WHO ARE WE
We are a volunteer group of american armenians with diverse backgrounds. We have no religious or political affiliation and we do not pursue any ideology other than to help the people of armenia and artsakh. All donors are members. The active members are called the "organizing committee". Everyone is welcome to join.
Hagop Bashmakian, Levon Thorose, Parunak Celikian, Hagop Aliksanian, Shushan Vartanian, Kenny Mosikian, Hratch Der Stepanian, Karlen Gorian, Olga Kirakossian, Hayro Koseian, Mihran Mahmouzian, Setrak Kirec. Osep Ardic, Miran Sasounian.
Sevan Aliksanian, Stepan Sargsyan, Burag Celikian, Berj Aliksanian, Sayyad Chakarian, Shant Der Ashodian, Garen Aliksanian, Siran Alexandrian, Narod Koseian, Kristina Badem, Andrew Kaamajian, Sevan Ardic, Hagop Boghosian, Hrant Minasian.
Garabet Nishanian, Vahram Gevorkyan, Lusine Azoyan, Sergey Tatevosyan
HOW WE OPERATE
PICKING THE PROJECTS
We choose projects mostly in remote villages of Armenia and Artsakh. We fund the projects based on need and urgency. We generally concentrate on rebuilding community infrastructures and helping people remain on their land. The projects we fund are within $ 20,000 unless a benefactor comes forward to donate for a project of higher value.
PLANNING THE PROJECTS
Our representative in Armenia communicates with the village head. We require the people of the village to get involved. A list of materials needed and cost for expert labor is prepared. Based on these estimates of material and labor we make a decision to fund the project. We require a letter of request from the local authorities and secure their help before the start of any project.
DOING THE PROJECT
Our representative buys the material and hires the expert labor. The supervision is also performed by our representative or a trusted individual who works with FOA. Most often a member of the organizing committee is on location to guide the project and handle the money.
Once the project is completed, our representative approves the job and makes the final payments. Both the local authorities and the FOA representative must approve before the project is considered done.
If the project is a building that has an opening day, a member of the committee is present to join the ceremonies.
All foa projects are subject to inspection time to time by the members of the committee or our representatives in Armenia to assure that it is still functional and maintained. If needed, we will devote resources to help with repairs.
THIS IS THE 20 YEAR HISTORY OF "FRIENDS OF ARMENIA" (aka HAYRENIK MIYUTYUN) , FROM SEPTEMBER 1992 - MARCH 2012.
It all started with an inspiring vision: that our national independence must be preserved at all costs, and that the people of the diaspora have the profound obligation to help their fatherland whenever possible. Armenians all over the world must organize and take initiative to help both Armenia and Artsakh survive the economic hardship that is forced upon them.
“For almost 80 years, we craved for an independent Armenia crying with the songs while promising ourselves that if we ever have independence again, it will not be compromised.” With these words on September 11, 1992 in the Montebello Tumanjian hall, Varujan Karian touched us all and moved us to establish an organization that was named “Hayrenik miyutyun,” aka Friends of Armenia.
The muse behind Varujan’s charged state of mind was an articulate and forceful man named Sarkis Hatsbanian, who later volunteered to serve as our representative in Armenia and Artsakh. Sarkis knew the potential of Armenians in the diaspora, because he recently had immigrated to Armenia from France to participate in the liberation of Artsakh. He became the enabler of our mission.
Establishment of the Friends of Armenia brought together Armenians from many countries who call America home. Many Armenians from Russia, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Armenia, Iran and Iraq joined in.
The logo for the organization. In the center of the red, blue and orange flag is the four hands held together in friendship inside a circle with L A written on the bottom right corner. Our logo was designed by the artist Samvel Sevada.
A few ground rules were established and became the core principles of this organization.
1. Find the most effective and direct way to provide assistance to people who need help.
2. Collected funds must be transferred to Armenia/Artsakh and put to use as soon as possible.
3. All requests for help by the people and governments of Armenia and Artsakh will be considered and acted upon if within the budget of the organization.
4. The organization will do its utmost to rebuild institutions, infrastructure and provide tools and equipment to villages. Funds may be distributed to orphaned families and the poor, providing that the distribution is direct and fair.
