Armenian Women From Around the World Gather To Celebrate ARS Centennial

NEW YORK—Armenian Relief Society members from various countries, including Greece, France, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Argentina, Brazil, Canada as well as the United States gathered in New York City this weekend to celebrate the organization’s 100th anniversary.

The three-day celebration, organized by the ARS Central Executive Board, began with a gala evening at Carnegie Weill Recital Hall. The evening’s keynote speaker, Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, praised the ARS for its philanthropic and charitable work. She touched upon the changes in the non-profit sector, mentioning that investment in women’s economic development has shown to be successful. She urged the gathering to continue promoting educational, healthcare, housing and welfare issues for Armenian families throughout the world.

The evening began with Mistress of Ceremonies Stephanie Mesropian reflecting upon the 100 years of ARS service to the Armenian communities. Mesropian described the humanitarian work of the ARS as it evolves during the past century. She also touched upon the organization’s future with special focus on the programs in Armenia, Artsakh and Javakhk. The master of ceremonies introduced invited guests, including benefactors, organizational representative, church leaders, and U.N. representatives (see below for a full list of officials who attended the ARS Centennial Gathering).

Eastern Prelate Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan was invited to read the Pontifical Encyclical of His Holiness Aram I Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, who declared 2010 the Year of the Armenian Woman, congratulating the ARS on its 100 years of selfless service to the Armenian nation.

Armenia’s Ambassador to the US, Tatoul Markarian, delivered a message from Armenia’s Minister of Diaspora, Hranoush Hakobyan. The Ambassador also offered his personal congratulations and urged the members to continue its mission.

Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau member, Hagop Der Khatchadourian and Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation and passed recipient of ARS scholarships, offered their remarks.

Vicky Marashlian, Chairperson of the ARS Central Executive Board, reminded everyone of the work that the ARS has undertaken. “The ARS works on a full spectrum of issues; from local community efforts, to sheltering and feeding orphans in the Homeland, to promoting an awareness of our vibrant culture, and of equal justice wherever and whenever people are denied basic rights,” she stated. Marshlian speaking to the membership in the audience emphasized that “we are an alliance of strong, passionate women catalyzing partnerships and leveraging human and financial capital to serve the needs of our people.”

At the conclusion of her address, Marashlian presented the ARS “Ararat” Award to the Near East Foundation, an organization who is celebrating it’s 95th anniversary and was started the same year as the tragic Armenian genocide in 1915. Shant Mardirosian, Chairman of the Near East foundation, accepted the award with great honor and thanked the ARS for acknowledging the work their organization does.

The evening featured a vibrant performance by opera singers Yeghishe Manucharyan, tenor and Victoria Avetisyan, mezzo-soprano. They were accompanied on piano by Armine Vardanyan; and Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg on the glass harmonica.

The celebration concluded with a reception which gave all those in attendance an opportunity to collectively congratulate the ARS’ 100 years of service to the Armenian people.

In addition to the Wednesday night celebration, the members who had gathered from throughout the world attended a one-day seminar on various topics, including UN NGOs; Armenian women and empowerment; international philanthropy and internal organizational issues.

The 100th anniversary is also being celebrated with local and regional events throughout the 26 countries where ARS entities are located.

The New York-based gathering is part of a series of events that will culminate this fall with a pilgrimage to Der Zor, the Syrian desert where hundreds of thousands of Armenians perished during the Genocide and a week-long celebration in Armenia.

List of officials who attended the ARS Centennial Gathering:
Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the Eastern USA
Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the Western USA
Archbishop Manuel Batakian, Exarch of the Armenian Catholic Church in North America
Levon Filian representing the Armenian Missionary Association of America
Tatoul Markarian, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia in the USA
Mr. & Mrs. Garen Nazarian, Representative of the Republic of Armenia at the UN
Aram Avetisyan representing the NKR Representation in the USA
Hagop Der Khachatourian representing the ARF Bureau
Hrayr Baronian representing the ARF Central Committee, Eastern USA
Garine Hovsepian representing the ARF Central Committee, Canada
Zarmayr Setrakian representing the Hamazkayin Educational and Cultural Association
Shant Martirossian representing the Near East Relief Foundation

ARS of Western USA Members Return from New York for Centennial Commemorations

BY RITA HINTLIAN

Eighty-three members from eighteen chapters of the Armenian Relief Society-Western USA arrived in New York to participate in centenary celebrations of the ARS organized by the ARS Central Executive and Eastern Region. ARS members came from chapters as far away as southern Orange County to Fresno to San Francisco. Our region was privileged to have amongst its members, three Central Executive members and almost all Regional Executive members (except for one). The “Anahid” Chapter of San Fernando Valley was present with 21 members, including all members of the chapter executive.

ARS members were delighted to be in New York, not only to celebrate the centennial of the organization that they dedicated their lives to, but also to spend time together, to share their concerns and collectively find solutions to shared issues during the seminar or at every opportunity that they got together.

Most of the ARS-WUSA members arrived in New York between March 9 and 10 with anticipation and trepidation if the city where the ARS was founded 100 years ago was willing to share its sparkle and mysteries.

On March 10, ARS members headed to the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall from Fort Lee on several buses, where the official opening ceremonies were held. Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation, acknowledged his indebtedness to the ARS saying, “I am living proof of what the ARS has done”. Vicky Marashlian, Chairperson of the ARS Central Executive Board presented the ARS “Ararat” Award to the Near East Foundation Board Chairman Shant Mardirossian.

The next day, a seminar was held at the St. Vartanants Church hall in Ridgefield, New Jersey. Following the lecture session, our members were divided into four groups amongst the other participants from the Eastern USA, Canada, South America, Europe, Middle East and Armenia. The participants discussed “The ARS, Civil Society Organizations and the United Nations in the 21st Century” by Stephanie Mesrobian; “Alternative sources of technical and financial support for ARS activities” by Garine Hovsepian; “The ARS in the 21st Century: Mobilizing to improve the lives of Armenian Women” by Maria Titizian; and the ARS Organizational Status by Jirayr Beugekian.

During the same afternoon, the ARS members visited the UN building, which will be under renovation next m
onth. The visit to the UN exhibits and meeting rooms reinforced the earlier discussions during the day about the ARS activities at the UN, and helped place the Millennium Goals in perspective to the global ARS accomplishments.

The next day, ARS members took the buses to visit touristic sites in New York. In the evening, the ARS of Eastern USA had organized a dinner at the La Fortuna catering hall in Fairview, NJ. On this occasion, the ARS of Western USA, Regional Executive Board Chairperson, Sossie Poladian, presented golden coins with the ARS emblem and the image of the Mamig and Babig monument in Karabakh (Artsakh) to the ARS Central Executive Board Chairperson Vicky Marashlian and the ARS of Eastern USA Regional Executive Board Chairperson Silva Kouyoumdjian. During the presentation Poladian said, “The ARS is a unique organization, which can connect members from all corners of the world.”

During the next few days, the ARS members, group by group, departed from different airports to their various destinations in California.  Due to the severe weather conditions in the New York area, the return trip back to the west was only possible with a lot of patience, endurance and supportive ARS members. During the New York trip, the ARS-WUSA members had encountered unexpected difficulties, but the tornados created havoc with delays for most of the scheduled flights. In the hotel without power, the ARSers sat at the lobby and tracked on cell phones the incoming news of the various groups, which had already departed.

Tired after many hours and sometimes days of delays, the ARS members finally arrived at their destinations, to continue with renewed vigor and dedication their service to the ARS during the next century.  

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