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The Paros Foundation underwrites all administrative and overhead costs allowing 100% of all donor contributions to go directly towards projects and supported organizations.

Donations to The Paros Foundation Projects for Prosperity are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. To sponsor a project through The Paros Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 organization (Tax ID 20-5094630), or learn more about specific projects in need of funding, please contact us using the information below.

Contacts

2217 5th Street

Berkeley CA 94710

info@parosfoundation.org

(310) 400 9061

Press Releases

REBUILDING BEGINS IN COMMUNITIES ATTACKED BY AZERBAIJAN

Paros Foundation Increases its Emergency Reconstruction Fund to $200,000

Tavush Armenia–Azerbaijan launched a vicious attack on Armenia on July 12, in violation of the ceasefire agreement.  Over the next two days, Azerbaijan launched artillery of various calibers at the Armenian civilian populations of several communities within Berd Consolidated Communities of Armenia’s Tavush Region.  The Armenian Armed Forces not only successfully defended these areas, but captured a very important military post and has destroyed tens of millions of dollars worth of Azeri artillery and drones.

Paros Foundation work crew beginning the reconstruction of the kindergarten in Aygepar.

These military victories, however, have come with a huge price tag.  Five of our valiant soldiers were killed and others along with a dozen villagers have been wounded.  In addition, families in these villages have experienced material losses on their homes and property.   Several days ago, The Paros Foundation team joined Tavush Governor Hayk Chobanyan, Berd Consolidated Communities head Harutyun Manucharyan, representatives of the Prime Minister’s office, and local village representatives to visit the Nerkin Karmir Aghbyur, Aygepar and Chinari communities to assess the damage and to strategize and coordinate the next steps forward. Due to the extent of the damage and needs of the border villages, we are increasing our fund goal to $200,000, and are humbled to report contributions and pledges to date in excess of $120,000. The Paros Foundation’s Emergency Reconstruction Fund will work to not only make repairs to these damaged homes, but, will make substantial improvements on them.  In addition, funds will be used to make other substantial infrastructure improvements within the communities.

Paros Foundation Staff join Tavush Governor Hayk Chobanyan, Berd Consolidated Communities head Harutyun Manucharyan, representatives of the Prime Minister’s office, and local village representatives to visit the Nerkin Karmir Aghbyur, Aygepar and Chinari communities to assess the damage.

Through the generous support received from donors around the world thus far, our team has already begun planning the reconstruction of damaged areas, while our local construction crews look forward to beginning the job of rebuilding their communities. Work on rebuilding the Aygepar Kindergarten has already begun.  Rebuilding of the houses will begin early next week in order to complete work prior to winter. Let’s work together to meet our new goal to rebuild the border region. To contribute, please visit /project/emergency-reconstruction-fund/

The Paros Foundation was launched in 2006 and has implemented more than $7.9 million worth of projects in Armenia through its unique model of philanthropy and community partnership. These projects are located throughout the country-with the majority of work focused in Gyumri and in the Tavush Region, along the border with Azerbaijan. Thanks to the generous support of Paros Founder and Chairman, Roger Strauch, all administrative expenses are underwritten, allowing 100% of donor contributions to be allocated in their entirety to the projects.

Paros Blog

Thirty Years ago Today, a Story of Mount Ararat, Uzbeks and April 24.

When the Soviet Pilots took a break, I took over (LOL.)

Today, I am celebrating a rare anniversary from my Los Angeles home.  Thirty years ago this day my size 13 shoes touched Armenian soil for the first time.  Given the global pandemic facing the world, it is a strange time for a “celebration,” but it is a great time for some reflection. Over this last 30 years, I have made 69 trips to Armenia and hold tickets (that are now delayed and rescheduled) for number 70.  A bunch of stuff has changed for sure during this time–Soviet Armenia became The Republic of Armenia and has now undergone a revolution to become the “New Armenia.”

If you know me, you know I have a lot to say about everything, but the story of my first few days in Armenia had some notable highlights I want to share.

I was traveling to Armenia as an envoy aboard a Soviet cargo plane (an Antonov 124 for you aviation buffs, with a gross flight weight of 1 million pounds and a Soviet crew of 7), whose cargo was earmarked as earthquake relief supplies bound for Gyumri.  My job was to oversee the process and ensure the supplies made it to Gyumri without loss or graft.

Here I am on the ground at the airport waiting to begin the unloading process.

