Pasadena’s Sister Cities Program and the Children of Vanadzor

Catherine Yesayan

BY CATHERINE YESAYAN

What better way than to spend the first Sunday of spring, outdoors under the Southern California sun, and raising funds for a good cause! Come join us and participate in a walk-a-thon at Pasadena High School benefiting Vanadzor schools in Armenia.

Pasadena Sister Cities Committee (PSCC), in conjunction with the Christian Club at Pasadena High School, will hold their third walk-a-thon Sunday, March 25, from 1:30 to 4 p.m., at the track and field of Pasadena High School, 2925 East Sierra Madre Boulevard, Pasadena.

Around five years ago a friend introduced me to the Pasadena Sister Cities program and since then I’ve proudly been a part of this benevolent organization which embodies the American spirit of giving and reaching out.

Pasadena was one of the first cities in the nation to adopt a Sister Cities program. President Dwight Eisenhower established the concept in 1956. The idea was to achieve international peace through people-to-people interactions. Presently, 1,060 U.S. cities participate in the Sister Cities program and they have ties to over 1,900 cities in 120 nations.

Pasadena has five sister cities around the world. Vanadzor (vah-naht-zor), previously known as Kirovakan, became the fourth in 1991, three years after the 1988 earthquake which destroyed 70% of the city’s buildings. With a population of 175,000, Vanadzor is the third largest city in Armenia. It is located in Lory, the northwestern region of the Republic of Armenia, and sits about 80 miles north of the capital city of Yerevan.

Vanadzor is widely known for its wonderful “Lory” mineral water, clean running springs, green hills, and snow-capped mountains visible in all directions. The city is now in the process of rebirth and change. Owing to its beauty and rich culture, Vanadzor has many descriptive names: the Beauty of Lory, Sanatorium City, City of Music, and Masters City.

Helen Kouyoumdjian, chair for the Pasadena/Vanadzor subcommittee, said, “the ‘Walk for the Children of Vanadzor’ is organized to benefit year-round kindergartners. 100% of the net proceeds from the Walkathon will be used to provide welfare assistance to the families, as well as supplementing educational supplies such as knapsacks, medicine, winter clothes, shoes, bedding and urgent school repair services.”

During the 20 years of partnership with Vanadzor, Pasdena Sister Cities has provided significant assistance to Vanadzor schools, sometimes supplementing a teacher’s salary and other times paying for necessary school repairs.

Marcia Montez, PSCC President, said, “It is imperative to assist families and the children of Vanadzor, because today Armenia is fighting a harsh economy and there is over 50% unemployment in the country. She added, “In October of 2011, PSCC members traveled to Vanadzor to celebrate our 20-year partnership between the two cities. The week-long trip was an opportunity to evaluate the progress and the needs in Vanadzor kindergartens. Some of the PSCC members participated in construction and repairs that were absolutely necessary in poorly maintained kindergartens.”

The walk-a-thon has been endorsed by elected officials, notably by Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard and City Council members, and Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Mike Antonovich. It is also endorsed by several Pasadena Public Unified School District Board members, and prominent members of the Pasadena business community. It promises to be a local tradition each school year.

The PHS location makes this a very safe environment for young children to participate with their parents and/or grandparents. We hope many will join us in this humanitarian endeavor. Walkers’ registration/donation is $5.00. You may also send your tax deductible contributions in any amount, (payable: Walk for Children/Vanadzor and mail to Vanadzor Walkathon 1536 E. Washington Blvd Pasadena, CA, 91104. For more information, please contact: Marguerite Hougasian, (626) 351-8137; Helen Kouyoumdjian (626) 797-1526; or Forrest Turpen, (626) 318-6835.

Catherine Yesayan is a contributor to Asbarez. You may reach her at cyesayan@gmail.com or read her stories on her blog:beyondthebluedomes.blogspot.com

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