Armenian EyeCare Project Gala Proceeds Will Fund Regional Eye Clinics

Nune Yeghiazaryan

NEWPORT BEACH—The Armenian EyeCare Project held its Thirteenth Annual Newport Gala on Saturday evening, November 21, to celebrate its accomplishments, to honor those who have helped the Project bring sight to Armenians and to pay special tribute to Nune Yeghiazaryan, the Project’s Country Director, who came all the way from Armenia to join the festivities. The dinner party, with 250 guests, raised funds for the five AECP Regional Eye Clinics, which are being developed throughout the country.

The Ballroom at the Balboa Bay Club was transformed into an outdoor “Armenian Festival” for guests to enjoy. Amid the ambiance of trees sparkling with twinkle lights, booths with blue and white canopies surrounded the perimeter of the room where the silent auction was held. During cocktail hour guests bid on silent auction items and had lots of fun as they were greeted by roving entertainers including a psychic, a juggler, a magician and the highlight — a belly dancer!

The evening began with a reception and the silent auction where guests enjoyed piano music by Robert Duquenel and hors d’oeurves. Greeting new and old friends guests, bid on donated items that included romantic weekends from Newport Beach and Laguna Niguel to Las Vegas, trips to almost anywhere in the world, great sporting events including tickets to Lakers and Angels games, special sports and entertainment memorabilia; and specialty wines — donated by Malcolm and Joyce Boghosian and their nephew, Ryan Deovlet, named one of the top 100 wineries in the world by Wine and Spirits in 2014 — and Armenian Brandy galore.

Arch Priest Moushegh Tashjian provided the dinner blessing and guests enjoyed a delicious meal that began with a wonderful assortment of mezze that included Baba Ghanoush, Tabbouleh, Berber Spiced Hummus, Tzatziki and a yummy Walnut-Pomegranate Dip. Guests then moved on to an entrée of Petit Filet Mignon with Pan Seared Divers Scallop and Jumbo Prawn Brochette, served with fresh spring baby vegetables. Guests indulged their sweet tooth with a beautiful Chocolate Decadence — made with Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Ganace, Raspberry Coulis and Blackberries it was absolutely amazing! Following dinner, guests selected special treats from a dessert station with Traditional Armenian Pastries and Delights

Dr. John Hovanesian served as master of ceremonies for the memorable evening. A former board member, Hovanesian lauded AECP’s efforts and cited the work of the organization’s doctors who donate their time saying, “The AECP lifts the spirits of those it serves and those who are called upon to give. It is a model program that inspires action.” The Project also premiered their new film, “23 Years Bringing Sight to Armenian Eyes,” produced by Art Simon who was in Armenia this past summer to film.

Throughout the evening guests delighted in traditional Armenian entertainment provided by Tom Bozigian and his Armenian Band — who also taught guests Armenian dancing following dinner. Arthur Alexsanyan and his Dance Troupe performed some magnificent dances and thrilled guests as they jumped nearly five feet into the air.

The Project paid tribute to Nune Yeghiazaryan in recognition of her extraordinary contributions to the Project for the past twelve years. Nune thanked everyone for their support of the EyeCare Project’s sight-saving programs in Armenia and said she is very grateful for the strong support the EyeCare Project receives from the American Diaspora.

“In Armenia the EyeCare Project is the most well-known nonprofit and most appreciated humanitarian organization. We have supporters because we believe in what we do. We know that our work benefits people and we’re very passionate about it,” said Yeghiazaryan.

Nune has been responsible for all things EyeCare Project in Armenia for the past 13 years, including strategic design, implementation and supervision of the Project’s sight-saving programs in Armenia. Nune joined the EyeCare Project in 2003, when the organization established its headquarters in Armenia. Working as its In-Country Director for over a decade, Nune built a solid foundation for the EyeCare Project’s programs and throughout the years she has been a strong and inspirational leader for the Project. “It’s quite easy for me to inspire others to be involved with the EyeCare Project because I am inspired by the work we do,” she said. Nune is motivated by the blessings she receives from patients who regain their sight and from the parents of children who have been saved from a lifetime of blindness. Nune continued, “Each child saved from blindness is such a reward. Every child who went blind because the disease was too complicated or because the parents did not bring their child to a doctor in time is very painful and such a big disappointment. At the same time, it’s a bell to ring. We need to do more and we need to do better.”

Following dinner and a few words by Dr. Roger Ohanesian, the evening culminated with Dr. Ohanesian presenting to the audience the accomplishments of the EyeCare Project over the past year, and the Project’s Initiative, “Five-for-Five” — the developing and building of five Regional Eye Clinics throughout Armenia. It is the Project’s most ambitious program in its 23-year history and is projected to take five years and cost five million dollars.