I arrived into Zvartnots Airport just outside of Yerevan, Armenia (then still part of the crumbling Soviet Union) at approximately 5:30 a.m. local time on April 22, 1990.  We locked up the airplane and agreed to return the next morning to begin the unloading process.  I asked for a taxi to take me to Hotel Armenia.  A kind officer, who notified me that there were no taxis available, took me to the hotel with his own car.  On the way, as he was zooming along in his old Lada, I asked him where Mt. Ararat was because I wanted to absolutely see our majestic mountain as soon possible.  The officer essentially slammed on his brakes and swerved to the right and looked over his shoulder and pointed to the right and said proudly “there it is!” (in Armenian of course.) It was one of those picture perfect views of Mt. Ararat that remained burned in my memory until today.

I arrived to Hotel Armenia at about 6 a.m. and understood that check-in does not open until 9 a.m.  I settled down in the area in front of the check-in desk and waited with two other guys that kept trying to talk with me in Russian.  Note: At this point in my life, I was working with some very basic Western Armenian that I tried to learn as an undergrad at U of Michigan (Go Blue!).  We really couldn’t communicate, but they pegged me as a Westerner-and I pegged them as hard-core Soviet.  About an hour into our none existent conversation, one of them shows me his Soviet passport. I notice that they were from Uzbekistan.  Hmmm, if memory serves, Uzbek is a Turkic language; so, in my best Turkish I asked them if they understand me.  Much to all of our delights, we had a mutual language after all.  Turns out that these guys were sent from Uzbekistan to Armenia to oversee the construction of a housing project in the earthquake zone as part of the massive Soviet response to the 1988 Spitak Earthquake.  Who the hell would have ever thought that my first meaningful conversation in Armenia, would be in Turkish, with two Soviet Uzbeks!

April 23 was spent at the airport with stories to fill 10 more posts at some later date.

The streets were filled with people in the procession to the Armenian Genocide Memorial.

Just outside of the Armenian Genocide Monument on the 75th.

Near the eternal flame inside the Armenian Genocide Monument.

The next day was April 24.  It just so happened that it was the 75th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.  It was a very powerful day.  I connected with one of my friends who was studying in Armenia, and we made the pilgrimage to the Armenian Genocide Monument at Tsitsernakaberd.  The local buzz was that on that day, one million people visited the monument.  Seeing the massive parade of the elderly, freedom fighters, families and children, I could believe that number. When we arrived to pay our respects, the flowers around the eternal flame were already five feet high by 12 noon.  I never thought that I would have the honor of visiting Tsitsernakabert on exactly April 24 two other occasions in 2007 with my wife and daughters, and on April 24, 2015 to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide.

 

 

I made a new friend at dinner one evening at Hotel Armenia.

Thinking back, when Armenia emerged as an independent country, we fought to keep its people alive and the country from collapse or being invaded by one of its hostile neighbors.  Later, my work with The Paros Foundation allowed me to engage Armenia and her people directly through humanitarian and development work.  Now, thirty years later, I am kind of proud to report my Armenian is a bit better and so is Hayastan!  As we all stay at home this April 24th and commemorate the 105 anniversary of Turkey’s failure to exterminate our people, plan YOUR first or next trip to the homeland.  Figure out how you and your family can connect and make it a reality.  Be safe and go wash your hands.

Press Releases

ATAMIAN FAMILY ANNOUNCES $100,000 INVESTMENT TO TAVUSH BORDER VILLAGE INITIATIVE

Jean-Marie Atamian flanked by his family at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the first and second buildings on the school campus that were renovated in the fall of 2017.

New York, NY–Jean-Marie & Lori Atamian recently announced their sixth major gift of $100,000 to The Paros Foundation’s Prosperity on the Border Initiative.  This contribution will be used to rebuild a large two-story school building in the village of Nerkin Karmir Aghbyur (population 1,380) (“NKA”).  NKA was the most heavily shelled village on the Tavush border during the war for the liberation of Artsakh.  This third and final wing of the secondary school will house a new science classroom and laboratory, an exercise and dance studio, a home economics classroom, a wood and metal shop, a library, additional offices and classrooms and new bathrooms.

“The Atamian’s leadership on our Prosperity on the Border Initiative has helped us make more than $1 million worth of needed infrastructure economic development programs in these vital border communities,” said Peter Abajian, Executive Director of the Paros Foundation.

This investment is the latest infrastructure project underwritten by the Atamians in NKA.  Specifically, since 2013, the Atamians have financed the reconstruction of the village’s medical center, kindergarten, secondary school (3 large two-story buildings), emergency services building and water pipeline.  The Atamians have also awarded over 20 individual family agricultural and home renovation grants to improve the standard of living of numerous households.  The impressive economic progress of NKA has prompted the Atamians to make additional long-term commitments to ensure the village’s continued growth and prosperity for future generations.

