Looking Back at 2017


To our valued supporters,

At this time each year, I look forward to updating you on the impact we are making in communities desperately in need of help. I am proud and grateful to report that NEF continues to provide practical solutions to the most pressing development issues of our time – even in the face of dwindling humanitarian aid. Your support strengthens our ability to make a positive and lasting impact on the future of families who would otherwise be struggling to survive.

When I take stock of NEF’s impact, it always comes back to the people we work with: their stories of trial and triumph, and their remarkable resilience even in the face of conflict, displacement, inequality, and exclusion.

Together we have helped women like Asma, who fled Syria amidst a civil war for Jordan seeking safety and a better future for her family. She described her experience, saying: 

“To see your home destroyed after you had been living in it for almost 16 years is an extremely difficult feeling. But then you think, aside from your health and the health of your children, you can get through anything.” 

Because of your support, Asma was able to do just that. After attending business development training and receiving a small start- up grant, she launched an at-home catering shop and now earns enough of an income to support her family. Instead of living in fear and worry of what tomorrow will bring, Asma now looks forward with a new sense of power, purpose, and opportunity. Click on the video below to see Asma describe how her life has changed.

In times of turmoil like we see today, it’s impossible to recover alone. People need a chance to succeed and the support and skills to adapt and rebuild. Simply put, people need a hand up, not a hand out. It is your generosity and belief in the power of what a hand up can accomplish that makes our work possible.

We do not know what tomorrow will bring. What we do know is that your support will ensure that families – in need of lifesaving assistance – are able to rebuild their lives and sustain positive change. Now more than ever, we must remember our sense of humanity and duty to help our fellow citizens of this world, especially those who are experiencing unparalleled hardships.

This holiday season, I hope that you will consider including NEF among the charities you support. With 90% of each donation going directly to our programs, your gift will be put to work immediately, responding to the growing needs of displaced, vulnerable, and marginalized communities.

On behalf of all of us at NEF, I wish you a very Happy Holiday season and a peaceful and prosperous New Year!


Charles Benjamin's Signature

Charles Benjamin
NEF President

Give monthly to make an impact all year


a month

will fund safe transportation to and from NEF’s trainings
so women like Asma won’t be subjected to dangerous check points or harassment.


a month

will fund a business development training course.


a month

will fund a startup grant to help someone launch a business.


Empower someone to become the driver
of their future today.

The number of families struggling to survive grows by the day. We need you help now. Your gift to NEF supports education, peacebuilding, job and income creation, and community empowerment for people in some of the most impoverished areas of the Middle East and Africa. 

Make your contribution today!


Hear from Asma:

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Increasing access to clean water in Sudan

group photo at NEF  water point

As the Sudanese people return home, they find conditions much worse than when they left. To make matters worse, an influx of internally displaced people (IDPs) in communities across Sudan has placed a drain on the already overstretched resources available.

Basic infrastructure—most notably water and sanitation infrastructure—has either been destroyed or the existing infrastructure has suffered from a lack of maintenance because of inaccessibility due to the conflict. A lack of parts, tools, and trained mechanics, as well as actual damage from rebel activities, has put many hand pumps out of order, or destroyed them completely, and severely reduced the amount of water available to both the local community, including the returnees, and the IDP population. At the same time, a serious lack of latrines and hygiene puts communities at high risk of water borne disease.

To respond to this crisis, NEF’s teams in South Kordofan and Central Darfur are helping to reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality of nearly 100,000 people by improving their access to clean water, and education on hygiene and sanitation best practices. Working within local communities, NEF has mobilized Water and Sanitation Committees (WSCs) and Subcommittees across seven village clusters (Abassiya, Rashad, Abu Karshola, Um Dukhun, Nertiti, Golo, and Rokero). WSCs are trained on best approaches to sanitation and hygiene, and on how to identify and prioritize infrastructure improvements—from water pumps to latrines. To further ensure the sustainability of the project, NEF helps to train and employ local craftspeople and artisans to manufacture and/or rehabilitate water pumps and latrines throughout the villages.

Asmaa Dawood_WASH-SKS

Asmaa Dawood, one of the Sudanese women who attended the hand pump mechanics training, was impressed by the value of what she learned. She also commented that this was the first time women in her village were included in such a training.