Dr. and Mrs. Roger Ohanesian, Founder and Chairman of the EyeCare Project joined long-time EyeCare Project sponsors including Dr. and Mrs. John Griffin, Dr. Thomas Lee, Judge Gassia and Timothy Apkarian along with Drs. Alice and Ara Apkarian, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Khachigian, Mr. David Keligian with daughter Lauren, Mrs. Marilyn Beck, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tusan, Mr. and Mrs. Harut Sassunian, Mrs. Marjorie Aljian and son Reed, and many others.

In closing Dr. Ohanesian said, “It is especially gratifying to see so many of our supporters here tonight,” he said, “So many people who have devoted their resources to the AECP. It is truly a rewarding feeling.”

The Need for Regional Eye Clinics throughout Armenia: EyeCare Project’s Comprehensive, Integrated Program.

For 22 years, the EyeCare Project has been working to achieve their mission and bring hope and sight to Armenian eyes. What began as a medical mission to Armenia to aid war and earthquake victims has evolved into a comprehensive, integrated program to eliminate preventable blindness and to make modern eye care available to adults and children in Armenia. In 2003, the Project implemented its Initiative, “Bringing Sight to Armenian Eyes,” a five-point program focusing on direct patient care, medical education, public education, research and capacity building. The program serving all Armenians—targeting the vulnerable and treating them at no cost—has seen 300,000 patients, performed 15,000 surgical procedures and given away 50,000 pairs of new eyeglasses since 2003.

Bringing Sight to Armenian Eyes — “Five for Five.” To meet the eye care needs of the Armenian people the EyeCare Project is embarking on its biggest project ever — “Five for Five” — and we need your help to bring accessible, quality eye care to all of the people of Armenia. At the request of the Minister of Health, the EyeCare Project will take the lead, in partnership with the Armenian Health Ministry and the Malayan Eye Hospital, to build five Regional Eye Clinics throughout Armenia. The cost of the project is approximately five million over a period of five years.

Too Many Without Care in Armenia. The AECP Mobile Eye Hospital has provided eye care for hundreds of thousands over the past 11 years, yet the accessibility and affordability of eye care in Armenia continues to be extremely limited and disproportionately affects the poor and those living in remote regions. Just four towns outside of Yerevan provide basic eye care and most surgery is available only in the capital. Few Armenians are able to travel the distance because of cost or other reasons and they go without care, leaving many visually disabled.

Cataract Crisis Looming — the Major Cause of Blindness in Armenia. Armenians have learned to accept blindness as a part of growing older because they have no access to eye care. In the United States people accept cataract surgery as a part of aging and it is a common procedure. In Armenia just one out of four who need cataract surgery have access to care. And the situation is about to become much worse as the population begins to age and life expectancy increases. Today 91,000 Armenians or 30 percent of the population, age 65 and over, have cataracts in one or both eyes, causing partial or complete blindness. By 2050, in a little more than 30 years, that number will more than double. The “Five for Five” Regional Eye Clinics will provide access to eye care that is very badly needed and bring sight to Armenian eyes.

Clinic Locations. The Regional Eye Clinics will be located in five areas throughout Armenia making eye care geographically and financially accessible. Today, Armenians living outside the Capital, cannot afford to travel for care and as a result go without.

*Gyumri is the second largest city in Armenia and the capital of the Shirak Province in the northwestern part of the country. The first settlement at the location of modern-day Gyumri was founded in 401 BC, by Greek colonists.

*Yeghegnadzor is the capital of the Vayots Dzor Province in the southern part of the country. It is one of the ancient settlements of the Vayots Dzor canton within the historic province of Syunik.

*Kapan is the seventh largest city in Armenia and the capital of the Syunik Province in the southeast part of country. The area around Kapan was first mentioned in the 5th century as a small settlement.

*Ijevan is the capital of the Tavush Province in the northern part of Armenia, at the foot of Ijevan ridge and Nal’teket ridge on both banks of the Aghstev River. According to tradition, King Artavasdes I built a city at Ijevan about 2,000 years ago. He gathered only the beautiful girls and the handsome boys from all over Armenia, so that latter they would get married and settle in the newly established town.

*Vanadzor is the third largest city in Armenia and the capital of the Lori Province in the northern part of the country. The area of Vanadzor has been settled since the Bronze Age, based on the tombs and other historic remains found on the nearby hills of Tagavoranist and Mashtots.

There are a number of naming opportunities for our donors to the “Five for Five” program. We will name rooms — operating, reception — after you or someone you want to honor. And there will be a Donor Wall in each clinic where all donors to “Five for Five” will be listed. We are also acknowledging all donors in the printed program for our Annual Gala on November 22, at the Balboa Bay Club.


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