CYSCA Annual Meeting in Cambridge
by Nancy Kalajian
The 31st Annual Meeting of the Cambridge-Yerevan Sister City Association (CYSCA) took place on Thursday, evening, June 22, at Johnson Hall at Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church in Cambridge. During a brief business meeting, CYSCA President Alisa Stepanian gave welcoming remarks. Suzanne “Suzy” Pearce, one of CYSCA’s founders, passed away last year; Suzy was honored for her dedication and decades of service as a CYSCA Board of Director and has been greatly missed by all whose lives she touched. Patricia Nolan, CYSCA Member Ex Officio and longtime member of the Cambridge School Committee was recognized; over the years, she has been active in hosting CYSCA guests visiting from Armenia.
An update and annual report of the Armenia School Aid Project (ASAP) was given by Jack Medzorian. Founded in 1994, ASAP continues its successful 24th year in aiding needy schools in Armenia. In 2016, ten schools in the region of Berd and nearby frontier villages received donations from ten sponsors totaling $9,000. In April 2017, Eva and Jack Medzorian visited the same region again and distributed $10,500. of aid from 22 sponsors to 11 schools. Funds provided assistance to different schools in a wide gamut of ways including repair of toilets, replacing crumbling windows with new ones, installing a new fresh drinking water line and even providing refrigerators and stoves for a school lunchroom. The school communities are ever so grateful for this generous assistance. As an aside, Jack shared that Vigen Sargsyan, previously Chief of Staff to President Serge Sargsyan, is now Armenia’s Minister of Defense. Vigen first came to the USA in 1994, as part of the first CYSCA student exchange.
For the eighth consecutive year, CYSCA participated in the well-regarded Cambridge Science Festival. CYSCA organized a panel discussion on lightning, climate change and other scientific challenges at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and invited world-renowned Dr. Ashot Chilingarian from Yerevan, Director of the Yerevan Physics Institute and head of its Cosmic Ray Division to be on the panel. Joining him were experts from MIT, the University of New Hampshire and the Florida Institute of Technology. The panel discussion was skillfully and enthusiastically moderated by Mike Wankum, chief meteorologist at WCVB Channel 5 in Boston, attracting over 100 participants.
During Dr. Chilingarian’s stay, CYSCA also organized his visits to various universities including MIT, UNH and Worcester Polytechnic Institute where he gave talks to colleagues and graduate students. He also visited the MIT Haystack Observatory and the Museum of Science. Discussions were held for potential collaborations and visits to Armenia by climate change experts.
For the 2016 Cambridge Science Festival, CYSCA hosted solar energy expert Dr. Artak Hambarian of AUA and local counterparts in a fascinating panel discussion on renewable energy held at Lesley University in Cambridge.
In May 2016, with funding from Open World, CYSCA hosted a group of young experts in the field of disabilities and inclusion. Over a period of eight days and twenty-five meetings, they met with local counterparts, such as the Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities; State Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities; Disability Law Center of MA; Boston Center for Independent Living; Charles River Center, Arc of MA and Perkins School for the Blind. A panel discussion took place on May 26 at NAASR, during which guests shared their experiences in Boston and the realities in Armenia. The experts have brought back to Armenia the lessons learned in the Boston area. CYSCA is very appreciative to the host families, and visits that took place to Boston area historic/cultural sites.
CYSCA announced that Open World recently granted CYSCA a fourth grant, this time for a Media Literacy program for five young professionals from Armenia that will take place in the Boston area from September 28 – October 5, 2017. An important goal of the program is to develop leadership capability of young professionals by engaging them with US counterparts, and an intense program of visits and meeting with various individuals and organizations in the greater Boston area has been planned. Host families are needed and the experience gives both visitors and locals the opportunity to share learnings, forge cultural connections and friendships.
For further information on CYSCA membership or becoming a host family, please contact email@example.com or check www.cambridgeyerevan.org
The minutes, financial report and operating budget were reviewed and accepted. The 2017-2018 slate for the CYSCA Board of Directors was accepted and include Nathan Allukian, Isabelle Hamel, Nancy Kalajian, Philip Ketchian, Eva Medzorian, Jack Medzorian, Ashot Papoyan, Alisa Stepanian and Scott Yerganian.
After the CYSCA annual meeting, guest speaker Brian Corr, Executive Director, Cambridge Peace Commission, discussed the importance of sister city relationships, shared values and the future. Mr. Corr discussed the peace movement in the 1980s, the importance of people to people relationships and formation of sister city relationships. He praised the distinct accomplishments of CYSCA, their continuous commitment to their mission and “ongoing connections with the city of Cambridge.” Mr. Corr continued, “You are so good at supporting people in need.”
Mr. Corr conducted an interactive activity and asked attendees to pair up to discuss what brought them to the CYSCA annual meeting. Responses were varied and ranged from an interest in citizen exchange to getting involved with a group that was not political. During a post-meeting reception, participants reflected on CYSCA and its noteworthy accomplishments.
“We are very pleased to be going strong after 30 years and to be the most active sister city organization in Cambridge. Our programs have allowed for numerous follow-on projects in Armenia. We look forward to another 30 years.” CYSCA President Alisa Stepanian remarked.