GYUMRI, Armenia—Hundreds of compatriots from Armenia and the Diaspora traveled to Armenia’s second largest city on July 11 to take part of the official grand opening of the Shirvanian Youth Center, a project led by the “We Are Gyumri” committee of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee.
Attendees included members of the ARF Bureau and Supreme Body of Armenia, Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Krekorian, Governor of the Shirak Province, Hovsep Simonyan, Gyumri Mayor, S. Balasanyan. The center is set to serve as a cultural, educational and social center for the youth of the region with computer, language, song, and dance classes.
The building that houses the newly-reconstructed Shirvanian Center has a storied past. It was built in 18th century and served as the residence of a well-known merchant. During the Soviet era, the building was used by the local law enforcement and later became a depository for the city archives. Today, it is a bustling center that will serve the youth and community of Gyumri.
Neshan Peroomian spoke on behalf of the ARF Western US Central Committee, who recounted the humble beginnings of the project, which rallied community members young and old to ensure a successful fruition.
“More than a year ago today, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western America Central Committee following the saying ‘With Armenia, For Armenia’ made the decision to renovate the youth center… Our humble project would not have reached completion without the strength and backbone of our community in the Western Region, including its benefactors and their immediate assistance,” said Peroomian who thanked all the donors to the project and introduced the lead benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Hacob and Mina Shirvanian, who had traveled to Gyumri to witness the fruits of their philanthropy.
Armenian Revolutionary Federation Supreme Body of Armenia Representative Aghvan Vardanyan mentioned that “The initiative to open youth centers throughout Armenia was made a long time ago, as a decision of the Bureau, and our diasporan bodies working jointly with our local entities took helm of these projects. This is the first, but not last, joint project between the Western Region and the bodies within Armenia.”
The Armenian Youth Federation Western US representative Hrache Novruzyan noted that there are three main goals for the project as of this time: for the center to serve as a place for the Armenian Youth Federation Youth Corps program, for the work to be continued year-round, and to help those aspiring for further education by providing scholarships to students in need from Gyumri.
On behalf of the “We Are Gyumri” campaign, Shant Baboujian furthered this sentiment by stating “With this project we hope to raise new leaders, motivate youth to aspire to reach higher degrees, and in the end serve as a small part of the socio-economic development of Gyumri which will benefit in turn, Armenia.”
The opening ceremonies included dance performances by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Gyumri Badanegan and “Hrayrk” Traditional Dance Ensemble. The AYF Youth Corps campers showcased what they learned in one day of camp by singing two patriotic songs.
As the official sponsors of the center, Mr. and Mrs. Hacob and Mina Shirvanian cut the red ribbon officially opening the doors to the new center, after which the building was officially blessed by local clergy. Attendees continued to mingle over traditional Armenian bread, cheese, wine, and fruits as they toured the center.
In emotional remarks, Hacob Shirvanian expressed his and wife, Mina’s gratitude to all who worked diligently to make the center possible and praised the effort for having the foresight to bring about constructive change for the betterment of the youth in Gyumri and the homeland.
The AYF took advantage of the event and kicked off the 2016 Youth Corps program, which for 22 years has been connecting young people from the Western US to the youth in Armenia through a unique program that conducts summer camp sessions for local youth in various regions in Armenia and Artsakh.