“We have benefitted a lot from this training. We received knowledge on hand pump mechanics so that we— including women—can respond when hand pumps are broken. We are really thankful to NEF for the good service that has been delivered to our community!”

As of last month, NEF has helped identify 1,720 beneficiaries to receive new latrines, and 85 artisans to help construct them—more than 50 percent have been completed. Furthermore, the WSCs have distributed 1,500 hygiene kits, which include hygiene and sanitation education materials. These efforts have so far benefitted over 50,000 people.

NEF’s water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) work in Sudan is funded and supported by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

Hygeine kit distribution in Golo
Hygeine kit distribution in Golo.
Local artisans at work fabricating latrine slabs
Local artisans at work fabricating latrine slabs.
Hygeine and sanitation education for school children
Hygeine and sanitation education for school children.

Addressing the long-term impact of the refugee crisis

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As conflict in Syria and Iraq displaces thousands, NEF continues to address the protracted refugee crisis in Jordan and Lebanon. Humanitarian aid remains largely focused on immediate and short-term needs, providing little to no support for the long-term impact this crisis will have on affected communities.

With an eye toward the future, NEF is providing solutions that will support both the displaced and affected host communities through inclusive opportunities that enable conflict-affected individuals to earn a living and build resilience against future shocks. In practice, this includes strengthening the capacity of both refugee and host communities to recover from crisis and emerge from poverty through business and economic development, employability training, vocational training, financial literacy and financial/start-up assistance, social networking, and on-going mentoring and coaching for new entrepreneurs. As both women and youth are known to be the most vulnerable during times of conflict, NEF’s work in both Jordan and Lebanon has a focus on adolescents and women headed households.

NEF partners with local civil society organizations (CSOs) to provide these and other services at hubs known as Siraj Centers. In Arabic, the word “Siraj” means lantern—with the connotation of a beacon of light and hope. The aptly named centers offer individuals a safe environment to receive training, information, guidance, and coordinated referrals to other service providers.

NEF in Jordan

Strengthening economic and social resilience
Recent activities in Jordan include multiple four-day business development trainings for 455 participants in four areas of Jordan—South Amman, East Amman, Irbid, and Zarqa. A total of 64 workshops have been held in these four locations since March of 2017. The goal of these trainings is to support business creation and income generation, which will positively contribute to the local economy.

Capacity Building
To establish a sustainable framework for continued livelihoods efforts supported by the local community, NEF held an “Ideation and Innovation” workshop to establish a network of local “Master Trainers.” In May, 24 Master Trainers (of Jordanian, Iraqi, and Syrian nationalities) received the necessary training to train others on how to transform their ideas into tangible businesses, perform strategic planning, implement best business practices, and monitor their business’ progress.

Youth Training
Limited opportunities, isolation, and tension contribute to a sense of despair and hopelessness among  refugees and poor Jordanians. To address this, NEF trained 334 adolescents (52 Iraqis, 79 Jordanians, and 203 Syrians) in financial literacy tailored toward supporting self-development through financial management skills. The training sessions also strive to contribute to social interaction and harmony between Jordanians and Iraqi and Syrian refugees, thereby promoting mutual respect and social cohesion. 

To date NEF’s efforts in Jordan have directly benefited 7,960 refugees and Jordanians and indirectly benefitted the lives of 39,800.

Last month, a bazaar was held in Zarqa where project participants had the opportunity to display and sell their products.


NEF in Lebanon

Strengthening economic and social resilience
NEF and its partners have conducted 43 business development trainings for over 1000 Lebanese and Syrian men and women. Additional training sessions covering life skills such as household budgeting and savings were also provided. 209 grant recipients have commenced business operations, either through providing services or selling products.

Vocational Training
Over 370 Lebanese and Syrians received vocational training (300 women, 70 men) related to the type of business plan they had selected. Vocational training topics spanned such industries as food production, tailoring, hairdressing, aesthetics and make-up, book keeping, handicrafts. 

