that runs for more than 100 years. There are huge financial efforts that go beyond just the fundraising and donations. Smart business, moving with the times, and being adaptable are key to AGBU’s growth and legacy building — which will see it through to another 100 years. This is why for me, it’s one of the easiest Armenian organizations to be affiliated with. I am accepted as Armenian regardless of whether I am 100% Armenian or not, speak Western or Eastern dialect, Orthodox or not, political or non-political, the focus is on the future and the strength of global Armenia.
In your opinion, what are the strongest assets of AGBU and which programs would you like to see developed in the future?
I would say the strongest asset of AGBU is its people — all these volunteers who dedicate time away from their families, children, friends, careers, etc. to support the organization. From children to teenagers to people in their 60s, 70s and 80s, it’s remarkable the level of commitment and support they give to AGBU. There are so many programs already, but I think I would like to see more programs in the diaspora, especially in the ones that are not as strong as the Lebanese or French-Armenian communities. I'd suggest programs that increase economic and educational opportunities for young people to build wealth and affluence. A strong Armenia means a thriving Armenia and a thriving diaspora because after all, there is strength in numbers.