5. We will cooperate with other organizations regardless of their political or denominational affiliations.
6. Members who travel to Armenia for FOA business will do so voluntarily and pay for it themselves. No member would be compensated for his or her services.
7. Anyone who wants to join and help is welcome. Meetings will be open to the public. There would be no mandate to serve any terms or obligation to become a member.
8. Our accounting and finances would be open to the public.
The transparency of the process and purity of its vision inspired everyone, growing the membership of friends of Armenia within six months to over 400.
Tragically, on may 28, 1993 Friends of Armenia lost its inspiring founder. Varujan Karian passed away, leaving a void in the organization.
Varujan Karian’s farewell funeral was one of the most heavily attended in the history of Montebello.
Over the next 20 years we lost several members who believed in, and worked for, the organization. We miss them all dearly.
The founding members of foa are Varujan Karian, Hagop Bashmakian, Yervant Donigian, Sushan Vartanian, Hratch der Stepanian, Hovsep Soibatian, Berj Mechechian, Bedros Gagosian, Mardiros Soibatian, Kenny mosikian, Ralph Sarkisian, Hagop Aliksanian, Gayane Karian, Harout Asatrian, Parunak Celikian, Harry Sarkisian, Levon Kirakosian, Norayr Aliksanian, Leo Hovanesian, Karekin Goncu, Pakrat Asikian, Samuel Karay, Karlen Goryan, Simon Karian and Garbis Nishanian.
In 1993, FOA received non-profit status from the internal revenue service thanks to our friend and well-known attorney Levon Kirakosian, who was instrumental in drafting the bylaws and forming the structure of the organization.
From the very beginning all the secretarial and accounting had been on the shoulders of Gayane Karian, who for 9 years kept the records. The day to day activities have been managed by Hagop Aliksanian. The accounting system is maintained by Parunak Celikian. The financial reports are done by the CPA Harout Hamassian, who has voluntarily been doing our taxes and acting as our agent on record since 1994.
Having the flexibility to finance a variety of projects, along with our involvement in construction planning and supervision, was an effective way of keeping project costs at a minimum. Over the years, many individuals have come to join the organizing committee and do their best to lend a helping hand. One person stands alone in that regard however. Levon Thorose, who joined FOA in 1998 and has been one of the most active members of the committee. Levon has not only shown the commitment to take on difficult projects, but he has provided the fire needed to keep us active and has managed to recruit other organizations to help us accomplish the tasks on hand.
Our organization in Armenia and Artsakh is registered under the name of “Hayastani Paregamner branch of Hayrenik union of USA.” In 2002 Sarkis Hatsbanian resigned as our representative to pursue personal endeavors. Alexander Tamanyan (a well respected scientist, war hero and the grandson of Yerevan’s main architect) accepted the responsibilities. Unfortunately in 2004 Alexander passed away. Since then, Ashod Boghosyan and Viken Avedian have served as FOA representatives in Armenia. Currently Lusine Azoyan is our representative in Armenia, while Vahram Kevorkyan is our Arstakh representative. As always, we depend on Garbis Nisanian (who moved from LA to Yerevan in 2001) to oversee the distribution of funds.
During the past 20 years more than 46 major (and many more minor) projects have been completed. 80 containers of food, clothing, construction materials, medical equipment and supplies, school and hospital furnishings as well as emergency vehicles, furniture and electronic equipment have been sent and distributed. The total value of these projects to date is over $3.5 million dollars.
We've also provided monetary assistance to universities for scholarship, to scientists for research, to villages in Artsakh to purchase fuel, to schools for the purchase of books and supplies, and to the authorities in Artsakh for various items needed for national security. We shipped 2 jeep vehicles for goods distribution, 2 passenger vans for summer camps, an ambulance for a hospital, a paramedic unit for the city of stepanagerd and a storage trailer for Armenia’s emergency services.
