Two members of the KSEE24 news team have recently returned from a trip to Armenia. Anchor Stefani Booroojian and Chief Photojournalist Kevin Mahan were invited to visit the Middle Eastern country to cover the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.
The prize is awarded by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, which was founded by survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Dr. Tom Catena, who was chosen from 550 nominees representing 66 countries, was honored with the top prize for his work in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains. He is the only doctor serving thousands of people in that part of Africa.
“The finalists for this honor do incredible humanitarian work in various parts of the world,” Booroojian says. “It was so impressive to hear their stories.”
Valley’s Ties to Armenia Remain Strong
Booroojian and Mahan were in Armenia for four full days. “We were very, very busy shooting a total of 10 stories to bring home,” Booroojian says. “We were able to connect with a couple of former Fresno residents who now live and work in Armenia. Both are committed to making Armenia stronger.”
The Central Valley has a large Armenian population. The first Armenians settled in Fresno in 1881, and approximately 50,000 live here today.
The Armenian Genocide, which took place in the Ottoman Empire beginning in 1915, led to large numbers of Armenians immigrating to the United States. Since there were Armenians already living in the Fresno area, many more came.
Booroojian’s grandparents were genocide survivors who ultimately settled in Fresno.
“It’s very special to travel to the country that my ancestors came from,” she says. “There is a special connection with the people. It’s an emotional experience that I will never forget.”
Booroojian first traveled to Armenia seven years ago to report on tourist destinations for KSEE24. Two years ago, she returned to cover the 100 year commemoration of the genocide.
“KSEE recognizes the significance of our local Armenian community,” Booroojian says. “Plus, I think there’s an interest from our non-Armenian viewers to learn about other cultures that have a strong connection to the Valley.”
Mahan says his trips to Armenia have impacted him.
“I really hope viewers who aren’t Armenian get a chance to see how Fresnans are really making a difference in this amazing country,” Mahan says. “You cannot make a quick visit to anyone in Armenia. When touring the country and visiting different little towns, people open their homes as well as their hearts. They are more than willing to share food and drink with you.”
Stories Will Air on KSEE24 in July
Booroojian and Mahan are now hard at work going through everything they filmed in Armenia. A series of stories will air on KSEE24 in July, and an hour-long special is also in the works.
“My hope is to expose our viewers to a far-away place that they may or may not be able to visit themselves,” Booroojian says. “And to show them the strong link between the Valley and Armenia. I would love to return some day with my family so they too can experience all that I have seen.”
[photos courtesy of Stefani Booroojian]