Capacity Building
NEF has helped to increase the capacity of 34 civil society organizations (CSOs) to provide high quality and expanded services. Staff members from each CSO are now able to conduct business development trainings, business coaching, business networking, as well as financial literacy training for adolescents. Additionally, CSO’s have improved their ability to respond to protection incidents and provide appropriate referrals. In May, NEF met with CSO staff members and volunteers to significantly improve and systemize the process of participant data collection and monitoring participant’s progress—this effort will make it possible for NEF and its partners determine the success rate of these services, and make adjustments for improvements as needed.

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Khayriye (top right photo) was one of the first few women trained in the Minieh center. She has now purchased a sewing machine and completed a six-day vocational training on tailoring. Khayriye thanked NEF and Hadatha saying, “This project was a great opportunity for me.”

To date, NEF’s efforts in Lebanon have directly benefited 3,050 refugees and Lebanese and indirectly benefitted the lives of 12,200.

NEF’s work with displaced and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’ Bureau of Populations, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), the Dodge Foundation, and City & Guilds Group.


2017 -2018 Internship Applications With NEF Are Now Open!

Brittany Wait, Jennifer Swanson and Christine Rushtion get a picture with Nahed Kayed on his tractor, as per request.

Every year, some of the most talented students from around the world apply for an internship with the Near East Foundation (NEF). Being a small organization with a large portfolio of work, our internships offer a unique experience that allow students to immerse themselves in the many aspects of international development work.

For 100 years, NEF has worked to build more sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive communities in the Middle East and Africa through education, governance, and economic development initiatives. Working through a network of country offices and local partners, NEF currently has approximately 125 staff members and programs in eight countries: Armenia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Palestine, Senegal, and Sudan. Driven by the local needs in the areas we work, our programs provide communities in the world’s toughest places with the tools and support they need to transform their own lives.

NEF is offering paid or per-credit internships in its Syracuse headquarters for the 2017-2018 academic term. Internships will start on September 6, 2017 and run until April 27, 2018. Our internships require a commitment of 10 – 15 hours/week.

For application instructions, please see each posting below. All applications must be received by Friday, August 11, 2017 and all applicants will be contacted with a decision on or before August 21, 2017.

Communications Intern – Near East Relief Digital Museum (one position)

The communications internship is geared towards students with experience researching and writing content on historical materials. The right intern will have a passion for history and bringing it to life through story-telling. This position will specifically be working on NEF’s Near East Relief Digital Museum website: www.neareastmuseum.com

The candidate we are looking for is a research driven, organized, and creative individual who will: (1) conduct primary source research on the history of Near East Relief (1915-1930) and Near East Foundation using the NEF’s archival collection, (2) develop website content using existing historical content (available online in our dropbox), and (3) manage the Near East Relief Historical Society NERHS Facebook page The position is open to graduate and undergraduate students.

To apply please send a complete file consisting of: (1) a one-page cover letter; (2) a one-page resume; (3) a list of 2 references to internships@neareast.org.

Program Development and Research Intern (2 positions)

The Program Development and Research Intern is a dynamic, organized, and systematic individual who supports programmatic research needs by playing a key role in managing, retrieving and communicating relevant information in a timely manner. S/he is attentive to details, possesses excellent analytical skills, and discretion.

S/he is willing to learn while engaging and confidently interacting with office staff at Headquarters and overseas. S/he will support the program development unit. The selected intern is a graduate or undergraduate student in a related field with an excellent academic record. S/he has the potential to (1) perform effective and timely research to support NEF’s strategy and mission, including but not limited to supporting program development; (2) create clear and concise research summary reports that utilize accurate research methods (including properly citing sources); (3) proactively support NEF’s mission and Program Development team objectives through engagement in internal coordination and as-needed tasks; (4) exhibit flexibility, open communication and a commitment to learning and professional growth; and (5) support special projects as assigned.

The selected intern possesses: (1) strong research skills and ability to effectively analyze written material for relevance, clarity, and coherence; (2) strong writing skills and editing abilities; and, (3) strong computer skills including document formatting and chart, graph and spreadsheet creation. Firm understanding of and familiarity with Africa and the Middle East as well as language competency in French and/or Arabic are a plus. The position is open to graduate and undergraduate students. To apply, please send a complete file consisting of: (1) cover letter (2) resume (3) official transcripts (4) two writing samples (5) a list of 3 references to: internships@neareast.org.


