NEWPORT BEACH–The Armenian Relief Society of Western USA (ARS), Regional Executive’s Javakhk Fund Committee held its annual fundraiser on March 9, 2008 aboard the yacht Electra "Crystal" and raised almost $60,000 humanitarian assistance to the Armenia’s of Javakhk.
Among the capacity crowd of 210 were Very Rev. Muron Aznigian represented Western Prelate Arch. Moushegh Mardirossian, ARF CC representative Avedik Ismirlian, and ARS Regional Executive members Seda Khojayan, Nvart Mooradian and Sirarpi Chakalian, along with ARS chapter representatives.
The participants toured on the yacht in Newport Bay for almost 5 hours, living and breathing with Javakhk Armenia’s’ issues, hopes, difficulties and successes, through the eyewitness accounts of the committee members, sponsors’ experience and those of the keynote speaker, Dr. Alina Dorian, who provided the public health perspective.
Welcoming remarks were made by Lena Bozoyan, vice chair of the committee, who emphasized the importance of assisting all, who need assistance, those who live in Armenia, Artsakh (Karabakh) and Javakhk. Noting that hopelessness is the biggest threat in Javakhk, she illustrated how establishing electricity and water systems, and youth centers have meant to give hope.
Haigoush Kohler, the chair of the committee, who had participated in the opening ceremonies of the youth center in Akhaltskha in September 2006 and that of Akhalkalak in December 2007, expressed her gratitude towards the supporters and asked them continue their God-pleasing work of extending help to the many needs of the Javakhk Armenia’s.
Next, Very Rev. Muron Aznigian was asked to do the invocation, who noted that Arch. Mardirossian had celebrated Divine Liturgy in Antelias, Lebanon for the pilgrimage day at St. Gregory the Illuminator’s Cathedral, and just as those in Lebanon had renewed their vows, those who were gathered on the yacht were doing the same, united in the spirit of helping Armenia’s all over the world. He congratulated those present in their efforts to struggle for keeping their identity and generosity of spirit with the aim of nationhood.
During dinner, Meroujan Markarian provided entertainment by playing the violin. The program also included Charles Gavoian, a tenor, who did a tribute to Mario Lanza, and Salpi Mailyan, a soloist, who started her performance of popular songs with one written by a son of Javakhk, Ashugh Jivani (troubadour). A documentary of the opening ceremonies of the youth centers in Akhaltskha and Akhalkalak was shown. The ARS Voice program on Horizon TV had recently broadcast an interview, along with the Akhalkalak center opening.
The fundraising aspect of the event kicked in as Hagop Baghdasarian and Jasik Jarahian took the lectern and encouraged those present to make their donations and providing incentives, such as a sailor’s hat, which created a lot of excitement.
Another way that the Javakhk Fund Committee raises funds is through the Armenian schools. Students fill up their piggy banks and learn about Javakhk and helping other children at the same time. Nazeli Shahinian of Chamlian Armenian School presented her school’s contribution of $5,000, after they held Javakhk Month during February.
The keynote speech was by Dr. Alina Dorian, an adjunct assistant professor at the Department of Public Health at UCLA, and a Senior Program Manager at the Center of Public Health at the university. Lena Bozoyan, introducing Dr. Dorian, noted that her specialty is emergency public health, who has been in Artsakh since 1994, and last year, went to Javakhk to prepare a report of the health situation for Armenia’s in Javakhk, promising that the committee will implement her recommendations.
Dr. Dorian first explained what she does in public health, how she wrote the first national health plan for Karabakh in 1996, and how Karabakh is different from Javakhk, since the rules were made to implement various aspects of her plan in Karabagh, and Javakhk is under Georgian rule. During her visit to Javakhk, she toured with Pakrad Sarkisian of the Javakhk Program Committee various hospitals and clinics, checked out the empty drug dispensaries, gathered statistics on diseases and spoke to doctors, nurses, health practitioners and the public, even mother-in-laws, to find out the condition of the people, who amazed her, because despite the desolate state of the health system, they had a positive attitude. She vividly told the story of a group of men’she happened to meet at a church courtyard, who were more inclined to praise the beauty and charm of Javakhk, the tenacity and spirit of the people, than complain about the lack of health services.
She also relayed how her three children have participated in the Javakhk piggy-bank fundraiser at the schools, even her four year-old was pressing donors telling them that his mother worked in Javakhk. She recapped her address by quoting her grandfather, who used to say that love of country does not grow in vases, but needs soil for growth, and as such, land is essential. The message must have struck a nerve, since she received a standing ovation.
Following Dr. Dorian’s remarks, the ARS Regional Executive liaison to the Javakhk Fund Committee, Nevart Mooradian, congratulated the committee on the ongoing projects and thanked the supports for making it possible to lift the dire conditions in Javakhk. Next, the committee chair, Haigoush Kohler, introduced two couples who were recognized for their contributions, Nick and Mary Kanian, and Varant and Houri Melkonian. Kanian accepted her plaque with humility, noting that the real heroes are people like Dr. Alina. Mr. Melkonian, who chairs the ARS committee for assisting the Armenia’s of Iraq, urged those present to lend a helping hand to all who need it, including the newly impoverished Armenia’s of Iraq.
The annual Javakhk cruise provides a special experience in the heart of nature to those who continue to attend it year-to-year, as well as the new participants, many of whom drove a long way to Orange County to attend the event. The event, despite the inconveniences, does provide a special spiritual fulfillment, which is hard to find in the otherwise fast pace of Southern California lifestyle.