Visit to Lebanon

19 – 25 September 2023

17 oct 2023

The Director of the Armenian Communities Department of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (henceforth CGF), Razmik Panossian, along with its Senior Programme Officer responsible for Western Armenian initiatives, Ani Garmiryan, visited Lebanon between the 19th and 25th of September 2023. They were joined by the Department’s focal point in Lebanon, Kayane Madzounian. The purpose of the five-day working visit was threefold: to follow up on existing projects with schools, community organisations and other institutions; to provide a ten-year progress report on the activities of the Department; and to develop new ideas for upcoming programming based on consultations with a wide array of individuals, including the youth of the community.


The CGF team visited four Armenian schools which had received grants from the Foundation to develop new educational programmes: the AGBU school, the Yeghishe Manouguian College, the Hamazkayin M. and H. Arslanian College (Djemaran), and the Armenian Evangelical Secondary school in Anjar. The four establishments have been working on innovative pedagogic programmes for teaching in Western Armenian. The meetings with the administrators and academic teams addressed the challenges of developing and implementing the new programmes and the possibilities of disseminating them beyond their respective schools.

Community Centres

The CGF team visited three major partner institutions which offer critical services to the Armenian community: the Howard Karagheusian Association, which caters to psychological needs and works closely with children with learning difficulties; the Zvartnots Centre for Special Education, which offers programmes for children with disabilities and hosts a unique multisensory room; the Jinishian Memorial Foundation which addresses critical social issues, with particular emphasis on vulnerable youth.

LAU Teacher Development Programme

The CGF team attended the closing symposium of the two-year teacher development programme devised and implemented by the Lebanese American University (LAU) and funded by the Foundation. The two-day event included presentations by some of the 23 trained teachers, academic lectures, and CGF staff on pedagogic tools and materials it had sponsored. The closing ceremony ended with the distribution of course completion certificates.

Youth Event

CGF organised an informal gathering with young people between the ages of 18 and 35. Nearly 50 Armenian women and men attended the meeting to discuss their concerns and aspirations. The gathering was an important opportunity for the Foundation to hear directly from the youth as it develops funding priorities for Lebanon in the context of its new five-year strategic plan. The Department will situate the youth at the centre of its programming.  

Public Event

The highlight of CGF’s visit was a public event that took place on the 22nd of September in Bourj Hammoud. Approximately 70 people attended the event. For the first time, the Gulbenkian team presented the ten-year report of the Armenian Department’s activities and its overall direction for the next five years. What was planned and achieved was presented by Razmik Panossian, including an overview of the principal activities. He discussed some of the details of the Department’s budget and described how strategic planning is undertaken within the Foundation.

Kayane Madzounian focused on the Department’s Lebanon strategy and activities, reviewing key initiatives. Ani Garmiryan presented the main educational programmes supported by the Department, highlighting the importance of pedagogic tools and materials for the Western Armenian language.

From 2014 to 2023, approximately 4.5 million Euros was spent in Lebanon on various projects and scholarships. That is about 18% of the Armenian Department’s entire budget.

In his final note, Razmik Panossian communicated the Department’s vision for the future: “To strengthen Armenian language, culture and education in the Diaspora, and foster research and critical thinking in Armenia.” This entails a Diaspora that not only survives but thrives, with a Western Armenian-speaking nucleus that creates culture in the language and a sustainable, open and progressive Armenia.

The event ended with questions and comments from the audience.

The Armenian community of Lebanon remains an essential hub of the Western Armenian language and culture despite the many challenges faced by the community and the country in general. CGF’s five-day working visit to Lebanon affirmed the Foundation’s commitment to this unique community, with its thick web of Armenian-speaking institutions, schools and individuals.

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