Hamlet Chraghchian has accepted to become this year’s Honorary President of Homenetmen’s 43rd Annual Navasartian Games. A meeting held with Chraghchian on Thursday, June 7 allowed for the opportunity to become closely acquainted with his biography and organizational life.
With approximately 60 years of volunteerism in Homenetmen, Chraghchian’s service to the organization ranges from his dedication to the Ararat association in Tehran, Iran, to the positions he has held in Los Angeles as an Executive Board member, Regional Executive Chairperson, Central Executive Board member, and a participant of numerous regional conventions.
As an active member of the organization, Mr. Chraghchian’s life has been closely linked to the ideology and principles of Homenetmen.
When asked where and how his organizational life began, Chraghchian answered, “A group of us were gathered at the Ararat association’s office in Tehran in the 1950’s when a photo of the ARF founders hanging on the wall fell. Behind that photo, we saw another photo of Archbishop Nerses Melik Tankian with Homenetmen scouts in Tabriz. The leader of our youth group, Leonid Ohanian, expressed that we should start a similar scouting group.” Ties were established with Homenetmen bodies, who conveyed their agreement, and we laid the foundation to start two scouting groups (red and blue). An orange group was added later, as well as a group of ‘arenoush’s.’ This newly established scouting group did not bear the Homenetmen name at the time because the country’s authorities knew that the organization’s leadership was located outside of Iran and, as a result, was opposed to the name. Consequently, the newly formed scouting movement was known as one entity of the Ararat association.
After working for years in the scouting movement, Hamlet Chraghchian also dedicated his time to the field of sports, particularly in mountaineering and skiing.
During those years, Chraghchian held the responsibility of serving on the executive board of the Ararat association. Because of the Islamic revolution in Iran though, he relocated to the United States and settled in San Francisco, California.
As an individual who worked in the Armenian community in his country of birth for years, Chraghchian could not set aside his commitment to service. When visiting Los Angeles, another dedicated member, Roubik Gourjian, suggested for him to once again become active in Homenetmen. His two sons, Patrick and Pierre, were already members of the Homenetmen Glendale Chapter.
Chraghchian accepted and decided to relocate to Los Angeles. In the early 1980’s, he served on the second executive board of the Glendale chapter. “With the help of locals originally from Gharadagh (an area in the northern part of Iran where a large Armenian population resided), we succeeded in purchasing a center on Broadway. We worked out of that center for a few years. There were issues with the Ararat versus Homenetmen names and I approached the Regional Executive Board at that time about the matter. It was suggested for us to utilize Armenian names for chapters as opposed to the city where a chapter was located (i.e. Massis Chapter instead of Valley Chapter; Shant Chapter instead of Crescenta Valley). Thereafter, in 1984, we decided to name our chapter the Homenetmen Glendale “Ararat” Chapter,” stated Chraghchian. In doing so, the chapter’s name had a sentimental meaning to its members and, at the same time, belonged to the Homenetmen family.
Chraghchian’s work has not been limited only to the Ararat Chapter. He has also been elected as a member of the Homenetmen Regional Executive Board. After working within the Homenetmen Ararat Chapter until 1986, Chraghchian explained that he was encouraged to serve on the Regional Executive Board. At the following representative’s meeting, he was elected onto the Board and served as its Chairperson for two terms, which covered a period of four years. During those years, Chraghchian worked closely with Central Executive members Jirair Boyajian and Dr. Arevian. “I’d like to state that in our work and activities, I have always been grateful to these two members, as well as to this year’s Exemplary Homenetmen Member Koko Balian. They have served as my mentors in Homenetmen.”
Following the passing of Jirair Boyajian, Central Executive Member Mihran Shimshirian contacted Chraghchian to encourage him to serve on the next Central Executive Board. After serving on the Regional Executive for two terms, Chraghchian became a member of the Central Executive Board replacing the late Jirair Boyajian.
Hamlet Chraghchian has spent more than half a century serving Homenetmen and contributing to the organization as one member of its “volunteer army.” As such, it was interesting to learn what he has learned from the organization.
When asked, Chraghchian replied, “If we approach this issue seriously, what we have given to Homenetmen is only a small part. Rather, Homenetmen has provided me and countless generations with a national education (be it in Iran or other countries) and led them to success in their lives. I owe all of my successes to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the Ararat association in Tehran, and Homenetmen. The upbringing and education that we have received in these organizations is like no other. Looking at Homenetmen members, they are all successful individuals thanks to the organization’s healthy rearing and instruction.”
With decades of work and service in the organization, Chraghchian was then asked about what he envisions for Homenetmen’s future. He replied, “If we take into consideration the last forty years of our work and our leadership during those decades, we will see that our leaders primarily came from Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon, Iran, Syria, etc. and they were older in age. Now though, a great majority of our executives are young and educated individuals. I don’t mean to allude that our leaders in the past weren’t educated, yet they came to the United States from Iran with that country’s mindset and mentality, and the same for those from Lebanon and Syria. This resulted in a difference in mentalities and we had issues with the youth because their approaches were completely different than ours. Today, we see that, in large part, most of our executives are young individuals, who were either born here or came to this country at an early age. They were raised and educated here. Therefore, I believe that the organization has a very bright future. There is no other Armenian organization, which has our abilities, structure, and manpower. Most importantly, the organization’s executives, members, and volunteers are all working voluntarily and willingly. Proof of this is seen in the fact that those who work during the Navasartian Games are all volunteers and supporters. I believe Homenetmen has a bright and promising future ahead and I have great hope that its second century will be full of renewed successes.”
At the end of the meeting with Mr. Chraghchian, he called upon families in the community, particularly young parents, to entrust their children to Homenetmen and encourage them to join its membership. In conclusion, he stated, “An integral part of Homenetmen is the preservation of the Armenian identity, language, and culture and I firmly believe this begins with scouting.”