BY RITA HINTLIAN
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—The Armenian Relief Society of Western USA, Regional Executive’s Javakhk Fund Committee held its annual fundraiser on March 6 aboard the yacht Electra “Crystal.”
Very Rev. Barthev Gulumian, who represented Prelate Arch. Moushegh Mardirossian, opened the event with his invocation. The event was attended by Armenian Consul General Grigor Hovhannisyan, ARF Bureau member Dr. Viken Hovsepian, ARF Central Committee Chairman Avedik Izmirlian; ARS Central Executive chairwoman Vicky Marashlian, regional and chapter executives; Armenian Educational Foundation representative Vahe Bedrosian, and many sponsors and guests.
The participants toured on the yacht in Newport Bay for over five hours, learning about the dire situation of the Armenians in Javakhk, honoring Mr. & Mrs. Hacob and Mina Shirvanians, and contributing to continue the work that the ARS is doing in Javakhk.
Welcoming remarks were made by Lena Bozoyan, vice chair of the committee, who noted that the aim of the committee is to serve the needs of the Armenians in Javakhk, passed on the latest news about Javakhk, and announced that the month of March has been dedicated to Javakhk and committee members will visit Armenian schools to speak about Javakhk.
Haigoush Kohler, the long-time chair of the committee, presented a few of the accomplishments of the committee, including the nurse re-training program and the 150-200 youth who participate in language and arts programs at the youth centers in Javakhk.
Very Rev. Barthev Gulumian presented an allegoric story about a youth saving see stars on the seashore, and called to assist the ARS in reaching out to the people of Javakhk during lent.
Last summer, Kareen Sassounian and Patyl Gharibian from Orange County, volunteered in the AYF Youth Corps Day Camp program in Gyumri, Armenia (earthquake zone). Nine of the volunteers also visited Javakhk for a couple of days. Sassounian’s remarks touched the audience as she described how she felt alarmed and lost at the sight of the appalling condition of the people in Javakhk, the lack of food and water, and the dilapidated condition of the homes. They visited a multi-generational family, who despite everything, were very welcoming and beamed with optimism and excitement. Gharibian was very impressed as well and said that her whole perspective about Javakhk has changed after bearing witness with her own eyes.
ARF CC representative Avedik Izmirlian noted the importance of the youth centers, praised the committee and encouraged other organizations to follow in the example of the ARS. He also congratulated and commended Hacob and Mina Shirvanians for their life-long contributions to the Armenian people, and especially assisting those in Javakhk.
ARS Regional Executive representative Rita Hintlian thanked everyone for their contributions for ARS programs, challenged those present to use their strengths and find ways to expand and reach more people, so that the youth centers and clinics, scholarships and computers can be replicated all over Javakhk. She thanked the committee, and congratulated and thanked the Shirvanians for their service.
Jasik Jarahian, who is a member of the Javakhk Fund Committee and runs the ARS-WUSA regional headquarters as General Manger, spoke highly of the honored guests Hacob and Mina Shirvanians, as devoted leaders of community organizations and supporters of many programs, as a couple who earned recognition by many organizations, and even received honors from the departed Catholicos Karekin I Sarkissian.
Following Jarahian’s presentation, Haigoush Kohler, committee chair, presented a plaque to the honored couple, who were very moved by the gesture. Hacob Shirvanian recalled the opening ceremony of a renovated school in Stepanagert (Artsakh) and how the gathered people were so emotional and excited, he had told them that they gave up their sons and husbands, all which was dear to them, hence their sacrifice was nothing compared to his, and he told the same to the ARSers.
Mina Shirvanian recalled how her mother, who was born in Javakhk, would tell family stories and always added, “Apsos, apsos vor took ariteh chek oonenaloo ayndegh desnel” (Alas, alas, you will never get to see the place). Mina’s mother did not know that she would end up not just visiting Javakhk, but also to help rebuild its schools, and particularly the one in Akhalkalak so many Javakhk Armenians voted to keep named after Rouben Minassian. She hoped that with the help of many others, the boarding school section of the school could be reopened.
Hagop Baghdasarian, who was the honored guest last year and was responsible for the Shirvanian’s first visit to Javakhk, encouraged those present to make their contributions to assist the people of Javakhk.
The evening continued with performances by violinist Meroujan, soloists Salpi Maelian and Hovhannes Babakhanyan, comedian Varsik, and DJ Vanso.
The annual Javakhk cruise provides a special fulfilling and connecting experience, whereby those living in the Diaspora connect to those in far-away Javakhk, and leave the event with many pleasant memories.