A group composed of Armenian Relief Society Western Region (ARS-WR) regional executive and members–as well as supporters–departed for Armenia and Artsakh (Mountainous Karabagh Republic)–on May 24–for the third pilgrimage organized by ARS-Western Region (ARS-WR).
The objectives of these trips are numerous–from visiting historic sites–to touring projects funded by the Western Region and individual supporters–in addition to visiting sites for future projects in collaboration with the ARS Central Executive (CE)–the ARS Armenia and Artsakh Regions.
One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Sardarabad Monument on May 27–followed by the group’s participation in a "Shourch Bar" (circle dance) around Mount Arakadz–along with almost 250,000 Armenia’s from Armenia and diaspora. ARS tour members were stationed around the section where monumen’s were recently erected on the occasion of the 1600th Anniversary of the invention of the Armenian Alphabet.
The group proceeded to Artsakh for four days–visiting the Kantsasar Monastery–the ARS Sosse Kindergartens–and the opening of the Home Museum of Nigol Touman. Accompanied by fellow ARS members from Artsakh–the group visited the Sosse Kindergartens that operate year round and serve 550 children. The ten schools operate under the auspices of the ARS CE; in addition to sponsoring the Ashan and Aganapert schools–the Western Region also funds several renovation projects at the other schools.
During visits to the kindergartens–guests were entertained by the school children–while ARS-WR Regional Chair Angela Savoian–and Armenia Projects Coordinator Jasik Boniatian-Jarahian–encouraged staff and students with their heartfelt remarks.
Through a project that began in September 2004–the ARS-WR provided two uniforms per student–and table settings to the ten ARS Kindergartens. During this trip–an additional 300 uniforms and 200 pairs of footwear were delivered to the new students. This project is funded by generous individual and chapter donations from the Western Region. During the visits to the Sosse kindergartens–ARS-WR Executive members Alice Yeghiayan and Serpouhie Messerlian–helped put up the plaques for sponsorships by their respective chapters–"Mayr" Chapter of Hollywood and "Sophia" Chapter of Fresno.
During last year’s visit to Armenia–Jasik Boniatian volunteered to sponsor–in memory of her father Souren Boniatian–the renovation of the Dzaghgashad village (formerly Ghshlagh) of Artsakh–including the hall–the tonir (the lavash bread bakery) and the picnic area of the Home Museum of Nigol Touman.
His Eminence Archbishop Barkev Mardirossian–the Prelate of Artsakh–conducted the opening ceremonies on May 31. On hand were numerous public officials–sponsor Boniatian-Jarahian–the tour group–the senior graduating class of the Ferrahian High School–and all the neighboring villagers who were invited to attend and participate in the dinner celebration that followed. Everyone commended Jasik for her dedication to serve the people of Artsakh through extensive renovations–and the preservation of the cultural artifacts housed in the Nigol Touman Home complex.
Another highlight was a visit to the ARS Mother and Child Birthing Center on June 7. Established under the auspices of the ARS Central Executive–and under the leadership of Dr. Sevag Avakian in 1997–the center serves the Akhourian and the surrounding villages.
Since the opening of the maternity ward of the health center on April 25 of this year–113 babies had been delivered up to the time of the group’s visit. The ARS-WR provided clothing for the newly born–and donations were also made to the center while visiting the site. The Regional was pleased to see the utilization of donations totaling $41,000–towards the maternity ward. Every one in the tour was impressed by the professional staff–modern equipment–sparkling environment–and the well-kept grounds surrounding the hospital.
The group also toured the Western Region’s ongoing projects since the 1988 devastating earthquake in Armenia–including the Psychological Centers of Gyumri and Spitak–the Optic Centers (donated to the ARS Armenia Regional Executive)–and one of the residential sites rebuilt by ARS Western Region in Akhourian.
In the capital of Armenia–the group attended a special performance by the residents of the "School for Children with Speech Impairmen’s," and was pleased with the renovation of the auditorium and other improvemen’s of the facility donated during last year’s visit to the school. The group proceeded to visit the Zeytoun No. 8 and Nork No. 14 boarding schools of Yerevan–as well as the Nigol Aghbalian School in Akhourian–once again amazed by the progress of renovations.
ARS CE Vice-Chair Hasmig Derderian and Board Member Alvart Bedrosian–along with ARS-WR members–and members from France–Lebanon–and Greece attended a luncheon meeting in their honor–which was sponsored by ARS Armenia. First Lady of Armenia Dr. Bella Kocharian–along with her daughter–also attended. Dr. Kocharian commended the humanitarian accomplishmen’s of ARS–Angela Savoian–on behalf of the visiting members–thanked the CE for the opportunity to get together and to be honored by the presence of Dr. Kocharian. She also thanked her Armenia counterparts for their hospitality and for facilitating all the ARS-WR projects in the homeland.
Representatives of the ARS-WR presented a large volume encyclopedia about the liberation of Artsakh titled–"Kharapaghian Azadakragan Baderazm 1988 to 1994" to the families of freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives during the liberation struggle.
The members of the tour have returned to their families with renewed conviction and a commitment to serve fellow Armenia’s both in the homeland and the diaspora. What they witnessed in Armenia will provide new impetus for future projects.
Plaques were placed in the name of the following donors at the corresponding sites. No doubt–the financial and moral support the ARS enables to fulfill its noble mission.
-ARS Mother and Child Birthing Center in Akhourian–Armenia: Donated by the ARS San Fernando Valley "Anahid" Chapter–in memory of Janet Aslanian–and in memory of Hagop Boyadjian;
-ARS Sosse Kindergarten in Aganapert–Artsakh: In memory of Serop Sabounjian–donated by his wife–Azniv Sabounjian–and friends;
– ARS Sosse Kindergarten in Ashan–Artsakh: Donated by the Armenian National Committee (ANC) Professional Network;
– ARS Sosse Kindergarten in Aykesdan–Artsakh: Donated by Aram and Sevana Manoukian;
– Shahabi Hrachya Hovhanessian School Gymnasium–Armenia: Donated in memory of Maral Melikian;
– Zeytoun #8 Boarding School–Armenia: Donated in memory of Mr.& Mrs. Simon & Rosie Shirvanian;
– Nor Nork #14–Armenia: Donated in memory of Zareh Saradjian.