Database Intern (one position)

The database development internship is geared towards students with experience working on website development and management. This position will specifically be working on NEF’s Near East Relief Digital Museum website: http://neareastmuseum.com/

The candidate is a data driven, organized, and systematic individual who will:

• Manage the back-end of the Near East Relief Digital Museum (includes uploading and cataloging content, manage SEO, google analytics, keyword searches etc.)

• Research Data Asset Management (DAMs) platforms for best practices to incorporate into our platform (word press)

• Near East Relief materials appear on other sources (Library of Congress, DPLA etc.). The intern would need to find where else other NER materials exist, and embed them into the NER digital museum website. 

The position is open to graduate and undergraduate students. To apply please send a complete file consisting of: (1) a one-page cover letter; (2) a one-page resume; (3) a list of 2 references to internships@neareast.org.

All interested applicants are encouraged to familiarize themselves with NEF’s goals and mission prior to applying by visiting www.neareast.org, checking out our Facebook page, following us on Twitter (@NearEastFdn), and/or signing up for our newsletter at www.neareast.org/get-involved/.


Young Entrepreneurs Compete for DreamUp Grants in Morocco

Chaimaa Radi_20_Cosmetics

On Saturday, May 20th, Moroccan youth looking to expand or start a new business will compete for small business grants in the Machrou3i DreamUp competition. The competition is organized by the Machrou3i Business Incubators, created through the Near East Foundation’s (NEF) Empowering Youth through Entrepreneurship in Morocco (EYEM) project funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

Youth in the competition have participated in training and coaching events organized by the Machrou3i incubators to develop their business plans. In the final competition, eight youth will have the opportunity launch their plans with the help of a $2000 project grant, along with ongoing mentoring and coaching through the incubators. Selections will be made by a committee based on a number of criteria including the level of innovation presented in the business concept, the ability of the business to introduce new technologies, well-defined social or environmental benefits, and the ability of the business to eventually create new jobs. 

The DreamUp competition is complemented by a showcase event featuring youth entrepreneurs and businesses launched through the EYEM project.  Organized in partnership Province of El Jadida National Initiative for Human Development, the showcase event in El Jadida (May 19-21, 2017) allows young entrepreneurs to present their products and services to potential customers as well as network with fellow business owners. 

Both events aim to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation among young people in Morocco and to inform young people on the advantages of business incubators and their role in regional youth economic development.

The EYEM project has reached more than 3000 youth in its efforts to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship, provided business development training to more than 349 young people, and funded 251 new businesses with start up assistance.


They Shall Not Perish Premieres to Sold Out Audience

They Shall Not Perish Premiere (New York)

Click on the photo above to see photos from the event, to view the full gallery of photos, click here and use password armenia

On April 8, the Near East Foundation hosted the official premiere of They Shall Not Perish: The Story of Near East Relief at the Times Center in New York City to a sold-out audience of over 550 people. Esteemed guests including UN Ambassador to Armenia, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, and members of the Armenian Diocese, as well as actors from the film including Victor Garber and Andrea Martin were on hand to celebrate the event.

The long-awaited documentary tells the story of the Near East Foundation, previously known as Near East Relief, at the turn of the twentieth century after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, when a group of American businessmen and philanthropists rallied the nation to save a generation of Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian orphans following the Armenian Genocide.

Narrated by six-time Emmy-nominated actor Victor Garber, the film is set against a mix of historical footage and archival photographs, and utilizes contemporary interviews from leading academic experts to illustrate the sequence of events leading up to the Genocide, and the unprecedented relief efforts of American citizens that followed—which led to the largest humanitarian response in history up to that time. The letters of American officials, relief workers, and orphans are brought to life through the voices of leading actors—Michael Aronov, Kathleen Chalfant, Dariush Kashani, Andrea Martin, Ron Rifkin, Tony Shalhoub, and Kara Vedder—taking the audience on a journey from the depths of cruelty to the triumphs of survival and goodwill.

The screening was followed by a thought-provoking panel discussion with the filmmakers, Shant Mardirossian and George Billard, who touched on the historical significance of America’s relief efforts reflected in the film. “Today, as we confront an exploding refugee crisis, it’s imperative that we consider the humanitarian consequences when formulating U.S. foreign policy,” said Billard. The panel also featured expert historians who contributed to the film including Pulitzer Prize winning author Peter Balakian, Carnegie Scholar Susan B. Harper, and Taner Akçam, who recently made headlines with his discovery of evidence proving that the Armenian Genocide was premeditated by the Turkish government.