Based on the success of this model village, and the generous support of our expanding base of donors, The Paros Foundation is replicating this strategic approach to rural development by undertaking these types of life changing projects in eight additional villages along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border in Armenia’s Tavush Region.

Construction at the school in NKA was launched last week with the goal of completing work on one of the two stories prior to the start of the new school year in September.

Paros Foundation launched its Prosperity on the Border initiative in 2015.  It is currently working in 11 villages throughout the Tavush region, but primarily in communities along the Armenia-Azeri border.  Thanks to the generous support of Paros Founder and Chairman, Roger Strauch, underwrites all administrative expenses, allowing100% of donor contributions are allocated in their entirety to the projects. To support this and other projects of The Paros Foundation, please visit www.parosfoundation.org.

Press Releases

COCKTAILS ON THE TERRACE EVENT LAUNCHES VARAGAVAN KINDERGARTEN RECONSTRUCTION

New York, NY—Friends, family and supporters of The Paros Foundation gathered at the lovely home of Greg and Kelley Badishkanian on June 6 to rally support for the reconstruction of the kindergarten building in the border village of Varagavan in Tavush, Armenia.

Greg and Kelley Badishkanian

“My wife, two boys and I have been to Tavush twice and are scheduled to visit again this summer,” said Greg Badishkanian, who along with his wife Kelley, hosted the event.  “We believe that prosperity in these communities helps contribute to security and are so thankful to everyone that is here supporting us and this effort tonight.”

Guests gathered on the Badishkanian’s spectacular rooftop balcony to enjoy delicious food and drink, while learning more about the work to be done in Varagavan.  To kick off this successful initiative, both the Badishkanians and Jean-Marie & Lori Atamian, pledged matching gifts, which allowed every dollar collected to be matched dollar for dollar.

“I strongly believe that it is imperative to improve conditions in communities along the Armenia – Azerbaijan border, which is why investingin Tavush through The Paros Foundation has been a top priority for my family and I.  Improving infrastructure and economic development significantly contributes to greater security for our people,” said Jean-Marie Atamian.

The Varagavan Kindergarten needs a complete remodel.

Varagavan is currently home to more than 700 people.  Located in an isolated area near the Armenia – Azerbaijan border in Armenia’s North East Tavush region, Varagavan’s young population is growing.  More than 50 children will be able to attend the newly renovated kindergarten once the work is completed.  The scope of work to be completed on the building is extensive. A new roof and completely new heating, plumbing and electrical systems will be installed.  This will complement a complete interior renovation of the building’s two floors.  Finally, landscaping and an outdoor patio will create an inviting space for both teachers and students alike.  As part of this project, a large multipurpose room will be created that will see usage from both the kindergarten as well as the residents of the village.  This room will facilitate meetings, gatherings, concerts and other cultural events.

The Paros Foundation has already launched reconstruction on the building beginning with the roof replacement.  Construction will continue throughout the summer and will be completed by the end of the year.  During construction, the current half-day program will continue to operate to benefit the children.

The Paros Foundation launched its Prosperity on the Border initiative in 2015.  It is currently working in 11 villages throughout the Tavush region, but primarily in communities along the Armenia-Azeri border. Thanks to the generous support of Paros Founder and Chairman, Roger Strauch, underwrites all administrative expenses, allowing100% of donor contributions are allocated in their entirety to the projects. To support this and other projects of The Paros Foundation, please visit www.parosfoundation.org.

Press Releases

SIGN UP NOW FOR A SUMMER TO REMEMBER-SERVICE ARMENIA 2019

SERVICE Armenia 2019 is filling up quickly! Only eight spaces remain in this tour, serve and play program aimed at young people 17 to 22 years of age and applications are available on The Paros Foundation website (www.parosfoundation.org). This year’s program will feature work sites in and around Yerevan, Gyumri and Zorakan.  Service work will include classroom renovations, work with orphanages and children centers, and the distribution of humanitarian supplies including the Groceries for Gyumri project (see article below). Tours will be led to major sites throughout Armenia and Artsakh and the group will live and be based from Yerevan. For more information and to reserve your space, contact Peter Abajian via email peter@parosfoundation.org or call (310) 400-9061.

