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For Immediate Release
October 11, 2007

Armenia Fund 15th Anniversary Banquet at the United Nations Raises over $2 Million for the Rural Development Program

Foreign Minister Oskanian Urges
Continued Commitment

By Florence Avakian

NEW YORK, New York – “Sponsor a village. Adopt a village. Give generously so that Karabakh remains a viable community. You’re doing it for your own sake, as well as for Armenia.”

These were the words of Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, in an impassioned plea to more than 300 attendees of the Armenia Fund USA 15th anniversary gala banquet, held on Saturday evening, October 6, in the elegant Delegates’ Dining Room at the United Nations headquarters in New York.


The event held to express appreciation to the Diaspora for “Building Armenia’s Tomorrow Today,” raised $2.175 million for Armenia Fund’s Rural Development Program that aims to revitalize Armenia’s border villages.

The Foreign Minister had been one of more than 150 dignitaries addressing the 62nd UN General Assembly session earlier in the week, and had strongly advocated the right of the Karabakh population to chart its own destiny. During his UN remarks, he had emphasized that world issues affect small nations even more than the larger ones.

Speaking extemporaneously on Saturday evening, the Minister who had been introduced by Armenia Fund USA trustee Hirair Hovnanian declared in his hard-hitting keynote address, “I represent a country which has competed and prevailed in a region. It has laid the foundation to build a prosperous nation, with a fast growing economy, and a democracy taking hold.”

“You should not take Karabakh and Armenia for granted,” he said.

Border villages crucial for Armenia

“We have worked hard to get to where we are,” Minister Oskanian continued, “and we need to do more, but two important things are necessary: time and money.” Putting emphasis on the rural communities which “need extra help,” he revealed that they are being emptied. “This is calamitous for Armenia, which especially needs the border villages to protect Armenia,” he said.

“Armenia Fund USA was created to complement Armenia when it falls behind. It is building a country,” Mr. Oskanian continued. “Today, the fund is entering the third phase of its program, going from help, to complex and comprehensive projects in all phases of the country’s growth. And it is up to each of us to be a vital part of this dramatic process,” he concluded strongly to a standing ovation.

The Foreign Minister was one of several dignitaries attending the October 6 banquet. Also present were Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy; Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan legate; Bishop Arshak Khachatryan, chancellor of Holy Etchmiadzin; Fr. Haigazouan Najarian, vicar general of the Eastern Diocese; Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States Tatul Markarian; Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Armen Martirossian; and UN official and former ambassador Dr. Movses Abelian.

Miraculous achievements

Delivering the evening’s opening prayer, Archbishop Choloyan noted: “For 15 years, Armenian Fund USA has performed great goals with sincere dedication. Even the most daunting challenges can be met through visionary leadership. The fund’s accomplishments are miraculous achievements. Our obligation to help our brothers and sisters in Armenia and Karabakh is not a matter of charity. It is a sacred duty,” he stated in his eloquent remarks.

Skillfully performing the role of Master of Ceremonies, Haig Ariyan called the evening “a celebration of the vision needed to build Armenia. The location of the United Nations for tonight’s event is fitting, since Armenia Fund USA is a global organization committed to the building and prospering of our homeland.” He recalled the great efforts of the late Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin I in 1993 to have the fund revive the homeland. And in a personal story, he related how Mardiros, a young boy who was injured under rubble of his destroyed school during the 1988 earthquake, was one of countless youngsters greatly helped by the fund.

Chair of the gala banquet Khoren Bandazian expressed appreciation to the many who have been instrumental in the achievements of the organization, in particular founders Hirair Hovnanian and Louise Manoogian Simone; co-chairs Garo Armenian and Berge Setrakian; trustees Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, and Gagik Haroutiunian; chairman emeritus Hagop Kouyoumdjian, former chairman Kevork Toroyan; current chairman Raffi Festekjian; and executive director Irina Lazarian.