Executive Producer Mardirossian, inspired by his grandparents’ escape and survival during the Genocide, says he produced this film “not just to remember those we lost in the Genocide, but to shed light on an important chapter of American history when ordinary citizens stood together against a great injustice and saved the lives of 132,000 orphans.” During his remarks, he emphasized that all Americans, and most importantly our younger generations, should choose to be up-standers instead of bystanders.

The work that the Near East Foundation started a century ago continues to be reflected in its work today as the humanitarian crisis unfolds in the Middle East. NEF’s local teams are working on the ground, side by side, with Syrian (including many Syrian-Armenian) and Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Lebanon helping them to gain economic independence and achieve self-sufficiency, primarily though entrepreneurship, vocational training, and livelihoods support.

In a call to action, NEF President Charles Benjamin, asked the audience to be inspired “by the heroic men and women who responded to a crisis over 100 years ago and the impact they made in the lives of so many—by simply doing what they could—saving a generation of lives and futures that would have otherwise been lost.” 

To support the Near East Foundation’s current work with refugee families in Lebanon and Jordan please click here.

The Near East Foundation’s new educational partnership with Facing History and Ourselves was also formally announced at the premiere. The partnership between NEF and Facing History bridges the gap between our history and present day, and will help call attention to what society can do to help give vulnerable populations a voice so that history’s mistakes are not repeated. Facing History and Ourselves will help bring the lessons from the film to classrooms across America. 

The event was made possible by the following sponsors: Armenian General Benevolent Union, Armenian Assembly of America, The Armenian Center at Columbia University, Bob and Nancy Solomon, the Dadourian Foundation, Cleveland H. Dodge Foundation, Armenian Missionary Association of America, the Armenian Prelacy, Golden State Bank, and the Jebejian Family. 

To view the full gallery of photos, click here and use password: armenia.

They Shall Not Perish: The Story of Near East Relief is distributed by the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) and is being broadcast on public television stations nationwide beginning April 1, 2017, including upcoming distribution on May 16th on Philadelphia public tv, June 2 on Maryland pubic TV. Since the premiere, the film was screened at San Jose University (as a part of Dr. Mary Papazian’s inaugural celebrations) and Bergen Community College. The documentary will be screened in Yerevan, Armenia on May 30th as a part of the Aurora Prize Ceremonies and on May 31st at the Naregatsi Art Center. More information on the film, upcoming screenings and public TV distributions, and resources can be found at www.theyshallnotperish.com.   


New Documentary Chronicles Heroic American Response to Refugee Crisis During the Armenian Genocide

They Shall Not Perish Premieres on Screen in New York City April 8, On National Public Television Beginning April 1

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New York, NY – On April 8, 2017 the Near East Foundation (NEF) will host the official film premiere of They Shall Not Perish: The Story of Near East Relief at the Times Center. Produced by NEF Board Member Shant Mardirossian and award-winning director George Billard, the documentary details the unprecedented humanitarian efforts of thousands of Americans who saved a generation of orphans and refugees during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and in the aftermath of the crisis that came to be known as the Armenian Genocide.

The one-hour documentary film features the stories of individuals who witnessed the Genocide and of the American people who rallied their country to provide the largest non-governmental humanitarian response undertaken up until that time. Motivated by nothing but a moral sense of duty, these men and women—among them industrialists, ambassadors, missionaries, teachers, nurses, admen, and Presidents—helped bring care and comfort to millions of suffering Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian refugees in extremely harrowing environments.

Narrated by six-time Emmy-nominated actor Victor Garber, the film is set against a mix of historical footage and archival photographs, and utilizes contemporary interviews from leading academic experts such as Taner Akçam, Peter Balakian, Susan Harper, John Cooper, Dr. Martin Deranian, and Keith David Watenpaugh. In addition, the letters of American officials, relief workers, and orphans are brought to life through the voices of leading actors—Michael Aronov, Kathleen Chalfant, Dariush Kashani, Andrea Martin, Ron Rifkin, Tony Shalhoub, and Kara Vedder—taking the audience on a journey from the depths of cruelty to the triumphs of survival.

