SOAR - East Asia Chapter

East Asia joined the SOAR family in May 2015. Relative to the Western world, there is a small Armenian community among countries in East Asia. SOAR-East Asia brings together dedicated volunteers who, despite significant distance from their ancestral homeland, have a special place in their hearts for orphaned Armenian children. SOAR-East Asia is comprised of volunteers in China, Japan, and Hong Kong.

There are about 500 Armenians currently living in Mainland China and Hong Kong. This Armenian community, commonly referred to as ChinaHay, regularly organizes events across China. While the current community is relatively small, Armenians have held a historical presence in China for many centuries. A limited number of Armenians settled in Manchuria during the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway in 1898. Their main settlement was in Harbin. After the Russo-Japanese war, the number of Armenians increased, which necessitated the creation of an organization for the purpose of helping needy countrymen and the preservation of their national heritage. The Armenian National Organization (ANO) was founded in 1917 and its statute approved by the local authorities in 1919. By 1923, the ANO built its own church and adjacent to it a social hall. Because most of the members of the Armenian colony lived in Harbin, which had the only Armenian Church in China, Harbin became the center of Armenians in China. One of the main tasks of the ANO was to solve the problems of assistance to the elderly, the poor, and the orphans. The Board organized social events and staged national and literary plays, performed by the youth group in Armenian. On national and religious holidays, tea parties were organized. Classes to study Armenian language and literature were held and theatrical plays were performed at the prestigious Commercial Club and the Tchurin Club.

There is also much Armenian history in Shanghai. The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) had a chapter in Shanghai as early as 1920. It was the houses initially set up by the ARS that eventually became the Armenian Club of Shanghai. Its purpose was twofold: first, it helped refugees get settled into their new surroundings; and second, it served as a meeting place for like-minded people to gather and exchange stories. Following the Communist takeover in 1949, most of the Armenians left China (mainly for San Francisco), and the community ended up being only 50 person strong. There is today an active chapter in Shanghai of the Armenian community of China.

There has been an Armenian community of various sizes in Hong Kong since the 19th century. For most of the second half of the 20th century, Hong Kong was a natural trading hub for Armenians from all around the world, and a small community was always present. In November 2013, the community opened the Jack & Julie Maxian Hong Kong Armenian Center with more than 100 distinguished attendees, including His Holiness Karekin II, present for the opening ceremony. The community regularly organizes events in the Armenian Centre.

***See what our chapter has been doing***

Board of Directors:

Kristine Aleksanyan

Kristine was born in Syunik Marz, Sisian town, Republic of Armenia. She started her working experience in 2001 with the National Institute of Education (Ministry of Science and Education) in the Teacher Training Program. She coordinated teachers's methodological training in different subjects in the Sisian area which had 36 schools. Kristine's experience with the National Institute of Education finished in 2011. From 2002 throughl 2009 she started working with the United States Peace Corps TEFL Volunteers in Armenia as a Volunteer counterpart and a tutor of the Armenian language. Kristine was actively involved in Peace Corps activities. She was also an Environmental Education PCV TOT Workshop and Project Design and Management Workshop Facilitator. At that time, Kristine was also a ECO-Camp Counselor for Peace Corps Environmental youth camp, teaching the team environmental education sessions with PC Volunteers. She served as Translator for campers and staff and guided campers through environmental clean-up projects. Kristine was a Coordinator in 2009 for the Syunik Regional “Spelling Bee’’ Program.

Since 2007, Kristine stared working with World Vision International in Armenia as an Area Development Program translator, going on after that as a Child Sponsorship Program Assistant from 2011-2014 and in 2015 she was a Sponsorship Program Coordinator. In 2016 Krisitne got a TEFL qualification and moved to China to work as a EFL Teacher at Yanqi Lake Campus of Chengzhang Primary School in Hengyang and she is still working there.

Kristine's dream for each child is to bring changes in their lives, families and communities. Every child should be educated, in good health and protected.

Nejteh Demirian

Nejteh is an investment professional, with experience spanning across the Asia Pacific region in industries including banking, finance and engineering. He is currently an associate for a private investment company and has in the past, worked as a systems engineer on a key Australian naval project, held a graduate role within State Street Global Markets, consulted within a Chinese commodities research house and more recently consulted for the World Bank in China.

Satenik Hakobyan

Satenik Hakobyan was born in Sisian city, Armenia. She completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Yerevan State University of Languages and Social Sciences. She has passionately been involved in volunteering since her student years in different NGOs, international organizations, festivals and events. After graduating from the University together with volunteering activities, she started her work career at an Insurance company as an insurance specialist. Then shortly after, she was invited from Yanki Lake Campus of Chengzheng Primary School in China to work as an EFL teacher. Now Satenik is excited and feels honored to be one of the changemakers of orphaned children's lives together with SOAR.

Michael Hajjar

For the last seven years, Michael has managed business development for his family's pearl trading company out of Hong Kong. He participates in activities ranging from pearl cultivation, trading, to jewelry branding. In 2012, he launched a marketing venture in Hong Kong to produce pearl jewelry brand concepts, leveraging his family's three generations of experience in Asia and the pearl trade. Having spent most of his life in Asia, Michael calls both Japan and Hong Kong home, and travels extensively across South East Asia.

Mari Khunoian

Mari was born in Gavar, Armenia and raised there until the age of five. Her family then immigrated to the Ukraine, the place that became her second home, although her family always stayed closely connected to Armenia, its culture and traditions. Thanks to her parents she could travel back to Armenia almost every year and had a chance to learn the language. Mari was accepted to Moscow State University and majored in Oriental Studies and the Japanese Language. After spending five years in Moscow, Mari was awarded with a scholarship from the Japanese government and moved to Tokyo to continue her education. She graduated in 2013 and has been working in Tokyo as a recruiting consultant. Her main goal is to complete a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution or Peace Studies and make her contribution by developing friendly ties between countries. Mari feels it is a great honour to join SOAR and she is grateful for the chance to offer her support to orphaned children in building a better future and getting a quality education.

Lilit Zakharyan

Lilit was born in Dilijan, Armenia, and as a child, she remembers crying after seeing a program about poor and orphaned children. Since that time she has dreamed about being able to help those children when she grew up. While working on her Bachelor’s Degree in Yerevan she became actively involved in the activities of the United Nations Armenian Association and projects organized by the United States Peace Corps volunteers including teaching schoolchildren leadership, English, environmental issues, and working with anti-smoking and anti-trafficking campaigns. After graduating Yerevan State Linguistic University, Lilit was offered work at the Chinese Confucius Institute. In 2011, she was awarded a Chinese Government Scholarship through the Education Ministry of Armenia and moved to Beijing to pursue her Master’s in Chinese. Lilit speaks six languages and is currently based in Beijing working as a consultant at an asset management firm. She feels honoured to join SOAR and fulfil her childhood dream.