Los Angeles Has A Passion For Compassion: A Journey To Armenia

The Candleseller, photograph by Sara Anjargolian

BY CHARLES CASE

A woman in a church sells prayer candles.  Her face maybe rugged and weary, but every candle she sells burns with a new fire of hope and faith.  A scarred veteran remembers with pain and optimism how his country’s freedoms have been won.  A monastery rises like a beacon of ancient pride in a valley green with the future. These are the faces and the tales, beautiful and aching, wise and wounded, that make up the story of Armenia as told through the eyes of renowned photographers Sara Anjargolian and Vahe D’Ala.  

Los Angeles has a passion for compassion. This commitment to healing the world will come alive in music, art and film at “Journey to Armenia: A Benefit for the Real Medicine Foundation” to be held on August 7th at Gallery 1927 in the Fine Arts Building in Downtown Los Angeles.  Hosted by Jill Simonian, correspondent for HLN’s “Showbiz Tonight” and the founder of TheFabMom.com and sponsored by the Law Firm of Geragos & Geragos, this gala celebration of hope and activism is supported by superstar Iranian, Armenian and American singers Andy, Tiffany Madadian and Satar.  Other backers of the benefit include Oscar-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, actor Cris Judd, legendary lawyer Mark Geragos, newsman Larry Carroll and singer and former Pussy Cat Doll Carmit Bachar.  

The centerpiece of “A Journey to Armenia” will be a gallery of donated photographs by Armenian photographers Sara Anjargolian and Vahe D’Ala.  Sales of these intense and moving images of Armenia will support Real Medicine Foundation’s efforts to help that beleaguered nation.  In addition, guests can participate in the live auction of artwork by TV personality Lesli Matta, plus a silent auction sponsored by the Andrew Weiss Gallery.  The event will also premiere a short documentary by filmmaker George Papuashvili that captures the work of Real Medicine in Armenia. 

The Real Medicine Foundation was founded by Dr. Martina Fuchs in May 2005 inspired by lessons learned after working for months in the Asian Tsunami relief efforts. Real Medicine Foundation provides humanitarian support to people living in disaster and poverty stricken areas, and continues to help communities long after the world’s spotlight has faded.  RMF believes that ‘real’ medicine is focused on the person as a whole by providing medical/physical, emotional, economic and social support. By using a personal approach, Real Medicine forms partnerships with individuals and existing organizations throughout the world, creating effective models and sustainable solutions that can be applied globally.

One of these communities is Shinuhayr in the Syunik region of Armenia.  A mountainous environment of soaring natural beauty, Syunik is also deeply scarred by hunger, need and hopelessness.  In the shadow of its mountains sits a poor and isolated village, Shinuhayr.  Once home to a modern hospital, Shinuhayr now depends upon a worn and neglected clinic to meet the primary health needs of those at every stage of life, more than 8,000 people in a place where 90 percent of the population is mired in poverty.  Many aid organizations have promised to help the people of this lost village, but only RMF has kept its word.  Now because of Real Medicine Foundation, in partnership with the Armenian Relief Society, the clinic in Shinuhayr has experienced a new birth of hope, providing access to healthcare, emergency services, childhood immunizations and free medications to all in need.

One of the neediest is Daniel Megertchyan.  In December 2010 RMF was informed that this two-year- old boy had suffered 4th degree burns in a kitchen accident.  Within a week, Real Medicine raised the funds necessary to support every aspect of Daniel’s recovery.  Today Daniel is a bright and happy child who greets visitors to his home with a beautiful smile, his life a testament to RMF’s dedication to caring. 

While so much has been done, there is always another mouth to feed and another heart to heal.   Maryam is a child aching with pain.  A 14 year old from Shinuhayr, her back is bent with debilitating scoliosis.  Among Real Medicine Foundation’s priorities for the coming year is to provide Maryam with the care necessary to alleviate her suffering while she waits for surgery. 

Another target for Real Medicine Foundation is the funding of a dental clinic in Shinuhayr.  Currently the people of the region, including 3,000 children, lack any access to a dentist.  But while these individual projects are very worthy, RMF’s greatest dream is to transform the lives of everyone in Shinuhayr by transforming their clinic into a fully functioning hospital and community center.  This starts with the roof, a rusting sheet of tin that leaks snow and rain.  Such dilapidation puts at risk the long term viability of the clinic and the safety of the thousands of people relying on it for care.   But if RMF can put a new roof over this one building, this begins the process of raising a new roof of compassion that will cover the whole of Shinuhayr. 

Generosity of spirit is deeply infused in the Armenian character.  This truth is revealed in an old story about the patron saint of Armenia, St. Gregory the Illuminator.  The pagan king Tiridates had imprisoned Gregory for practicing his faith.  Yet when Tiridates fell ill St. Gregory did not hesitate to use his miraculous powers to save the King’s life.  St. Gregory gave the gift of healing.  At a “Journey to Armenia” members of Los Angeles’ Armenian community — and all Angelenos equally “passionate about compassion”— will be able to do as St. Gregory did, and through their support of Real Medicine Foundation give the gift of healing to the people of a proud but suffering land.

Visit the Web site for more information about RMF. Purchase your tickets or become a sponsor for this event.

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