We built a high school in the Gusabad village of artsakh, which was named after our founder Varujan Karian. We sent 2 flour mills, one to Hatrud and one to Mardagerd. We renovated schools in sSsian, Ardashad, Charentsavan, Echmiazin, Gatnaghbyur, Aykepar, Vardablur, Tumanian and Hovdashen. We furnished summer camps in Vanadzor and Dilijan. We built a new hospital in Araler, which was named after the donor’s son Bedros Akpulat. We sent 2,000 boxes of school supplies, 5,200 shoes, 470 computers, 48 metric tons of food, 2,600 boxes of clothing and blankets, 650 boxes of medical equipment and supplies, five dental chairs, 12 boxes of dental tools and hundreds of chairs and tables.
Additionally we have shipped two 40-ft containers full of lumber and construction materials, doors and windows. We have also donated $60,000 for the purchase of food for the jambar, $48,000 to the ‘All Armenia fund’ for roads in Artsakh. We renovated three hospitals near yerevan and 43 homes in Karegah, Mrkavan and Araler. We provided the funds to perform cleft lip operations on 37 children. We renovated community centers in Mirik and Gatnaghbyur.
We have taken the opportunity presented to us by the us humanitarian programs to ship large quantities of school supplies, lab equipment, scientific equipment, farming equipment, books, school furnishings, clothing, blankets and many other supplies.
To distribute the goods to remote villages of Armenia and Artsakh, we shipped two off-road vehicles to Armenia. To transport students attending the Gusabad school we purchased a school bus that is now donated to the Tufenkian foundation for use as a mobile computer lab.
In order to report on the projects and give the details of the annual accounting, our annual dinner dance has also been the stage for our annual membership meeting. The booklet produced every year is a testimonial of our accomplishments and a presentation of our finances.
We have operated on a shoe-string budget and directed almost all the donated funds to the humanitarian purposes for which they are intended. We have done our best to purchase goods at great discounts or have had them donated.
We have accumulated an impressive video library of goods distribution, inspection visits, TV appearances and testimonials. Even though we have done some TV clips for informational purposes, we have done very little advertising. We have relied only on the disseminated information during the dinner dances.
During the past 20 years, we have had a lot of support from people. These volunteers did their best to help keep with the spirit of the organization. They understood the value of their service and they demonstrated their love for their homeland. It is virtually impossible to mention them all but we can not resist to include a few that stand out.
In Armenia and Artsakh we had help from Sevag Arzruni, Garo Israelyan, Arch. Sebuh Chuljian, Arch. Barkev Mardirosyan, Armen Sarkisian, prof. Kurken Melikian, Artush Soghomonyan, Marine Bedoyan, Dr. Alik Yesayan, Antranik Aydinyan, Anyuda Khachatryan, Melsida Kardumyan, Simon ter Simonyan, Kevork Galstyan, Ardavast Galstyan, Khachig Khachadryan, Lilit Agajanyan, Mary Matosian, Tsovinar Ghazaryan, Ashot Hovanisyan, Vladimir Grigoriyan, Erik Grigoryan, and Nani Oshkanian.
In USA we had help from Herman Celik, Raffi Huverserian, Dr. Arto Ersan Hacerian, George Katcherian dvm, Zepure Aliksanian, Ronald Gabriel, Ralph Mosikian, Nune Sarkisian, Yervant Donigian, Miran Sasounian, Gohar der Stepanian, John Kazanjian, Jack Mazmanian, Randal Knar, Paul Mahmouzian, Art Kazarian, Vahe Akpulat, Miran Poladian, Nouritza Abujamra, Antranik Kasbarian, Markar Melkonian, Gayzag Zeytlian, Koko Kalajian (cigar Koko) , Takvor der Stepanian, Cesar Chekijian, Ralph Sarkisian, Vartkes Barsam, John Gabriel, Garo Hatun, Raffi Zinzalian, Vahe Kazandjian and Siran Alexandrian.
Organizations and businesses that helped in our mission or contributed financially include the Holly Cross cathedral, St. Sarkis church, St Mary church, Armenian Society of LA., Monte Melkonian fund, Bolsahay miyutyun (Organization of Istanbul Armenians) , Zaratsi compatriot org., Tbrevank alumni, Anahid org., Siera jewelry, United Armenia fund, Commerce casino, Del rey restaurant, Nasa, St Vincent deli, Bridger controls, Varna jewelry, V & A jewelry, Wilma jewelry, Asik jewelry, Advanced jewelry, Loran diamonds, KNC diamonds, Commercial waste disposal, Gabriel containers and Los Angeles United Investment Corp .