In brief remarks, Hirair Hovnanian extended greetings to all involved in making the fund a success, paying special tribute to the work of Armenia Fund USA’s executive director Irina Lazarian. AGBU president Berge Setrakian stressed that equally as important as monetary contributions is a strong commitment to the goals of the fund. Hagop Kouyoumdjian expressed appreciation to the many who have been such an important part of the fund’s accomplishments. And Kevork Toroyan pointed out that the fund’s focus has “shifted from bricks and mortar to sustainability. Today,” he noted, “there is good transparency and controls in our work.”

In appreciation for their many years of devoted service for the organization’s goals, an engraved crystal clock was presented by Board of Directors chair Raffi Festekjian to former chairs Berge Setrakian, Hagop Kouyoumdjian, and Kevork Toroyan. One was reserved for Garo Armenian who was not present.

Commenting on the pride-filled events of Armenia’s independence, and the raising of the Armenian flag at the United Nations, Raffi Festekjian noted that Armenia Fund USA “lay the foundation, and created the proper conditions for the homeland to grow and prosper.” He revealed that since 1992, $170 million had been raised for the Fund’s many projects, including infrastructure, economic and social services, health and medicine, road building, culture and sports.

A can-do organization building a can-do nation

Mr. Festekjian revealed that there are Armenia Fund affiliates in 18 countries and five continents. “The next 15 years may be more challenging than the first,” he related. “Rural communities are deprived, even though the cities of Armenia are burgeoning. The fund’s goal in the next 15 years is progress in jobs, infrastructure and self-reliance in the border villages of rural Armenia. There is a crucial need to consolidate our resources to serve this cluster of communities. The Diaspora today is different than it was 15 years ago. We will create new partnerships, new approaches, new linkages, and identify future Diasporan leaders, to widen our base of support. We are a can-do organization building a can-do nation.”

Bishop Arshak Khachatryan -- representing Catholicos Karekin II, who is currently on a pontifical visit to parishes of the Eastern Diocese -- expressed his heartfelt wishes for continued support to Armenia and Karabakh.

A professionally prepared video, shown on two large screens, relayed a dream sequence in rural Armenia in the personage of a talented village potter who with his family and community was waiting for opportunity to pay a visit. A special recording detailing the many accomplishments of Armenia Fund USA was distributed to all banquet attendees (copies of the disc are available from the Armenia Fund office in New York).

The 15th anniversary banquet had started with a festive cocktail reception, where members of the Shushi Dance Ensemble warmly greeted the guests. During the banquet, 19 members of the ensemble, dressed in authentic Armenian costumes, under the direction of its artistic director Seta Paskalian-Kantarjian, brought a nostalgic flavor from the homeland, delighting the guests with well-known dance numbers, as well as a dramatic recitation in Armenian.

In his closing prayer, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, representing the Diocesan Primate, predicted that “the day will come when Armenia will no longer expect us to help, that it will help and defend us.” Archbishop Aykazian who is also the president-elect of the National Council of Churches, said he was conveying the wishes of 15 million Christians. “We pray that Armenia will no longer be a land of weeping and suffering, but instead be a land of hope and life, living peacefully with its neighbors and all humanity.”

ABOUT ARMENIA FUND USA: founded in 1992, was one of the first of Hayastan All-Armenian Fund’s 19 international affiliates and serves constituents in all states east of the Mississippi. As a non-profit, non-governmental, nonsectarian organization, the Fund represents all Armenian constituents. Armenia Fund USA is the largest contributor among the 19 international affiliates – supporting strategic infrastructure projects in Armenia and Karabakh. The Fund has adopted a policy to go “Beyond Bricks and Mortar” to provide sustainability for projects it sponsors.

To learn more about Armenia Fund USA, please visit our website at or call us at 212-689-5307.

Armenia Fund USA
80 Maiden Lane, Suite 301
New York, NY 10038

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