BY CATHERINE YESAYAN
Chances are you don’t know Anoushavan Abrahamian. I met him a few years ago at a banquet in Los Angeles. I was sitting with him and his wife at the same table. We got acquainted, and he told me about the foundation that he had created to enrich the lives of disadvantage youth. I must admit I was very impressed.
Abrahamian was born in Iran to a working class Armenian family. In 1963 he was sent to Germany to further his education. Being a very ambitious young guy, after graduating his studies, he started his own business of export-import industrial products to and from the Middle East in Herford (northwest Germany) in July of 1967. As his business became more and more successful he got involved with the local community and as a measure of gratitude he gave back to civic centers and local charities.
In 1990 Abrahamian moved his family, wife and three kids from Germany to Los Angeles, where he continued to be an active member of the community.
Abrahamian told me that it had always been a dream for him to create something significant and lasting to benefit future generations. That dream became a reality in 2004 with the establishment of the Anoushavan Abrahamian Education Fund (AAEF) a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles. Since its inception, AAEF has renovated 10 vocational schools in different regions throughout Armenia.
Abrahamian’s hope is that by arming the youth with useful and practical trade skills, he can contribute in small measures to the enhancement of the Armenian economy. Confucius says, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” Additionally, he thinks that by renovating the vocational schools, he gives the youth the opportunity to stay in their own villages and continue their studies.
This summer I had the opportunity to visit one of the refurbished trade schools in the city of Vanadzor. I was there a week before the beginning of school. The four story building of the school was founded in 1964 during the Soviet era. In those days, the school housed around 2,000 students. Today the school will open with only 250 kids who come to finish their secondary education.
Arshak Tumanyan, the principal of the school, welcomed me and gave me a tour of the facility. Not the whole staff but a few, and the janitorial crew, were present. It was evident how much effort had gone into preparing the school for the upcoming opening. Simply put, I guess I had chosen the best time to visit the school.
All the classrooms were organized and dusted. The windows were washed. The hallway wooden floors had a fresh coat of paint. When Tumanyan introduced me to a woman janitor, she gave me a smile and told me that because of Abrahamian, the school has the best updated bathrooms than any other school in town. I took her word.
The first thing the principal pointed out to me was a commendation on the wall of a hallway in the form of a poster that the school had prepared as homage to their benefactor. The poster carried Abrahamian’s picture—then a bio titled, “Pages of a Life time,” and then a few lines of reflections from some of the students, thanking Abrahamian for his generosity.
Then he took me to every classroom. AAEF had contributed funds to renovate and to buy supplies for sewing, hair dressing, jewelry making, carpentry, and computer classes. In addition, AAEF had provided funds to repair the roof and install a heating system. However the school was not able to use the heating system because the windows had too many cracks and crevices which allowed the heat to escape.
Arshak Tumanyan, the principal, told me that the school is grateful to the generosity of AAEF. He also gave me some figures. Out of 250 students, 50 pay their own tuition. The state subsidizes the tuition of 200 students which is 80,000 dram, almost $160 for a year. In addition the state pays 5000 dram ($10) a month to every student who attends the vocational school.
When I look around meiIn my daily life in Armenia I see so many from Diaspora who have played a tremendous role in the development of our homeland. Arguably since the downfall of the Soviet era, in 1991, the Diaspora has been a main force behind the economic growth of Armenia.
From our favorite son Kirk Kerkorian to Anoushavan Abrahamian and others in between, many have contributed either by injecting money or bringing their skills and experiences acquired abroad to refurbish the country. It’s truly heartwarming to see all these efforts to bring back the old glory.