BY JOE ROOS
LOS ANGELES — On Aug. 7 there was a benefit. Anyone who’s ever been to one knows the point of a benefit:
“Here we are over here. We know our situation is very fortunate. There they are over there. We know their situation is very unfortunate. Let’s get together over here and pool our resources so we can help their situation over there.”
That’s the point of a benefit.
That relatively simple set of parameters is like a well-done painting: It’s a beautiful testament to the spirit of humanity. However, much like a masterful painting, the true beauty of a benefit lies within the finite details that make it unique.
What’s the benefit for? How do we get people to come? How do we get people to kick in? How successful were we at the end of the day?
The Real Medicine Foundation’s benefit for the Shinuhayr Primary Healthcare Clinic in Armenia, sponsored by Geragos & Geragos Law Firm Aug. 7 at the Fine Arts Building in Los Angeles, was indeed a uniquely beautiful and successful display of humanity and compassion.
Nairy Ghazourian, volunteer leader of Real Medicine Foundation’s “Team Armenia” and event organizer, effectively summed up the spirit of the evening in her address to the guests.
“This is family. This is friends helping friends,” said Ghazourian to the mostly Armenian-American crowd. “It’s always a team effort. All of us (at the benefit) are privileged so much in this world and this wonderful country, and I think all we can do is really give ourselves a little more to those who are much less fortunate than us.”
In unanimous agreement, everyone gave to support the clinic.
The Shinuhayr Clinic, even with its current deteriorated structure, is providing primary healthcare and emergency services to Shinuhayr, as well as seven surrounding villages. Doctors and nurses are provided by the Armenian government, but the clinic operations, to include supplies and structural repairs, is funded through The Real Medicine Foundation. Hence, the need for a benefit.
“In Armenia right now, we’re working out of a structure that was a hospital in the time of the Soviet Union, and the building needs urgent renovation,” said Dr. Martina Fuchs, founder and CEO of the Real Medicine Foundation. “Most of the rooms are not usable. We use a few of the rooms as examination rooms for the patients, and a few other rooms to make sure we at least have a running clinic.”
Dr. Fuchs is not the typical Non-Governmental Organization CEO. She stood out in the crowd of well-dressed, mostly Armenian-American benefit attendees, and it wasn’t just because of her blonde hair. Dr. Fuchs’ persona and her demeanor are not that of a stuffy executive, making calls from a top-floor office. Though everyone at the Fine Arts Building was well aware of who she was, she presented herself as a gracious servant, and indeed acted as one.
Her attendance at the event in Los Angeles was only a stop on a voyage. She came from working on the ground in Haiti, where victims are still feeling the devastating effects of the January 12, 2010 earthquake. After the benefit, she was en route to another one of the 16 countries in which The Real Medicine Foundation has relief efforts, where she’d be working again in the field with actual people in need.
Though the benefit was only a stop on what seems like a never-ending crusade, the importance of soliciting financial contributions hardly escaped her. “The greatest challenge is always money,” said Fuchs. “The more funding we have, the more we can do, the more people we can reach.”
This particular fundraiser was in an effort to reach more people, but also to strengthen the services for the people who were already being reached. That strengthening, as everyone who has made an assessment of the clinic agrees, needs to start with the roof.
“Just talking to us, they decided, ‘let’s do the roof first,’” said Sarkis Moradian of Ark Construction, a construction company that has been working closely with Team Armenia to renovate the clinic. According to Moradian, there are several structural improvements that can be made to the building, but the element in the most dire need of repair is the roof. With several leaking areas, compounded by precipitation brought on by Armenian weather, it makes sense to tackle the leaking roof before any damage can spread to other parts of the structure, said Moradian.
To solicit funding for the roof as well as whatever else could be helped by the benefit, Nairy Ghazourian also worked to give patrons an immediate memento for return on their investment. A silent auction of prints by acclaimed artists such as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, and Marc Chagall, from the prestigious Andrew Weiss Gallery, was held for patrons. Additionally, photographs of Armenian life and culture from the collection, “A Journey to Armenia,” a collection by Armenian photographers Sara Anjargolian and Vahe D’Ala, were sold to give attendees a reminder of just who it was that their contributions were going to benefit.
And even for those who didn’t come away from the benefit with something new to hang on their wall, there was still a cavalcade of impressive entertainment to whisk them through the evening. Performances from international artist and singer, Helen, and Legendary Persian recording artist, Sattar, as well as appearances from International, Persian and Armenian recording artist, Andy, and Emmy-award winning actress, Shohreh Aghdashloo, all made sure the scene under the ceiling of the Fine Arts Building was starlit.
But star appearances and performances are not the point of a benefit. The point of a benefit is to pool resources over here to help the situation over there.
Mistress of ceremonies Jill Simonian informed the audience that $1,000 will buy medical supplies for the clinic for two months. “I’m no mathematician, my husband will tell you,” said Simonian. “But I do know that one hundred times ten equals one thousand, and I believe there are about one hundred people in this room. So $10 per person can buy the supplies for the clinic in Armenia!”
When all was said and done, The “Team Armenia” Real Medicine Foundation benefit indeed raised thousands of dollars for the Shinuhayr Primary Healthcare Clinic in Armenia. That’s the point of a benefit.