LOS ANGELES—The “We Are Gyumri” Project recently began the renovation of the Youth Center in Gyumri, due largely in part to a $50,000 donation from long-time community activists and benefactors, Hacob and Mina Shirvanian, whose generosity through the years was celebrated Monday during a small dinner-gathering at the Bizou Restaurant in Sherman Oaks.
The “We are Gyumri” Project, which was started by the Armenian Youth Federation, in conjunction with the Armenian Cultural Foundation, has eyed the renovation of the Youth Center as a first step in galvanizing the Western US community to assist in youth-oriented project in Gyumri, which was severely damaged during the 1988 earthquake.
Project director, Neshan Peroomian explained that the committee made a decision to begin construction projects after the 80 percent of the needed funds had been raised. To this end, he approached his long-time friends, the Shirvanians, who generously accepted to be part of this project by donating $50,000 to ensure that the renovation moves forward.
Peroomian announced that the renovation construction has begun on the center, which is designated as a historic building by the government of Armenia, and should be completed by June. He extended an invitation to the Shirvanians to attend the opening of the center.
“The renovation of center has two goals: create a gathering place where the youth in Gyumri can gather and take part in cultural and social activities and for the AYF Youth Corps to have a permanent venue, where the program can take place all year and not just in the summer,” said Peroomian.
Dr. Viken Hovsepsian, chairman of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee, which organized the event, praised Hacob and Mina Shirvanian for their decades of unwavering support and resolve, which he said, stem from their inherent humility and commitment.
Hovsepian said that in our egocentric world, it is easy to be bogged down by personal interests and not see the larger picture, which he added that the Shirvanians, with their modesty and dedication, stand apart from others.
“We are not here today to praise their donation, but rather their greatness,” said Hovsepian in honoring the couple.
“Quantitatively, we are small nation. But our high attributes—qualities–have always advanced us. The [Gymri Youth] center is a reflection of that attribute,” said Hovsepian
“I am certain that our youth have dreams, dedication and aspirations… And, who must assist them to realize them? Individuals and organizations who understand that dream and can turn the quantity into quality; can guide our new generation toward that dream,” added Hovsepian.
ARF Bureau member Dr. Viken Yacoubian also praised the Shirvanians and the Youth Center project, which he called an example of a new stage in Diaspora-Armenia relations.
“This family’s [the Shirvanians] calling is so concentrated on national values that their sacrifices have extended decades, and in the face of those sacrifices we are humbled both as individuals and as a society,” said Yacoubian.
In recognizing Peroomian for taking the lead in advancing the project, Yacoubian also emphasized that the Gyumri Youth Center “symbolizes the guarantee to our successes, as well as our challenges, the greatest of which is the re-establishment of Diaspora-Armenia relations in the next decade.”
“Armenians in the Diaspora and Armenia must become one entity, and in order to achieve that, our identities must not only bridge, but go a step farther, and interlock. I believe that this and other projects in Gyumri are the first steps to realizing this ambition,” added Yacoubian.
After presenting their donation, Hacob Shirvanian praised the organizers adding: “Our family decided to make this donation, because it was a credible project, and we see that this project is being achieved through such dedication and love that we decided to help this project.”
He emphasized the importance of the project by lamenting about the emigration crisis in Armenia.
“Today, our youth are leaving our country disappointed. In this regard, the work that you have started is incredibly important. We must encourage our children to want to live and prosper in our homeland. We are equally responsible for our fate,” said Shirvanian.
He also said the for his family, the ARF has been a sign of respect and pride, because it is the organization, that against all odds, has brought the Armenian nation together, be that in Iran, the Middle East and may other countries around the world.
Longtime Shirvanian friend and himself an activist and benefactor Charly Ghailian was also present at the gathering and was the sponsor of the evening. He praised the Shirvanians for always being mentors and “guiding lights” with their dedication and commitment to all facets of Armenian life.