By Florence Avakian
For Randy Sapah-Gulian, the future of Armenia depends on assisting young people. “The plan of our foundation is to build a broad yet inter-locking range of programs directly focused on the Armenian youth. We believe that the youth in all societies are the foundation from which you can develop something of substance that endures,” said entrepreneur and benefactor Sapah-Gulian during a recent phone conversation with this writer.
Sapah-Gulian founded his family’s Sapah-Gulian Foundation in 2012, which works through the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR). He explained that programs supported by the foundation would emphasize several youth-oriented initiatives, such as the Pediatric Critical Care Program, promoted by his brother-in-law Dr. Edward Seferian of Cedar Sinai Hospital. “This Medical Training Program – Pediatric Critical Care, which is an international program in scope, will emphasize the healthy growth of children so they may become productive members of society,” he said.
Complete Life Cycle
The Sapah-Gulian Foundation focuses on children from an “early age on having the right kinds of care, such as what the pediatric care program provides all the way through the educational process, ultimately leading to job training and employment. It is the life cycle from birth through to their early 20’s,” stressed Sapah-Gulian. “Further, the challenge, of course, with developing these types of programs is to maintain a high level of quality and to not lose focus. Better to do three or four things really well rather than 10-20 things adequately. The Pediatric Care program is an international program with the highest training and certification standards run by leading pediatric doctors from around the world. To be perfectly frank, when Ed suggested bringing it to Armenia to my wife Corinne, it probably took me 30 seconds to agree.”
A generous benefactor who has been to Armenia more than 40 times, Sapah-Gulian is Chairman of FAR, which since the 1988 earthquake has been deeply committed to assisting, rebuilding and providing educational and training programs for Armenia’s population. His expertise as a CEO and President in the world of providing human capital solutions to large corporations around the world makes him a seasoned and dedicated team player for the FAR’s ambitious programs in Armenia. “In the world outside of what I do for Armenia, through my company we now have large-scale Human Capital Programs running in 62 countries for our clients. We should be able to use those learnings to benefit the people of Armenia.”
On his last visit to Armenia in July, Sapah-Gulian met with Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, and U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern to explain and promote the goals of his foundation. With him were his wife Corinne (nee Seferian), his two younger daughters and his niece.
His daughters, Alexa, 20, Olivia, 16, and Gabrielle, 15, have all been to Armenia and volunteered at the FAR Children’s Center in Yerevan – one of FAR’s most important projects. “Our three daughters will one day be the trustees of our foundation,” he emphasized, “and they know they have a large responsibility.” He then quoted Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Armenian Diocese (eastern), and President of FAR who has often said, “one of the greatest gifts that a parent can give a child is to teach them how to give.”
Doctors from Around the World
Dr. Seferian and the team of medical doctors from around the world that are part of the Pediatric Critical Care Association were also in Armenia in July. This group meets once a year for training and education. During last year’s meeting they decided to make this training available to doctors and nurses in Armenia. Five doctors from the U.S., Seferian and four non-Armenians from different hospitals made this trip to Armenia. Seferian headed the team. A pediatric critical care specialist, Seferian worked at the Mayo Clinic for eight years, and has been with at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles for the last four.
US Ambassador John Heffern visited the Muratsan hospital where the team’s program was housed to observe the training and make a presentation to the doctors. The 30 local doctors and nurses who took part will be involved in the follow-up training that will take place every year with the help from a grant from the Sapah-Gulian Foundation. While in Armenia these five “very eager” doctors visited other hospitals, demonstrating the commitment and energy with which they pursued their work, commented Sapah-Gulian.
The July trip was Seferian’s first visit to Armenia. “We were all engaged to provide better care and train the trainers, especially outside of Yerevan which was the center of the training,” he explained. “We taught didactically, using hands-on simulation equipment to mimic real life situations.” In Yerevan, the five-person team worked with 20 local doctors and four nurses, including two medical translators. Their plan is to continue this project in Armenia so they can educate local physicians and others who provide help to critically ill children.
For Seferian, it was also “breathtaking to stand on the soil of our homeland, and to see the snow-capped mountains, especially Mt. Ararat, the strong symbol of Armenia. This trip is the beginning of an ongoing and long-term relationship. It was very rewarding to give back to Armenia, and it will definitely continue.”
And for Sapah-Gulian and his family establishing this crucial program in Armenia through his foundation accentuates his life-long belief that “everyone has to have something that speaks to them. For our family, it is children, Armenia, and Armenians.” he said.