BY CATHERINE YESAYAN
Due to Azerbaijan’s relentless military aggression, as of September, 2023 more than 120,000 Armenians from Artsakh were forced to leave their homes. Yet again, Armenians communities across the globe are organizing fundraisers to send aid to our compatriots.
The evacuees crossed Artsakh’s border and settled mainly in the southern parts of Armenia. Among those individuals, some 30,000 are students who have been left without the necessary financial resources to meet their basic needs, including receiving an educational.
To collect funds and to raise awareness for the besieged victims, the students and staff of Glendale Community College partnered with the Armenian Educational Foundation to mobilize the community and raise the necessary funds for affected students now in Armenia.
Glendale Community College reflects a diverse and multifaceted cultural mix of students and staff, with approximately thirty percent of the students being of Armenian descent.
A group of active and concerned students, alongside some members of the Armenian Students Association — one of the most active student clubs on campus — partnered with the AEF and started their initial fundraising in mid-October, 2023. To further publicize this collaborative effort, and to ultimately raise public awareness about the Artsakh crisis, they organized a special concert/fundraiser event on Tuesday, November 21 in the GCC Auditorium. I was invited to this event.
Since 1950, the mission of the AEF has been to offer financial assistance to Armenian Educational institutions, as well as to Armenian students, to help them acquire a decent education in schools, colleges, and universities all around the world.
I arrived a bit early to the fundraising event. Outside the auditorium, the committee had arranged a light buffet and a table for donations.
As I entered the auditorium, my eyes caught a large 8’x4’ canvas painting with a group of students and staff working on it — adding their own personal touches.
The painting was the brainchild of Prof. Gagik Labadzhyan, a chemistry professor at GCC. At first glance, I noticed that the painting carried the picture of a pomegranate tree and the twin peaks of Mt. Ararat.
Later, I found out that it had a much deeper symbolism, representing Armenian culture. It was a dramatic interpretation on many levels.
The pomegranate tree, bearing dozens of bright red fruits, was placed in the center and enveloped the entire painting. In Armenian culture, the pomegranate represents fertility and eternity.
The top part of the tree-bark morphed into the mythical Phoenix, which symbolizes rebirth from the ashes of historic calamities. The wings of the phoenix masterfully blended with the twin peaks of Mt. Ararat. The picture on the canvas was completed with the help of the audience at the conclusion of the event. It matched perfectly with the main message of the event: Hope and resilience for the future.
The event was opened by emcees Ani Isaiants and Yervand Garagossian. They reported that, prior to the event, the organizing committee had managed to collect $6,500 in donations and had set a goal of reaching $30,000 by the end of this year.
The cultural, entertainment, and fundraising portions were smoothly and thoughtfully interwoven throughout the 90 minutes of this event. The entertainment acts included a traditional Armenian dance, “Shalakho,” by Lilia’s dance studio, two solo songs accompanied by piano, two poetry recitals, and one musical duduk piece, featuring a song by Komitas.
California State Senator Anthony Portantino, among several other dignitaries and guests, attended the event. Portantino shared a few invaluable points with the audience during the event, and declared his unconditional allegiance to the Armenian community and their causes.
Anna Miskarova, the executive director of the AEF, played a short video on the activities and the history of the organization. She then gave a detailed account on an emergency fund specifically earmarked to help the forcefully displaced Armenian students from Artsakh to meet their basic survival and educational needs.
A total of $3,000 was raised during the event, which was then matched by a generous anonymous donor.
The event was closed with the viewing of a documentary by Vic Gerami on the brutal treatment of Armenians in Artsakh. It was my absolute pleasure to be there and observe all that I did,