BY ARA MALAZIAN
On November 17 a delegation from the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Montebello ‘Dro’ Gomideh delivered a fully refurbished fire truck to the City of Stepanakert in Nagorno Karabakh. It was a historic meeting in that it marked the first time since 2005 when Montebello and Stepanakert became sister cities that an official delegation from Montebello had visited the Sister City.
In 2014 the City of Montebello donated the truck to the Montebello Armenian Center for delivery to Stepanakert. Over the next several months Montebello’s A.R.F. Dro Gomideh held several fundraisers to facilitate the rehabilitation of the fire truck so that it would arrive in Stepanakert ready for use. With the support of several A.R.F. Chapters in the region, the materials needed to equip the truck arrived from the cities of Montebello, Los Angeles and Pasadena including ladders, hoses and nozzles.
The delegation was led by A.R.F. Dro Gomideh Chairman, Sarkis Nourian. The first meeting of the visit was with Suren Grigoryan, the Mayor of Stepanakert and Arthur Haroutyunyan the Director of the State Service of Emergency Situations. During the meeting the Mayor thanked Montebello’s Dro Gomideh for their efforts. “We are proud to be able to do whatever we can to help” stated Ara Malazian who headed the fire truck’s renovation. “It is our pleasure to do anything that we can to help our brothers in the homeland” added Dro Gomideh Treasurer Stepan Altounian who arranged for shipment of the truck to Stepanakert from Montebello.
The meeting was followed by the formal ceremony commemorating the transfer of the fire truck to Karabakh’s Emergency services. During the ceremony there were several speakers including A.R.F. Central Committee Representative Levon Kirakosian, Dro Gomideh Chairman Nourian, Director Haroutunyan and Montebello Mayor Jack Hadjinian. Harout Bourian of the Montebello Dro Gomideh walked the emergency services personnel around some of the truck’s many functions.
Following the ceremony, the members of A.R.F. Dro Gomideh received a tour of Stepanakert’s state of the art 911 emergency response system. The headquarters are manned by many operators, several of whom are disabled veterans of the Karabakh War who continue to serve their countrymen.
Arthur Haroutyunyan, the Director of the State Service of Emergency Situations, expressed the sincere gratitude of the people of Stepanakert for the donation of the fire truck and equipment. Given the aged status of the existing firefighting equipment he assured the delegation that the new truck would be put to immediate use. The Fire Chief added that since the truck donated to the City is a pumper truck, it will actually be used to supply water to the City’s other fire trucks during large fires allowing the Emergency Services to attack fires from several locations.
Director Haroutyunyan went on to talk about some of the other things that would help his firefighters including fireproof clothing, fireproof goggles and respirators. At present the firefighters do their duty wearing only gloves for protection and are exposed to all of the dangers presented by fire, smoke and ash.
Following a lunch reception, the delegation met with the President of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, Bako Sahakyan and other dignitaries during which the President discussed some of the challenges being faced by the government of Nagorno Karabakh. While the humanitarian efforts of the City of Montebello and the A.R.F. Dro Gomideh were greatly appreciated, President Sahakyan emphasized the challenges that the country of Nagorno Karabakh faced in ongoing development. Chief among his concerns was access to funds for the development of the country.
In order to offer funding to the population to start businesses and purchase property, the government has to borrow funds at high interest rates and then loan the money to the general population at even higher interest rates. President Sahakyan encouraged the members of the delegation, and indeed all Armenians to begin making deposits into Nagorno Karabakh’s banks. By doing so, individuals could earn higher interest rates than are available in several other countries while simultaneously helping the government of Nagorno Karabakh to provide loans to citizens at substantially reduced rates to encourage further development of the country’s economy.