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Armenian Spiritual Revival Foundation – a new future-oriented initiative by Noubar Afeyan

Noubar Afeyan, the Founder and CEO of a number of successful biotech companies, such as Flagship Pioneering, and co-Founder of many philanthropic initiatives such as the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, has established another future-oriented initiative – the Armenian Spiritual Revival Foundation.

The inaugural ceremony for this newly launched Foundation, attended by the Armenian Minister of Health Anahit Avanesyan, Mission Director of USAID/Armenia John Allelo, UNICEF Representative in Armenia Christine Weigand, and many of the Foundation’s local and international partners, mental health experts and beneficiaries, was held in Matenadaran on May 17.

The main goal of the event was to present the work done by the Foundation in the preceding months, with a special emphasis on the novel approach to mental health issues, named a “psycho-spiritual revival” journey.

In his welcoming remarks Dr Noubar Afeyan highlighted that the roots of this initiative have been laid well before the 2020 war and that this had been a natural continuation of many successful projects he and his partners, including Ruben Vardanyan – now illegally kept in captivity in Azerbaijan, had so far launched and supported in Armenia. The goal of the Revival Foundation, in his words, is to support those who pass through survival challenges and associated psychological traumas due to the war or its consequences, and are willing to chart a new path in their lives through a psycho-spiritual healing and recovery journey.

“The origins of this initiative stem from the absolute shock and trauma that we all experienced in 2020, then again in 2022, when Azerbaijan made the life of our compatriots in Artsakh unbearable. I mean the war, then the invasion of the territory of Armenia, and then the ethnic cleansing that we witnessed in September, 2023. I thought we would never again witness such things, after experiencing great suffering 100 years ago and undergoing a century of recovery…”, – Dr Afeyan said.

The global mission of the Armenian Spiritual Revival Foundation is to transform modern approaches to mental health recovery in post-crisis situations, creating and implementing innovative psycho-spiritual approaches. The Foundation develops and implements unique and innovative mental health programs rooted in psychology, the Armenian survivalist experience, and the centuries-old traditions and spiritual values of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Foundation was established by the blessings of the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II and implements its programs in close partnership with the Armenian Apostolic Church.

“Our history has shown us that we can recover. My friend Noubar is the best example of this. I was lucky to get to know many Armenians, the children and grandchildren of Genocide survivors… they succeeded and had been supportive not only to Armenia, but to the whole world. Our people’s past conveys the message that it is possible to overcome anything – by faith and hope”, – said His Grace Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, who has served more than two decades as Primate of the Eastern Diocese in the United States, and for a number of years now has been in Vatican as Pontifical Legate of the Western Europe and Representative of the Armenian Church to the Holy See. Archbishop Khajag is also a Co-Founder and Board Member at the Revival Foundation.

In close cooperation with the most leading Armenian and international experts, the Armenian Spiritual Revival Foundation supports its beneficiaries in finding their way to post-traumatic recovery, helping people overcome post-war and post-traumatic mental health challenges. Among the diverse international partners of the Foundation, Dulwich Center Foundation in Australia – the home of narrative therapy – stands out. Its co-director, a renowned narrative therapy expert David Denborough sent a welcome video message to the participants at the inaugural event to express their full support to aspirations both in Armenia and global outreach thereafter.

The Foundation offers to its beneficiaries a uniquely “Armenian path” of psycho-spiritual revival, a journey that spans over three months, but really does not end there. The programs are fully needs-based and beneficiaries join any or all of the three segments of intensive rounds of engagement, namely:

— A six-week “Revival” program, where a re-trained narrative therapy expert works with a group of 10-12 people, to support them in a journey of rediscovery of their own resources and finding better ways of re-authoring more viable narratives of their own lives;

— A special two-day “Strive” program, with participation of about 30 participants, and a diverse group of narrative experts including therapists, history experts and clergymen, aims to help participants in their spiritual and personal growth through Armenian cultural metaphors and stimulates ‘active historical thinking’ to form common bonds among people and overcome trauma.

— Last but not least, the “Thrive” program involves the participants of two prior stages and their invited guests to partake, as outsider witnesses to their own trauma and revival, in an engaging event to plant seeds of their resilient community networks.

The above is a non-exhaustive description of the revival journey that the Foundation, in close partnership with the Armenian Church and international partners, has designed to offer a way out to many of those who experience post-war mental health distress.

“This initiative, as a missing element, creates a full cycle to a number of successful initiatives that Noubar and his partners have implemented in Armenia and Artsakh for decades. Our Foundation is future-oriented too, like other programs. The beneficiaries of our programs are all those who need revival and a path to thriving. The Foundation offers its beneficiaries a simple formula: we support you today, and when you recover, take it as an honor to lend your hand to someone else in need,” – summarized Hovhannes Nikoghosyan, the Executive Director of the Foundation.

In-sync with the symbolism of the day, a Memorandum of cooperation was signed with Matenadaran. Ara Khzmalyan, the director of Matenadaran, remarked about overlapping objectives with the newly created Foundation in helping our compatriots to re-discover the richness of Armenian historical experience.

In the past months, piloting different elements of its novel approach and vision, the Foundation has implemented diverse projects for a wide scope of beneficiaries. About 14 community psycho-educational events with the active participation of around 1000 people was organised in six communities. A platform with online mental health tests on www.revival.am website was launched, with about 9,500 people already used it for their own benefit. Many of them also applied and received group support through the Foundation’s programs in Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor, Abovyan, Masis and Armavir. Absolute majority of the participants reported increased mental health wellbeing following their engagement in Foundation programs. This and many other projects implemented by the Foundation are meticulously designed to ensure confidentiality and best interest of beneficiaries.

The Foundation aims to gradually expand the geography of the projects, beginning September 2024.

In parallel to main projects, the Foundation implemented a special Rapid Response program designed for Armenians forcibly displaced from Artsakh in September 2023.

Eighteen psychologists from Artsakh were trained and in the previous months provided free-of-charge psychological support to about 500 forcibly displaced adults from Artsakh (in partnership with AGBU) and about 160 children. A special program was also implemented for about 150 ‘first responders’ who are involved in daily work with people displaced from Artsakh. Support programs for Artsakh Armenians will also be mainstreamed.

The May 17 event marked the beginning of a new phase for the Foundation – with larger scope of projects and wider scope of beneficiaries. Revival Foundation’s website – www.revival.am – soon to be available in English too – will offer a more comprehensive overview on many of the projects implemented by the Foundation.


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