Over the years many individuals and families have made substantial donations during towards our cause. The people who consistently donated over the past 20 years include … Ronald and Gohar Gabriel, Garabet and Mariam Akpulat, Bedros and Anna Oruncakciel, Garabet and Mariam Yerelek, Arman and Silva Akarakian, Vahe and Chouchan Akpulat, Etil Anan, Ann Aroian, Ohannes and Seta Avedikian, Arto and Tanya Badem, Hagop and Anoush Barin, Vvartkes and Jean Barsam, Vahram and Polina Biricik, Dikran and Arpi Dalian, Karekin and Hilda Daron, Arto and Rose Ersan Hacerian, Agavni Hidirsah, Haig and Jean Kelegian, Mark and Annett Kosker, Sarkis and Valia Kumjian, Garo and Agavni Kurian, Hacik and Irma Madilian, Sebuh and Sirpuhi Madoian, Saro and Anoush Marukian, Mike and Lidia Minasian, Agop and Madlen Terzian, Misak and Rita Topalian, Osep and Rita Tokat, Dikran Sarkisian, Kevork Sarkisian, Sarhad and Nune Sarkisian, Raffi and Dede Sarkisian, Boris and Olga Kirakosian, Sahak and Vartuhi Tuna, Hirant and Alis Rakijian, Kirkor and Armenuhi Reisian, John Kazanjian, Misak and Hermine Canli, Yesayi and Rita Baljian, Simon and Hilda Acilacoglu, Pakrat and Hilda Asik, Sukyas and Anahis Chakarian, Kirkor and Filor Celik, Asadour and Anahid Chilingirian, Yetvart and Arlet Corluyan, Vartan and Sonia Fundukian, Mirican and Ani Guregian, Garo and Seta Hatun, Hampar and Marietta Karakesis, Samual and Aznif Karay, Avedis and Zepure Kasabian, Toros and Silva Migirdichian, Gulbenk and Nadia Movsesian, Raffi and Zoya Mosikian, Murat and Delfin Sherinian, Avedis Tekolian, Vahe and Armav Urun, Sebuh and Levontin Tomacan, Harutyun and Arpi Tokatlian, Gayzag and Zepure Mosikian, Harry and Angel Sarkisian, Hagop and Alisa bashmakian, Parunak and Silva Celikian, Hagop and Zepure Aliksanian.
Virtually all funds received by FOA are from individuals and small businesses. Most donations are in the $100-$1000 range, but a few sizable donations have been received to fund special projects.
Even though the 1993 dinner dance was canceled due to the death of V. Karian, the plan for a fund raising event continued and on january 29, 1994 FOA had it’s first fund raising event in Aghazarian Hall. During the event, with Shushan Vartanian as the main speaker, we managed to collect donations raising the total income to $47,800.
Since than have had dinner dances every year. The guest speakers include Sarkis Hatspanian, Archbishops Barkev Mardirosian, Archbishop Sebuh Chuljian, Garo Israelian (mayor of Abovian), and Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian who has supported us from the very beginning. The net income from all dinner dances has been over $900,000.
The six masters of ceremonies, who have done a great job in keeping the guests invigorated, are Shushan Vartanian, Osheen Keshishian, Hagop Zerunian, Hagop Bashmakian, Alin Donigian and Parsegh Kartalian. The owners and operators of the locations we hold our dinner dances (the Aghazarian hall in Pasadena, the Ojagh banquet hall in north Hollywood, Palladio banquet hall in Glendale, Bolsahay miyutyun hall in Winnetka and Baghramian hall in Montebello) have all been very cooperative and supportive of FOA. Our friends mihran sasoonian and krikor hovannesian have catered several of our dinners.
