30 Years of Service: Paying Tribute to USAID's Long-Serving Foreign Service Nationals

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Sunday, June 26, 2022
Bella Margaryan, USAID/Armenia

BELLA MARGARYAN - 1992- 2022

Meet Bella Margaryan, Senior Government Specialist, one of USAID/Armenia’s longest serving staff members. 

Bella, thank you for your contributions to advancing Armenia’s development, and for your service. 

Learn a little more about Bella’s 30 years working with USAID.


Melissa: Can you tell us broadly a bit about your career and your work with USAID? 

Bella: I started in 1992, amidst the war with neighbors and the electricity crisis, the U.S. Embassy was the only building that had electricity. We were adamant to get help to the people of Armenia during this crisis by providing humanitarian assistance to ensure livelihoods. Over time, I could see people developing the necessary skills to become professionals with sustainable careers to support their households.

In ‘96 we started our development projects to emphasize USAID’s ‘people to people’ mission: American people extending their hand to Armenian people during the transition and Armenian people learning to understand and to manage their resources independently. 

There’s still a long way to go, but my observation is that these 30 years were quite fruitful -there were lessons learned, and [the early] romantic perception [of development and independence] gave way to gradual development.

M: What are some accomplishments of the USAID Mission you are most proud of?

B: I think we accomplished a lot because when we started there were no systems in place. Over this period of time, we [helped] create systems customized to Armenia. We managed to [support development of] a new legislative framework, the development of the new constitution, and brought in the best expertise from American University in the United States and other progressive universities. We trained 13 junior professors of law school which helped reform the legal education system and adapt modern teaching methodology.  Additionally, Armenia was one of the first countries in the former Soviet Republics that privatized land, and created opportunities for the development of Small-Medium Enterprises (etc.). We brought a lot of experience from the United States to help [newly privatized farms] independently generate income and run their private businesses.  [Because] the simple truth is if people don’t have jobs, they won’t be inspired by democratic values, or it will be short-lived. What [people] need is to be comfortable, have a source of income, and have a sufficient foundation to begin to think about their freedom of choice, about living in an open society.  I am proud of the fact that we were able to [help strengthen Armenia’s] civil society, which is quite vibrant at this point.

M:  A bit more personal, how has your work with USAID impacted your life? 

B: My learning curve was at times vertical. Someone like me, a teacher trained in traditional British English, to find myself in an environment with the U.S. Government lexicon and AID-speak with acronyms, etc. was a first time shock, a big shock! I gradually learned to adapt and realize that we really have a great opportunity to make change and support development. This agency was a university for me.  I spent 30 years of my active life here, it was like a bond. The best reward was seeing change and great teamwork, how a small effort, a good idea, a strategic vision, can leave an impact. To this end, I’ve heard people say how USAID’s assistance was able to change their lives. 

M: What are your hopes for Armenia?

B: My hopes are that this country will finally be able to assemble its best resources and become an attractive place to live and work. We always would say, in the past, that Armenia’s biggest resource is the people. What I hope is that the people of Armenia will get together and be able to resolve our problems. I have great hope in our young people, because they are our biggest pride and our biggest resource. I see a lot of changes in mentality and in thinking with the new generation. They’re bold, educated, and forward-thinking; I hope that the next generation will be able to address the challenges in the coming years. 

M: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience or your thoughts on how, if you’ve seen changes for women in Armenia? 

B: Absolutely. So, just a comparison, women during the Soviet times were very active. Many of them occupied official posts in the government and worked in the Communist Party headquarters. Then it all faded away after independence because there were so many household challenges and the priority became survival.  But now, I can say that women [have] regained their activiness taking on parliamentary positions and leading NGOs. Women are becoming more engaged in local government leadership and heading finance departments.  Many female programs such as Katarine with [USAID’s Strengthening Electoral Processes and Political Accountability project] have inspired and empowered women in Armenia.  As a nation, we will continue to make progress by communicating and encouraging women to pursue leadership roles. 

M: Is there anything else you want to share? 

B: After 30 years, I am leaving this agency with pride and satisfaction. I'm very fortunate to have worked here and to have made so many friends.  USAID is a big, big reward for countries like ours because it helps us to open ourselves and it has been my best university.

M: That’s beautiful, Bella, thank you. 

Last updated: August 08, 2022

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