Executive Producer Shant Mardirossian, inspired by his grandparents’ escape and survival during the genocide, says he produced this film “not just to remember those we lost in the genocide, but to shed light on an important chapter of American history when ordinary citizens stood together against a great injustice and saved the lives of 132,000 orphans.”

These historic rescue efforts led to the formation of what is known today as the Near East Foundation. The work that started over a century ago continues to be reflected in NEF’s work today, particularly, current programs that focus on improving the lives of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.

With a focus on an often forgotten yet important chapter in American history, They Shall Not Perish challenges the notion of what values a nation should aspire to demonstrate, and raises the question of when and if humanitarian concerns should override strategic national interests. “Today, as we confront an exploding refugee crisis, it’s imperative that we consider the humanitarian consequences when formulating U.S. foreign policy,” says the film’s director, producer, and writer George Billard.


The premiere event on April 8th will offer two screenings, at 2:00pm and 5:00pm, both followed by a Q&A and panel discussion with the filmmakers and documentary contributors. In addition to the panel, the evening showing will conclude with a cocktail reception catered by Great Performances. For more information on the premiere and to purchase tickets, visit www.neareast.org/theyshallnotperish.

In conjunction with the premiere, The Near East Foundation’s educational partner Facing History and Ourselves will help bring the lessons learned from the film to classrooms across America. While NEF remains committed to implementing economic-development programs today to ensure a better tomorrow, Facing History similarly strives for a world shaped by caring and knowledge rather than prejudice and bigotry by inspiring students to think critically and make informed, ethical decisions. As we experience the biggest refugee crisis since WWII, we hope that this partnership will call attention to what society can do to help vulnerable populations, and the measures that can be taken to prevent similar atrocities from happening in the future. The partnership will be formally announced at the film premiere.

The documentary will also be distributed by the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA), and broadcast on public television stations nationwide beginning April 1, 2017. More information on the film, screenings, and resources can be found at www.theyshallnotperish.com.

For media inquiries or questions about the event, please contact Communications and Development Officer Andrea Crowley at acrowley@neareast.org or (315) 428-8670.


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Empowering Women for Over a Century – International Women’s Day 2017

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Today, on International Women’s Day, we celebrate women and girls and how supporting their advancement positively impacts our society and our future. 

As women assume increasing economic responsibility throughout the Middle East and Africa, they continue to face hurdles not confronted by men. Women must overcome social barriers, limited job skills, a lack of experience in business management, and restricted access to capital. In partnership with local community organizations, NEF aims to improve the economic independence and social resilience of vulnerable women (including rural and urban poor, heads of households, widows, refugees, and victims of domestic violence) through entrepreneurship, microcredit, and peer networks that provide business mentoring and social support.

Donate today to support NEF’s initiatives to economically empower women and girls.

Watch the videos below to see NEF’s work to support women in action:

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Empowering Women in Lebanon

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Gardening in Tiécouaré: Women take the Lead

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Empowering Women in Armenia

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NEF Partners: Khadija, West Bank

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NEF Partners: Lutfiyeh, Jordan

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 Dalia: Displaced from Iraq since 2007


Join Us for the Film Premiere of They Shall Not Perish: The Story of Near East Relief

They Shall Not Perish_Hero Banner_Website

This long-awaited documentary details the historic events that led to the Armenian Genocide and the rescue and unprecedented humanitarianism that followed, providing assistance to hundreds of thousands of displaced men, women, and children. The documentary makes extensive use of newly discovered film footage and archival photographs of orphans who were in Near East Relief’s care.

Disclaimer: This film contains graphic images. For more information about the film, please visit theyshallnotperish.com

April 8th Screenings at The Times Center in New York:

    Matinee (2pm): $20/pp – Includes film and Q&A with the filmmakers and historians  (group rates available for ten or more)

    Evening/Reception (5pm): SOLD OUT $50/pp – Includes film, Q&A with the filmmakers and historians, and cocktail reception catered by Great Performances. Please email acrowley@neareast.org to be placed on our waiting list. 