The ad-book campaigns turned out to be the most effective way of fund raising. Even though we all did our best the majority of the funds were from the jewelers in downtown LA, which were the results of three hard working individuals; Yervant Donigian, Osep Ardic and Parunak Celikian. Outside of this, Kenny Mosikian, Gayane Karian, Ralph Sarkisian, Harry Sarkisian, Norayr Aliksanian, Karekin Goncu (Daron) also have worked to help raise funds.
Donations have been received from many individuals and businesses. The largest amounts have been donated by the United Investment corp., Akpulat Families, Commerce Casino, Vartkes Barsam, Garabet Yerelek, Mark Kosker and Sarkisian Brothers.
The most memorable dinner dance was the March 22, 1997 event, when Yervant Donigian proposed naming of each classroom of V. Karian school for the sponsors during the dinner dance. With Hagop Zerunian as MC, we created an atmosphere where classrooms were sponsored by Hrant and Alis Rakijian, Simon and Hilda Acilacoglu, Sarkisian Brothers (Sarhad, Dikran and Kevork), Bedros and Anna Oruncakciel, Stepan and Nadia Gozumian, Albert Karamanoukian, Norayr Aliksanian, Osep Ardic, Araxie Madoian, Barouir Grigorian, Nazo Chekijian and Satenik Moloyan. The United Investment corp. sponsored the gymnasium.
Foa has also received donations for special projects and in lieu of flowers. These donations total over $850,000. All monetary donations from 1992–2012 total $1.75 million dollars.
In the beginning we concentrated on helping the orphan families of artsakh, as well as sending food and clothing. To help the farmers grow food we appropriated funds for seeds and fuel. When the war in artsakh ended in 1994, we supplied building material and began planning to rebuild the infrastructure, all while sending vital goods from LA
All funded projects completed by FOA within the past20 years are listed in the project pages. Some of the other projects that FOA did not incur any cost or the cost was borne by others are ….
BOOTS FOR THE WINTER
On an urgent request from the government of Artsakh we sent 3,000 pairs of boots and hundreds of communication supplies to be used by medical teams and field engineers distributed via Barkev Sirpazan (primate of Artsagh Diocese).
It all started with a call from mr. Hagop Zerunyan in june of 2009, that his son, honorable Frank Vram Zerunyan wants to donate a fully operational ambulance to Yerevan’s St. Gregor Llusavorich hospital, lead by Dr. Ara Minasyan. The ambulance was initially donated by Mc Cormick ambulance company in honor of rolling hills estates mayor Zerunyan.
FOA agreed to send the vehicle as long as the transfer of paperwork was completed and the lincy foundation agreed to provide a 40ft container for shipping. FOA took over the vehicle in a ceremony at the Mccormick lot in Hawthorne in July 2009, and shipped the vehicle along with other goods in August. The ambulance has already been delivered to the recipient and it is currently in operation.
In the beginning of 1993 the us government sponsored a container shipment program called “operation winter rescue” to help the cis countries with food, clothing and other humanitarian supplies they desperately needed. This was a people-to-people initiative where the government paid for the cost of transportation and provided safe delivery of the goods to the destination country. Foa took the opportunity and made the first such shipment on february 10, 1992 from a yard in montebello graciously provided by mrs. Adrine sarkisian to whom we are very grateful. This historic shipment included all the clothing we had collected and 34 metric tons of rice we had purchased. Three containers were filled by the foa volunteers and shipped to armenia. The foa logo (originated by samuel sevada) was painted on one of the containers by karlin goryan and was proudly displayed.
From then on the container loading operations became a part of foa’s activities. Each year at least 3 more containers were shipped carrying clothing, food, school supplies, hospital and medical supplies and other humanitarian supplies as appropriate and requested by the recipients in armenia and artsakh. As of 2002 we started shipping the containers provided by the united armenia fund located in glendale. Working with harut sasounian and nouritza abujamra, we managed to ship 26 additional containers to armenia and artsakh. All the costs for rental and transportation of containers, as well as logistics, were paid for by uaf (funded mostly by the lincy foundation).
The loading operations took place in lots provided to us by the following members, donors and friends; adrine sarkisian, krikor azarian, parunak chelikian, zora danielian, art kazarian, phil pace and ronny gabriel (site of the current operations).
