A group of 29 Armenian Relief Society Western Region members had a unique tour of Washington from May 20 to 25, visiting the American Red Cross’ national headquarters, where a memorial sculpture to the victims of the 1988 earthquake in Armenia stands outside the building grounds, and getting a special guided tour of the Library of Congress.
The day following their arrival, they started at the Library of Congress, meeting Dr. Levon Avdoyan, an Armenian and Georgian area specialist since 1992 in the Near East Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division, who welcomes more tourists than scholars to the library.
Next, was a stop at the Rayburn Building, where they were welcomed by Congressman Adam Schiff (District 28th, which includes Glendale, California). Next, they headed to the United States Capitol, on a Special Congressional Tour, moved through the halls decorated with photographs and busts of those who made tough decisions during the last two centuries.
The next stop was at the Armenian National Committee of America, where Aram Hamparian, Executive Director, and Elizabeth Chouldjian, Communications Director, met the group and explained the importance of the upcoming ANCA Endowment Fund Telethon. ARS-ers happily held out the “#GoANCA” orange cards.
The group headed to Embassy Row, where nearby, at the Embassy of Armenia, Ambassador Tatoul Markarian welcomed the ARS members. The Armenian decor was hard not to notice, especially the ornate carpeting with the emblem of the Republic.
The ARS of Eastern USA, Satenig Chapter members led by ARS Eastern USA Regional Executive Representative Sevan Kolejian and Chapter Executive Chairperson Varsenig Bedrossian welcomed them with open arms, provided dinner, and a chance to make their acquaintance at the Sourp Khach Church Hall. This was the first time since the ARS Centennial, that ARSers from the West Coast headed to chapters on the East Coast.
Marie Papazian of the Anahid Chapter of San Fernando Valley, Calif., was delighted to return to the Satenig Chapter, where she had given her oath to the ARS. Papazian said, “It had been 25 years since I had left the town, where I joined the ARS and the church where my children were Christened. When I got there, I felt so happy to be with my Ungerouhies.”
The group visited the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross, where a memorial to the victims of the 1988 earthquake in Armenia reminded everyone of the role of the Red Cross and ARS in helping the earthquake victims, many of whom lost family members.
The memorial, called “Motherland”, was a gift “To the American people from a grateful Armenian people”. The sculptor, Frederic Sogoyan, completed the work in 1990, which was dedicated in 1991.
The participants honored the memory of those who served their country. At the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, they paid their respects to the author of the Declaration of Independence. They visited the graves of those who upheld their beliefs and paid the ultimate price with their lives: Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial; brothers John and Robert F. Kennedys at the National Arlington Cemetery; the memorials honoring the Marines and other veterans at the Arlington Cemetery and Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The participants also toured George Washington’s mansion at Mount Vernon.
The participants enjoyed the opportunities for social interactions, such as the cruise lunch on the Potomac River or the dinner at the Kennedy Center. They also enjoyed the Bolshoi Ballet performance at the Kennedy Center, as well as visiting the National Gallery of Art, where painting of two devoted friends, American Mary Cassatt and Frenchman Edgar Degas were being exhibited. They also toured the National Archives and the White House. The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum was the last stop, before heading to the airport.
The tour provided opportunities to bond together with other ARS members. The bus rides were especially enjoyable because everyone joined in singing songs.
According to Aida Babayan of the Sepan Chapter of Glendale, Calif., “On the flight back, we were still quietly singing together. Thank you ARS Western USA for organizing this memorable trip.”
One local ARS Satenig Chapter member of DC, Irma Kassabian, wrote that “It was so nice to meet our ungerouhies from the West Coast… We had a very enjoyable time together.” The bonds based on service of others radiate as ARS members meet members from other chapter or regions. Those opportunities, which fill the hearts, are priceless.
Lena Bozoyan, Chairperson of the Regional Executive, summed it up by noting, “Visiting the most powerful capital of the world was both educational and historic for our members and participants. Most of all, meeting our Eastern ARS members left a memorable impact that will strengthen our American Armenian values and organizational goals.”
The Armenian Relief Society of Western USA, established in 1984 and with regional headquarters in Glendale, CA, has 26 chapters and more than 1,200 members in four western states. The ARS-WUSA operates a Social Services Division and Child, Youth, and Family Guidance Center, and funds numerous youth programs, scholarships, and relief efforts. For further information, please visit www.arswestusa.org or call (818) 500-1343.