WATERTOWN–Virginia Ohanian is one of Armenia Tree Project’s most active ambassadors. Whenever a birthday or holiday comes around, she asks friends and family to direct gifts to ATP to plant trees in Armenia. They often make such gifts, and do so in her honor too. In fact, Mrs. Ohanian has more trees planted in her honor than any other person in the ATP community.
Ginny, as she is known by her many friends, has been involved with ATP since its founding in 1994. Late last year, while looking at photographs of the hundreds of students participating in ATP’s environmental education program in Armenia, she announced that she was thinking about doing something significant for the organization.
Years ago, she helped ATP take a major step in expanding its education programs by donating $100,000 to establish the Michael and Virginia Ohanian Environmental Education Center at the site of the ATP nursery in Karin Village.
ATP’s tree planting efforts have grown exponentially over the past several years and its environmental education curriculum is taught to hundreds of students each year at the Ohanian Center. The site is ideal for education because ATP staff is growing dozens of varieties of fruit and decorative trees in the nearby fields for outplanting across the country.
Ginny is happy with the success, but believes the need is great and that ATP could do more. Last fall, she issued a challenge for ATP to bring its educational work to the next level. She wanted to know how such quality programs could reach even more students and professionals, so that the trees being planted today are protected in the future. She backed her challenge with a commitment to fund a second education center in another part of the country where ATP is expanding its strategic reforestation operations.
With a new $150,000 gift, Ginny is enabling ATP to establish a new northern outpost in Margahovit, Lori Marz, which will be named the Michael and Virginia Ohanian Environmental Center. The new center will become an integral part of the region, where ATP has focused its reforestation efforts to combat the huge losses to the forests.
In recent years ATP established the Mirak Family Reforestation Nursery in the area, which will allow up to one million trees per year to be planted in this heavily deforested area. In addition, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund has financed ATP’s collaboration with the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, to produce a sustainable forestry manual for use by professionals in Armenia.
"The new Michael and Virginia Ohanian Environmental Center will play a key role in allowing us to train students and professionals in forestry best practices and conduct environmental education lessons with students in the northern parts of the country, which has been hit hard by deforestation," stated ATP Executive Director Jeff Masarjian. "On behalf of our founder Carolyn Mugar, our thanks go out to Ginny and the rest of her family for their leadership and dedication to ATP and our work in restoring Armenia’s environment for future generations."
"My husband Michael was an inseparable friend to Carolyn’s father Stephen Mugar, and at a certain point we decided to start giving back as much as we can, so we got involved with charitable causes and philanthropy," recounted Ginny. "When Carolyn told us about ATP and how it produces fruit trees, clean air, and a healthy environment for Armenia, this was something we could all appreciate and get behind and support in a big way."
Ginny attended the inauguration with her family of the Michael and Virginia Ohanian Environmental Education Center in Karin Village in 2004, and she recalls the pleasure of visiting and seeing how much of a difference the facility makes in the life of the region for Armenia’s of all generations.
"I am thankful that ATP got involved in environmental education, and especially that they gave me the opportunity to support such a wonderful facility, where students and visitors can learn about the science and other aspects of Armenia’s unique natural heritage," explained Ginny. "I’m also proud that the organization has grown and we are able to create a new educational establishment in another part of the country."
"Our family is very pleased to be involved in a project this fulfilling, and we are proud to contribute to a Green Armenia, where people have food in their backyards thanks to the fruit trees being planted by ATP," stated Ginny. "It is a pleasure to be helping people live a good life in Armenia, and everyone should give something back to the land of their heritage."
Most of all, Ginny would like her gift to inspire others to give, for themselves, for ATP, and for Armenia’s future. "I hope other people can experience the sense of joy our family has felt in being able to give something back to Armenia," she emphasized. "Our support of ATP has been very rewarding and we know it is making an impact in the country, so I would like to issue a new challenge, and ask other diasporans to also think about doing more and showing even more support for ATP’s critical work."
Since 1994, Armenia Tree Project has planted and restored more than 2,000,000 trees and created hundreds of jobs for impoverished Armenia’s in tree-regeneration programs. The organization’s three tiered initiatives are tree planting, community development to reduce poverty and promote self-sufficiency, and environmental education to protect Armenia’s precious natural resources. For additional information, visit the web site www.armeniatree.org.