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    Lerna spotlight

Unbreakable Bonds

Lerna Bagdjian

AGBU’s presence worldwide is a major asset. I feel just as much at home when I visit the AGBU school in Montevideo, as when I go to the AGBU offices in Yerevan to say hello to the team.

For the past year and a half, Lerna Bagdjian has been the chair of AGBU Geneva's Young Professionals (YP) committee, with whom she organizes events and activities aimed at strengthening Armenian identity. She has been involved with AGBU since her childhood, from the French Summer Camp to Arménie, Terre de Vie Program. Lerna also shares her experience as an architect with the global AGBU network.

How did you get involved with AGBU? Why were you drawn to the organization?

In Geneva, AGBU Switzerland is one of the organizations with the strongest roots in the Armenian community, chaired by Taline Avakian. When my sister and I were 7 and 9 years old, my mother wanted to send us to an Armenian summer camp, and Taline encouraged her to enroll us in the Colonie de Vacances of UGAB France (Summer French Camp) — a place where you cry when you arrive for fear of not making friends, and where you cry when you leave because you don't want to go back home!

My mother and her brother often took part in AGBU events in their youth, including the world sports games. I recently learned that my uncle used to be the Chair of AGBU Geneva for some time.                       

Can you please describe the goals of your chapter/district/committee and how it serves the local community?

Young Professionals (YP) Geneva is the only Armenian committee in Switzerland (along with YP Zurich) dedicated to young people. The committee was founded by Rubina Yacoubian, and she chaired it with great success for several years. At that time, I was just starting my architecture studies in Lausanne and wasn't yet attracted by this network. Nonetheless, I remember helping them out on several occasions by creating some communication flyers for their events.

The committee ceased to be active during the COVID period, but we decided to reactivate it a year and a half ago with an amazing team of six people. In a small community like Geneva, providing activities and a network for the new generation is essential.

The goal of YP Geneva is first and foremost to build a strong group of young people, offering projects that strengthen our Armenian-Swiss identity, but also the personal and professional development of everyone.

If you could describe your program in only 3 words, what would they be?

Solidarity, fulfillment, and a bridge.

Could you describe some of your recent achievements and future projects?

Recently, we organized the AGBU YP Swiss Connect, an event co-organized with YP Zurich, bringing together young professionals from all over Switzerland. It was the first event of this type for the Swiss Armenian community! The event brought together around 80 young people from seven different cities over one weekend. The next edition will take place in Zurich in 2024, and we can’t wait for it!

Alongside after-work parties and charity events, we're planning to set up a series of conferences on key trades in Geneva, to highlight both a young professional from our network and a professional well established in the sector.

From real estate to watchmaking to human rights, Geneva's areas of expertise are vast, and we look forward to learning more about the daily lives of our young professionals. We are also looking to offer events open to non-Armenians to raise awareness of our culture. Proceeds from these events would be dedicated to the Artsakh refugees in Armenia, to provide them professional reintegration assistance.

Finally, we are planning to organize a humanitarian trip to Armenia in 2024 with a group of young people from Switzerland, with the AGBU ACT program.

Is there anything you'd like people to know about AGBU?

AGBU's ability to offer programs that appeal to the widest range of profiles and all generations. It responds to the needs of the diaspora by offering linguistic, artistic, social, cultural, humanitarian, and professional programs ... The choice is very wide and targets all socio-professional categories.

AGBU’s presence worldwide is a major asset. I feel just as much at home when I visit the AGBU school in Montevideo, as when I go to the AGBU offices in Yerevan to say hello to the team.

How has your involvement with AGBU shaped who you are with your family, friends, and career?                                           

In the twelve years I've been taking part in the Colonie de Vacances, including five years as a counselor, I've built some very strong bonds with people, and I'm lucky enough to still count some of the camp's participants among my closest friends. I've been a camp participant, a volunteer for Arménie, Terre de Vie Program, and a YP Focus attendee, and each time I've created strong friendships. I also enjoy reconnecting with people I once knew through AGBU world events. It's the AGBU family spirit that makes me so proud to be part of this organization.

One of my most decisive experiences was the Volunteer Service Program Arménie, Terre de Vie, where I was lucky enough to be both a volunteer and co-manager. It not only strengthened my ties with Armenia, but also motivated me to pursue my personal and professional projects. Working with the existing architecture while preserving and enhancing it are themes that stimulate my daily life.

Discovering the Tavush region through this program shaped the theme of my theoretical statement for my master’s degree at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). It was focusing on the links between ideology, landscape, and the appropriation of a place, with the city of Ijevan and its territory as a case study — a subject that fascinated my teachers!

I hope to have the opportunity to continue my research projects in Armenia, which combine architecture, history, cartography, and social impact.

December 27, 2023