The ARF “Armen Karo” Gomideh invited all of the executive boards of all of the Armenian community organizations and institutions in Orange County, the majority of which attended and only a few were unable to be present due to scheduling conflicts. Over 50 representatives participated in this historic gathering.
Reverend Nareg Pehlivanian opened the meeting with a traditional Armenian prayer after which ARF “Armen Karo” Chairman, Garo R. Madenlian, welcomed the participants to their second home and explained that there are no “odars” here, only fellow Armenians and friends, all from the same community and working for the same cause, each within its own mission statement but all leading to the same end. He went on to explain the importance of coordinating efforts and openly communicating with one another to strengthen the community, work for “Hai Tahd,” and encourage the youth to get involved, especially in light of the aggressive propaganda campaign being implemented by the Azeris in the U.S. and in OC.
Each attendee introduced themselves and the organization they represent. The meeting then discussed a framework to better communicate via emails and coordinate events and activities to better support each other, including the creation of a master calendar for the community. All agreed to commemorate the Armenian Genocide together as one community, the task of organizing the event will be entrusted to the ANCA Orange County chapter again this year, with everyone’s participation. There were numerous suggestions, including one to start a committee to plan events in Orange County to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2015.
Nora Injeyan, a member of ANCA OC and AYF “Ashod Yergat” chapter, introduced a power point presentation identifying the various Azerbaijani and Turkish organizations actively working in the U.S. and in Orange County. She highlighted the recent Azerbaijani efforts to commemorate Khojaly as a massacre of Azeri civilians by Armenians, the increased lobbying efforts by both Azeri and Turkish organizations and their respective networks, and the Gulen movement’s charter school agenda to shape American public opinion. She also informed the attendees about the Azeri Student Association at UCI and their upcoming lecture on campus about Khojaly. There were many questions and answers after the presentation, during which the ARF Chairman informed the organizations that they are monitoring the situation and are formulating a plan of action. He went on to emphasize the importance of presenting a unified front on such national issues, to which all were in agreement.
ANCA OC and AYF “Ashod Yergat” member, Shant Meguerditchian introduced the ANCA professional internship program and asked for everyone’s participation and support to locate and secure Armenian professionals that would host interns. He went on to explain how each business or professional hosting an intern will also designate an Armenian organization for the intern to volunteer with, thus creating a connection to the community in addition to gaining valuable professional experience. Dick Hamparsumian explained that the Orange County Armenian Professional Society had also been working on establishing such a program. The two will discuss joining forces in the near future to work together on this important endeavor.
The final agenda item was about the difficulties in encouraging Armenian youth to remain actively involved in the community and work on national issues. The discussion revolved around identifying solutions to keeping the youth connected and engaged. Some of the suggestions included that in addition to the AYF, Homenetmen should be a vehicle to keep people connected to the community via athletics and scouts, especially if they are beyond the AYF age range. The ARF Chairman explained that the new Homenetmen Sartarabad executive is full of younger and energetic members, such as new chairwoman Naro Sabunjian, who are actively working on this issue and expressed his confidence in them. AYF “Ashod Yergat” chairwoman, Hrache Novruzyan, explained that AYF had previously tried to hold a youth summit but was unsuccessful due to scheduling difficulties. She went on to state that in the near future the AYF will be inviting all the Armenian youth organizations in Orange County to a similar meeting to discuss these issues, organize the youth, and collectively implement a plan of action. She asked for everyone to support the AYF Youth Summit by encouraging participation.
Many attendees commended the ARF for taking such an important first step to further unify the Orange County Armenian community, to organize and coordinate efforts, to provide information and a forum to share ideas, and to encourage everyone to work together. All wanted this positive atmosphere to continue to develop and requested similar meetings in the future.
Prior to adjourning the meeting, the representatives unanimously adopted “Unity is Our Strength” as the motto for 2013 and each vowed to be guided by this principle during the year. After the meeting many continued to discuss activities, events, and various partnership opportunities over coffee and pastries.
Participating organizations: AGBU, ANCA OC, AGM Armenian School Board and Principle, Armenian Center Management Board, ARF Armen Karo Gomideh, AYF Ashod Yergat, AYF Advisor, AYF Juniors Advisor, ARS Karni, ARS Sevan, Hamazkayin Siamanto, Homenetmen Sartarabad, Fortry Martyrs Church Board, OC Armenian Professional Society.