Over the past 20 years foa has shipped 80 containers to armenia and artsakh.
Many volunteers have worked diligently to collect, purchase, sort, pack and load these containers over the years. Gayane karian, harry and angel sarkisian, kenny mosikian, armen soibatian, levon thorose, shushan and harry vartanian, hratch and kohar der stepanian, nshan oganesian, karlin goryan, osep ardic, hagop and zepure aliksanian. And hagop and alisa bashmakian. All have been instrumental to make the operations succeed. Foa has also been involved in a few joint operations with the monte melkonian fund, lead by monte’s brother markar melkonian. Through this partnership foa shipped much needed hospital supplies to armenia. With the armenian engineers and scientists of america, led by pedro zarokian, foa shipped computers to our motherland. We have also been working with zuhrab and seta khazarian of the paros foundation to ship clothing.
Several members of the committee and prominent members of the organization made personal and group visits to armenia and artsakh to witness the distribution of goods and monitor the progress made on foa sponsored projects, as well as to get first hand information of where the help is needed the most.
The first visitor to artsakh was hagop bashmakian, who went there to deliver humanitarian aid on behalf of the medical outreach org. And as a member of foa. While there, hagop made an urgent plea for equipment that was needed desperately.
The second person visiting was garbis nishanian, who in july of 1993 joined sarkis hatspanian for the rice distribution operation in artsakh and in armenia. His visit was videotaped and the goods distribution (both food and clothing) have been shown to be fairly and equitably distributed as planned.
The third group consisted of harry sarkisian, ralph sarkisian and leo hovannesian who went to artsakh in october of 1993 while the liberation struggle was still in motion. They brought back the first live pictures and video of the people talking about the conditions in those villages. The videos helped us understand the severity of the situation while introducing the faces of these proud and brave people. Their visit not only helped accomplish a few small projects on the spot, but gave us the reasons we needed to move ahead more vigorously.
The fourth visitors from foa were hagop aliksanian, norayr aliksanian and hovsep soybatian in 1994, just after the ceasefire was declared. This visit had a specific purpose in artsakh, which was to join the opening ceremonies of the varujan karian memorial fountain built by the soldiers with materials purchased by foa. This visit gave us the opportunity to establish a special relationship with the people of mardagerd region and especially with the villagers of gusabad, moghratagh and aghabegalench where foa had been providing money and goods to help the farmers.
The following visit by hagop bashmakian, who visited the school construction site in gusabad with gurgen melikian in 1996, was also well documented and the videos he brought back with him showed the stage of construction and the difficulties under which the work continued.
The next visit to armenia by a large group of foa committee members included harry and angel sarkisian, hagop and zepure aliksanian, hratch and kohar der stepanian, gayane karian, yervant donigian, osep and agavni ardic, parunak chelikian and levon and soghig thorose and accomplished a great deal.
The following foa members and donors from la (karekin and hilda goncu, bebo ishanian, simon and hildaacilacoglu, arsen guleserian, toros and zarman kazanci, yetvart khacatourian, reymon hallacoglu, ari ozohanian, asadour and anahid chilingirian, ani tashjian) joined in the ride to mardagerd for the opening of v. Karian school in gusabad. Guided by sarkis hatsbanian, this large group of us residents not only inspected the school that was built with their contributions, but had the opportunity to dine with the people of artsakh and took back a lot of memories, which will be told, to their friends, children and grandchildren for many years to come. Considering the conditions of the roads, lack of decent hotels, absence of some food and lack of toilet facilities, the warmth of the people of artsakh and the expressions of appreciation in their eyes and their words more than made up for all the discomfort experienced.
Many successful visits were made to mardagerd, hatrud and other areas of artsakh by levon thorose on behalf of foa. One visit was almost entirely devoted to the distribution of clothing to many villages using the bus foa had purchased for the gusabad school. Levon and his wife shoghig spent many days going village to village distributing the clothing. On his 2nd and 3rd visits in early 2000, and again 2001, levon brought back pictures and videos showing the installations of the flour mills in mardagerd and hatrud. He also made some official contacts on behalf of foa with the proper authorities to plan for our future projects in artsakh. Levon’s visit to several schools and villages in armenia and artsakh provided foa the information needed to commit to other worthwhile projects, including the major undertaking of a hospital construction in araler.
