State Magazine April 2014 : Page 31

youth empowerment and crowdfunding during a recent visit of U.S. documentary filmmakers who themselves had crowdfunded their successful film “Brooklyn Castle.” They showed the film to local audiences and held a workshop for civil society leaders on how to take advantage of these funding platforms. The post will help train exchange program alumni on these platforms to establish counseling services on crowdfunding for local groups, and bring an expert U.S. speaker to Armenia for its “Crowdfunding Week.” The embassy’s local employees and American staff have engaged in several outreach and social service activities. Their community service organization, Helping Hands, provides volunteer assistance on projects with schools, orphanages and sports and women’s centers. The post’s health unit staff has offered CPR and first-aid training, and embassy volunteers have helped wash windows, paint walls and do other tasks. Helping Hands has partnered with TOMS Shoes, Fuller Center for Housing and the Sistema Armenia, a music group, and embassy spouses helped establish the International Women’s Association of Yerevan, which conducts fundraisers for local service groups. With the post’s help, Armenian children are using MIT Media Lab software to connect with American youths in a Frenzy of Friendship event celebrating 20 years of diplomatic relations. And the Art in Embassies program’s collection at the ambassador’s residence focuses on artists with special needs, including physically and mentally challenged Armenian artists. The embassy also partnered with the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets to display wildlife paintings by Armenian children on the outer embassy walls. Embassy Yerevan’s mix of traditional and unconventional partnerships double American dollars, presence and impact, as the post seeks alternative ways to help Armenians transform themselves from consumers of government services to citizens who can participate in and influence change. This may help explain why Embassy Yerevan was recently voted the most active foreign embassy in Armenia by a major local media group. Above: Edmond Gevorgyan, left, shows Mrs. Heffern and Ambassador Heffern his artwork, which adorns the embassy front foyer and was organized by the Founda-tion for the Preservation of Wildlife NGO, one of the embassy’s nontraditional part-ners; Below : From left, Foreign Service Specialist Lilit Ohanyan, Ambassador Heffern and DCM Clark Price address students and NGO leaders during a crowdfunding event that was also a Web chat. Photos by Avetik Petrosian Ambassador Heffern greets students taking part in a cross-border video conference. Photo by Avetik Petrosian STATE MAGAZINE // APRIL 2014 29

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