SOAR - Brussels Chapter

SOAR-Brussels became part of the SOAR family in December 2013. There are approximately 11,000 Armenians in Belgium today. The earliest records of Armenians in Belgium date to the 4th century, when Armenian priests, merchants, and intellectuals dropped anchor in Belgian ports. By the late 15th century, Armenians had established a hospice, and Armenian merchants started exporting cotton goods, spices, perfumes and other materials to markets in the East. The size of the Armenian community did not start growing considerably until the end of the First World War and the forced mass exodus of Armenians from Turkey following the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Armenians were known for trading diamonds, rugs, and tobacco. An Armenian church, “Eglise Armenienne Apostolique Sainte Marie-Madeleine” is the main church of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox community. It is related to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The church structure was erected and consecrated in May 1990.

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Board of Directors:

Vahagn AvetyanVahagn Avetyan

Vahagn Avetyan was born and raised in Yerevan, Armenia, but moved to Belgium, during his high school years. He did a BSc in Applied Economics and went on to work for the Ministry of Pensions, helping calculate pension plans for the population in French & Dutch. After three years of working there, he decided to take on a new career challenge and went to work for the Ministry of Justice as assistant to for the public prosecutor. He is passionate about everything related to Armenia and helping out little children in need in Armenia is something he would excel in. Vahagn speaks Armenian and Dutch on a bilingual level, Russian, French and English at an excellent working proficiency level and his talents for chess are quite unmatched as he was placed second in the provincial chess tournement in Belgium for several years in a row

Meri Sargsyan
Vice President

Meri Sargsyan was born in Armenia and moved to Brussels in 2005. She graduated from Armenian State Pedagogical University after Khachatur Abovyan. In Belgium she studied in VDAB improving her administrative, commercial, and Dutch skills.

In the beginning of Meri's work experience she worked for different companies in various departments: financial, warehouse, human resource, general administratration. For the past 15 years, she worked as a Business Travel Counselor, Sales and Service Agent working for Austrian Airlines in Armenia, for Tap Portugal, Kales Airline Services (GSA), and American Express Corporate Travel in Belgium. Today she is still working in the same sector.

Meri speaks Armenian, English, French, Russian and Dutch.
By joining SOAR, Meri wishes to help the orphaned children of her native land.

Joachim Berney

Joachim was born in Switzerland and got a Master's degree in Political Science at the University of Lausanne. Being very interested in the field of development and cooperation, he worked several months with a Swiss NGO in an educational centre in Nicaragua. His main activities and responsibilities included fundraising, working with children as well as teaching sports and English. Joachim is currently working in Brussels for the Mission of Switzerland to the European Union, as Attaché to the Science & Technology Counselor. By getting involved in SOAR, he wishes to support those who need it the most.

Sara Giovannini

Sara was born in Italy and moved to Brussels in 2013. She has a Master's Degree in International Relations from LUISS Guido Carli University and a Master's Degree in European Studies from the Italian-Belgian Chamber of Commerce and the Université catholique de Louvain. Being interested in the environment and development fields, she volunteered in Peru for 6 months and worked in different environmental NGOs in Italy and in Belgium. Currently Sara is working for the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. She speaks Italian, English, French and Spanish. Sara was introduced to SOAR by an Armenian friend and she decided to help in order to improve the lives of Armenian orphans.

Victoria Abrahamyan
Regional Director overseeing Fundraising/Event Planning Chapters in the Eastern Hemisphere

Victoria was born in Armenia and has lived Belgium since 2008. She has 2 Master degrees in Arabic and European Political and Administrative Studies from Yerevan State University and College of Europe (Belgium). Humanitarian work has always been her field. She has volunteered a few months at the Zatik orphanage in Yerevan, studied and worked for a year in Damascus and Beirut volunteering for local NGOs. For two years Victoria has worked in one of the centers of the Belgian Red Cross as a social assistant working with vulnerable groups of people such as asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants. For the last 3 years she has been working in the field of development and cooperation, previously as a Task manager for Central Asia, Asia and Middle East regional programmes at the European Commission, Directorate General for Development and Cooperation and currently at GIZ International Services, German Development Agency. She is fluent in English, French, German, Russian, Arabic and Armenian. By helping SOAR, Victoria wishes to bring a change to the lives of those who need it the most.

Heghine Evinyan

Heghine was born in Vanadzor, Armenia. After studying linguistics at Yerevan Brusov State University and journalism at West Texas A&M University, Heghine completed her Master’s Degree in European Studies at RWTH University in Aachen, Germany. Heghine moved to Belgium in 2009. Since then she has been assistant to an Austrian Member of the European Parliament. Prior to working at the European Parliament Heghine gained experience in various fields, including teaching English, working as a translator-journalist for a media broadcaster and assisting the director of a women’s rights NGO in Armenia. Heghine speaks Armenian, Russian, English, German and French.

The power of dreaming and hoping is immense. By helping SOAR Heghine hopes to make her little contribution to making the dreams of orphaned children in Armenia come true.

Nune Karakhanyan

Nune was born in Yerevan and moved to Brussels in 2010 to work at the Institute for European Studies. She has a Master's degree in International Relations from Uppsala University, Sweden and a second Master's degree in European Studies from LUISS Guido Carli University, Italy. Throughout her proffessional carreer Nune has been actively involved in international affairs and development issues working at the European Parliament and international consultancies in cooperation with the European Commission. Currently, Nune is working in the field of sustainable urban development. She speaks Armenian, Russian, English, French and Italian. By joining SOAR Nune wishes to render herself useful for her native land.

Lianna Margaryan

Lianna was born in Yerevan, Armenia. After graduating from the University with a diploma in International Law and International Relations, she worked in the public sector of Armenia. While working for the Ministry for Social Security, Lianna was concurrently involved in public works with a number of NGOs aiming at the protection of women’s and children’s rights. Knowing quite well the social sector and conditions in Armenia, the humanitarian work became a must in parallel with her career. She earned an advanced MA in International Relations and Diplomacy and currently is involved in work strengthening the links between Armenia and Europe.

Astrid Van Tornout

Astrid Van Tornout was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, but moved to Belgium when she was just 14. She is passionate about everything to do with her MSc in Industrial and Organisational Psychology and loves to work for humanitarian projects. She speaks English and Dutch at a bilingual level, has a good working proficiency in French & Afrikaans, and has a tiny bit of Armenian vocabulary.

Through Vahagn Avetyan, Astrid was introduced into the Armenian culture and it was his love of his homeland that convinced Astrid to take part in the SOAR group in Belgium.