Subsequent visits were made by hagop bashmakian, hagop aliksanian, and garbis nishanian to artsakh in the year 2000 in order to see the flour mills in operation and find out about the progress made at the gusabad school, as well as establish management in hatrud mill. The trip accomplished its mission and the report to the committee provided the information for appropriate action by the organization.
In 2001 hagop bashmakian and norayr aliksanian made a visit to vanatsor where foa had sent all the furnishings for the zizernag summer camp operated by bishop sebuh chuljian of the gugark diocese. They also visited the city of abovian and helped the mayor garo israelian distribute $3,000 in foa funds to the needy families.
Visits by hagop a. And hagop b. Were made in 2002 to artsakh for inspection of araler houses constructed with foa funds by an organization called aghedyats yergir, represented by sevag arzruni, and a surprise was visit made to the gusabad school to see if the building was well maintained. In armenia the vanatsor camp was visited and furnishings were inspected in their installed locations. Sebuh sirpazan has worked miracles in turning this old building into respectable living quarters for the children. Abovian was visited to verify that the cultural center was re-roofed as planned with foa financing. The mayor garo israelian had delivered what he promised by rebuilding the roof of this massive building within the budget. A school in the malatya/sepastia district was visited (as requested by the new hope organization who donated $2,000 specifically for some renovations in this school). In meghri, foa provided funds to build a structure to dry apricots. Various other locations were visited to see if the projects for which financing have been requested are worthwhile projects.
Since 2002 foa delegations made visits to artsakh and villages of armenia, some of which are border regions. We were represented during the opening of araler hospital, gatnaghbyur community center and vardablur kindergarten. We paid several visits to karegah during home renovations, as well as to aykepar and vanadzor. Every year at least one group of foa members makes a surprise visit to past and present project locations. Levon thorose, hagop aliksanian, hagop bashmakian, and parunak celikian are the most frequent delegation members. Shushan vartanian, osep ardic, harry sarkisian, setrak kirec, hratch der stepanian and vahe kazanjian have also been part of delegations.
A few youth members of foa have also visited armenia during our computer distribution project, including sevan aliksanian, burag celik, garen aliksanian, hrant minasian and andrew kapamajian. These youth members helped distribute and sett up 240 computers, which they had prepared and shipped from la.
The visits by the members of the organization established a very important precedent for verification. The first means of verification includes letters and receipts from the people responsible for the use of the funds, the second includes pictures and videos to show the results, and the third is verification by a member of the organization who gives his eyewitness report. These processes must continue in order for the donors to feel confident about trusting their money to the organization for use in worthwhile projects.
THE THIRD DECADE
For the third decade, friends of armenia must test its cultural resourcefulness and tenacity to help build a strong armenia. We want to build on our experiences and successes of the past decade, to overcome challenges and test our limits in attaining objectives that exceed the expectations of our patriots who are looking to us for leadership. The trust and confidence of everyone has been earned and our resolve has been tested. We have done that by establishing a transparent operation with the interest of the fatherland always in mind.
As the economy of armenia and artsakh is improving and the people are becoming more self supportive, the expectations and the needs are rising. We must multiply our efforts more to rebuild many schools, hospitals, cultural centers, shelters for the homeless and help finance key elements of infrastructure such as water ways and roads. For now, the condition of the majority of all schools and hospitals are in dire need of help. In most cases the roofs and the toilet facilities of these institutions are in terrible condition.
Unfortunately the government does not have plans to fund these projects anytime soon. Continued rain damage is making the buildings uninhabitable, and lack of sanitary facilities is a major threat to health. Most of these buildings have no budget to purchase new furnishings or update systems.
Friends of armenia must set its objectives with specific goals for its third decade on a scale that will have a material effect helping build a strong fatherland in this 21st century. Help is needed to draft such a vision, and with a suitable plan, financing and organization we can execute this vision. But first …. We must believe