     George Billard – Writer & Director

     Shant Mardirossian – Executive Producer & NEF Board Member

     Peter Balakian – Expert Historian

     Susan Harper – Expert Historian

     Taner Akçam – Expert Historian & Sociologist

Please read more about our panelists below.



The Near East Foundation, known initially as Near East Relief, spearheaded this first great mobilization of international humanitarian assistance in the United States, in September 1915, in response to the Armenian Genocide. Driven by the conviction that ordinary citizens had the collective power to save the lives of people coping with adversity, the organization’s efforts helped save more than one million lives.

As the first organization to provide direct relief to refugees, Near East Foundation’s work continues to be necessary and relevant today. All proceeds generated by this screening will go toward our current work improving lives in the Middle East.

In conjunction with the premiere, The Near East Foundation’s educational partner Facing History and Ourselves will help bring the lessons learned from the film to classrooms across America. While NEF remains committed to implementing economic-development programs today to ensure a better tomorrow, Facing History similarly strives for a world shaped by caring and knowledge rather than prejudice and bigotry by inspiring students to think critically and make informed, ethical decisions. As we experience the biggest refugee crisis since WWII, we hope that this partnership between the two organizations will call attention to what society can do to help vulnerable populations, and to the measures that can be taken to prevent similar atrocities from happening in the future. 


For media inquiries, sponsorships, groups over 10, or other questions about the event please contact Communications and Development Officer Andrea Crowley at acrowley@neareast.org. Follow updates on the event on Facebook and Twitter.




Sponsor Logos Event Website


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Shant Mardirossian                           Executive Producer



Shant Mardirossian is the Executive Producer of They Shall Not Perish: The Story of Near East Relief. In his professional life, Mr. Mardirossian is a Partner and the Chief Operating Officer at a leading U.S. middle-market private equity firm. He is a graduate of the Lubin School of Business at Pace University and holds a B.B.A. in Public Accounting and an M.B.A. with dual concentration in Investment Management and Strategic Management. His grandparents were all survivors of the Armenian Genocide and his paternal grandmother sought refuge in an American orphanage. They were the inspiration for the film.

George Billard
Writer, Director & Producer



George Billard is an award-winning producer, writer, director and cinematographer. To date he has helmed productions in over forty countries. His work includes commercials, television, documentaries and film. In addition to They Shall Not Perish, he is currently in production on Amateur, a documentary film about amateur cagefighters in New York, and They Call Me Killer, a documentary about an unusual state executioner. His original screenplay, Dispossessed, was awarded the Grand Prize for Best Screenplay at the 2015 Rhode Island International Film Festival.

peter balakian





Peter Balakian












Peter Balakian is the 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Poetry and author of 7 books of poems, 4 books of prose and 2 translations. His newly published books are Ozone Journal and Vice and Shado: Essays on the Lyric Imagination, Poetry Art, and Culture (University of Chicago Press.) His books of prose include Black Dog of Fate, which won the 1998 PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for the Art of the Memoir, and was a best book of the year for the New York Times, the LA Times, and Publisher’s Weekly. The Burning Tigris: Armenian Genocide and America’s Response won the 2005 Raphael Lemkin Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book and New York Times Best Seller. His translation of Grigoris Balakian’s Armenian Golgotha: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide was a Washington Post book of the year. Balakian is the recipient of many awards, prizes and civic citations including a Movses Horenatis Medal from the Republic of Armenia, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, The Sependlove Prize for Social Justice, Tolerance, and Diplomacy (recipients include President Carter), and the Emily Clark Balch Prize for poetry from the Virginia Quarterly Review. He has appeared widely on national television and radio (60 minutes, ABC World News Tonight, PBS, Charlie Rose, CNN, C-SPAN, NPR, Fresh Air, etc.). His work has been translated into over a dozen languages including Armenian, Arabiv, Bulgarian, French, Dutch, Greek, German, Hebrew, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish and Turkish. He is the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities, Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Colgate University.


susan harper






usan B. Harper



Susan B. Harper is currently researching the history of American philanthropy in the Near East as a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Dr. Harper was previously senior officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts, executive director of the Templeton Prize, and lecturer in History, Literature and Expository Writing at Harvard University. She received her bachelors degree from Yale University and her masters and doctoral degrees from Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. Harper is author of a biography of the first Indian bishop of the Anglican Church, V.S. Azariah of Dornakal. She has also published and lectured on the lives of Near East Relief workers, most recently at the Library of Congress.







