BY ALIK OURFALIAN
SAN FERNANDO VALLEY—On March 28, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation North Valley “Shiragian” Gomideh Public Relations Committee hosted a town hall meeting at the North Valley Armenian Center. The topic of conversation was Armenian social services in the community.
On behalf of the committee Vilma Kouyoumjian welcomed the audience and presented a brief biography of each speaker. The first speaker, Talar Aintablian of the Armenian Relief Society – Western Region (ARS), gave an overview of the ARS and its 26 chapters in the West. The non-profit organization serves in four states in the region, with about 1,200 volunteer workers. The organization also operates a daycare and 15 Saturday schools. The ARS’s Social Services program operates in several cities, providing social assistance to the community. The program includes things such as computer lessons, help with finding jobs, and assistance for immigrants. Aintablian mentioned that the ARS has also been helping victims of domestic violence and those without homes. She urged the crowd to contact the ARS should they be in need of any assistance.
The second speaker was Vergine Madelian, Ph.D, from the Armenian Bone Marrow Registry (ABMR). Madelian explained that her organization works to find matches for patients suffering from Leukemia and Lymphoma. The donors give bone marrow and stem cell once they are found to be a match. She also explained the difficulty in finding matches for Armenian patients. Because Armenians have unique DNA and tissue type, the ABMR must sometimes turn to the worldwide Armenian community to locate a match. Madelian briefly explained the process of swabbing potential donors and extracting the necessary tissue once a match is found. She also mentioned that monetary donations have allowed the ABMR to purchase new equipment that has helped ease the process. Madelian concluded by saying that the ABMR works solely on a volunteer basis and any contributions will help save lives.
The third and final speaker of the evening was Talin Hovsepian, Psy.D from the Armenian Autism Outreach Project (AAOP). She spoke briefly about autism and explained that there is no clear cure for the disease. According to the AAOP, there are 14,700 autistic Armenian children in the Western United States. The AAOP, comprised of volunteers, was created in 2006 to inform the Armenian community about autism. Hovsepian mentioned that the AAOP works with several similar organizations to arrange social and athletic events for children with autism. She concluded by saying that there is still work to be done on this front and the organization is in need of more volunteers to do it.
After all the presentations, the floor was opened for those in attendance to ask the speakers questions and share their thoughts on the topic.