Taner Akçam
Historian and Sociologist 







Taner Akçam received his doctorate in 1995 from the University of Hanover, with a dissertation on The Turkish National Movement and the Armenian Genocide Against the Background of the Military Tribunals in Istanbul Between 1919 and 1922.

Akçam was born in the province of Ardahan, Turkey, in 1953. He became interested in Turkish politics at an early age. As the editor-in-chief of a student political journal, he was arrested in 1976 and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience. A year later, he escaped to Germany, where he received political asylum. In 1988 he started working as Research Scientist in Sociology at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research. His first research topic was the history of political violence and torture in the late Ottoman Empire and early Republic of Turkey.

Between 2000 and 2002 Akçam was Visiting Professor of History at University of Michigan. He worked also as Visiting Associate Professor at the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at University of Minnesota. He has been a member of the history department at Clark University since 2008.







Adam Strom (Moderator)
Director of Scholarship & Innovation, Facing History and Ourselves


 Adam Strom has an over 20 year record of using the latest scholarship to encourage learning about identity, bias, belonging, history, and the challenges and opportunities of civic engagement in our globalized world. He is the author, editor, and producer of numerous Facing History digital, print and video resources and publications including Washington’s Rebuke to Bigotry: Reflections On Our First President’s 1790 Letter to the Hebrew Congregation In Newport, Rhode Island, Stories of Identity: Religion, Migration and Belonging in a Changing World, Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement 1954-1986, and Crimes Against Humanity and Civilization: The Genocide of the Armenians. Mr. Strom oversees Facing History and Ourselves’ international board of scholars and facilitates professional development for educators online and face to face for educators from around the world. He lives in Brookline, MA with his wife Sandy and his two children, Max and Sam.



Key stakeholders meet to discuss GBV issues in Armenia

IMG_0687 copyNEF UK and GCCI gather key stakeholders to discuss the important role they play in protecting against gender-based violence and advancing gender equality and the rights of survivors of gender-based violence in Armenia

NEF UK and the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) organized a special event that included a presentation and exhibition on Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in Armenia, a project financed by the European Union and implemented by NEF UK and GCCI.

The event, held on January 18 2017 at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel in Yerevan from 14:00 to 18:00, provided an opportunity to explore the role of Armenian civil society organizations, private sector organizations, and government agencies in promoting women’s rights and gender equality among vulnerable groups of women through the delivery of economic development programs.

Ms. Line Urban, a representative from the European Union (EU) delegation to Armenia, gave opening remarks at the event where she emphasized the important role the program has played in advocating for gender equality in Armenia. NEF UK and GCCI highlighted the impact of the EU-supported project and showcased an exhibition of project beneficiary business products and services. Attendees were also able to hear directly from beneficiaries who shared the successes they have achieved through the project.

The event helped attendees to identify the primary causes of gender-based violence in Armenia, what role they can play in the prevention of gender-based violence, and how their organizations can help support the economic stability of survivors in the future. The key findings of the three working groups (government agencies, civil society organizations, and victims of gender-based violence) were shared and discussed among participants at the end of the event.

The project is being implemented in Yerevan, Syunik, and Lori regions in partnership with the Women’s Support Centre, Women’s Resource Centre, Goris Women’s Development Resource Centre Foundation, and Spitak Helsinki Group.

Since its launch in January 2015, the two-year project has helped 230 survivors of gender-based violence gain increased employability, small business skills, and establish small businesses. Seventy women received vocational training in various specializations, 130 received financial support to start their small businesses, 80 developed career development plans, and 50 women found employment in the labour market.

The project has helped build a commitment toward preventing gender-based violence and promoting gender equality among community leaders and employers. The partner community organizations have strengthened their cooperation and signed agreements with regional agencies in Armenia, aiming to create referral mechanisms for victims of gender-based violence.

Although the project ends on January 20 2017, NEF UK and its partners hope to find opportunities to continue this work, as it is highly impactful and required. Project’s learning, lessons and recommendations will be presented at an event in Yerevan in March 2017.