   

GROCERIES FOR GYUMRI

The story of one participant’s effort to make a difference

 My name is Dustin Hochmuth and I launched Groceries for Gyumri as a project to raise money to assemble and distribute one hundred food packs to poor families in Gyumri, Armenia. I came up with the idea when, in 2017 as part of The Paros Foundation’s SERVICE Armenia 2017 program, Peter Abajian and Narine Panosian took me and a few other participants to see the living conditions of some of the residents of Gyumri. The apartment complex we were shown was in total deplorable condition and was literally falling apart, and the worst part was that ten families still live there. Later on that night at dinner, I asked Peter, “Is there anything more we can do to help these people?” SERVICE Armenia coordinator, Stephanie Nersesyan, was planning on implementing a project, so together we ended up delivering ten packs of non perishable items such as soap, pasta, and toilet paper to several families in the city. During the distribution, I met and spoke to the people living in these terrible conditions and got the opportunity to hear the families’ stories. After going on this excursion, it inspired me to come back to Armenia in 2018 and do a food drive project of my own on a larger scale.

Groceries for Gyumri was a joint idea with my mother Jeanne Papazian, who came up with the idea for the concept and the logo. After sending many emails to friends and family, we were able to raise $3,000, which was enough to fund 100 food packs. As summer rolled around, I joined the other participants for the SERVICE Armenia 2018 trip. The group went to buy all of the goods for the hundred packs from a local supermarket in person and then put them all together at the group’s house in Yerevan. Then, the group finally headed to Gyumri to do the distribution. It was a very long day consisting of delivering the packs and meeting the families and hearing each story, which felt more tragic than the last. However, also with each family the group could truly see the impact they were having on these people by the looks on their faces and their gratitude just to get some simple supplies like cooking oil, beans or bread. I am confident that this reaction from the beneficiaries registered on a very deep level with members of our group, as it demonstrated just how fortunate we are in the U.S., but also reminded us that since we are so fortunate, it is important to help out others in need and that we cannot forget that these people are our brothers and sisters.

Dustin Hochmuth will be starting the University of Southern California in the fall.  He has visited and worked in Armenia for the last two years, and will be returning this summer as well to lead his Groceries for Gyumri project once again. His collective efforts have help clothe and feed hundreds of families living in Gyumri’s domik communities.  To support Dustin’s Groceries for Gyumri project please visit www.parosfoundation.org

 

Paros Blog

FAQs about our Housing Program in Gyumri

Not a great photo, but here we are in Gyumri with our friend and partner, Vahan Tumasyan from the Shirak Center NGO.

The Paros team just got back from Gyumri yesterday, where we selected three more families to be moved from “domiks” into apartments.  This makes six families we have selected and will move this month thanks to the generous support of the Jack Youredjian Family Foundation, and 17 families in total to date.  24 people including two people with disabilities, three seniors, two single moms, one soldier and 10 young children (five of which will now be kept out of boarding schools!) are moving to new apartments in the coming couple of weeks.  The process by which this program operates, and how family selections are made is something I am often asked about, and something our team often discusses, argues about and loses sleep over.  Here’s the deal–I don’t promise that this post will be fun and exciting, but I am going to try and make it informational at the least:

The Domik Problem:

Gayane Matevosyan (age 7) was awoken by a rat attack in her bed.

There is a ton of information in our Purchase a Home projects on our site about the domiks.  Essentially, 30 years ago, following the Spitak Earthquake (about 35,000 people dead and more than 100,000 homeless), moving into empty overseas shipping containers was a good idea.  Fast forward to 2019, these temporary shelters have turned into literally a house of horrors.  Rats, wild dogs, lice add to the grief these people face.  I would estimate that 99% of these domiks do not have a normal bathroom nor bathing facilities.  Some don’t have running water.  All of them are freezing in the winter and scorching in the summer.  Gayane, who is seven years old, woke up last week in her bed from a rat attack.  She is one of the children who we are moving into a new apartment with her family.  As I said, these domiks are literally a house of horrors.

The Matevosyan domik has no running water and a fair amount of smoke from the wood burning heater.

How can there still be a couple of thousand families living in these conditions, when the government says they have now provided all the families that lost homes in the earthquake an apartment?  The answer to this question is a bit complicated and best discussed over drinks.  First, the government developed a list of every family that was living in government provided housing.  These are the families that ultimately were provided new housing.  If they were living in Gyumri and paying rent, or living in a single family home, or not registered to a specific apartment, they didn’t qualify.  Secondly, through the decades, these families have grown.  It may have been the case 30 years ago that a newly married family with two small children lost their apartment.  30 years later, those children have grown up, perhaps have gotten married, and now have families of their own.  Even if that family received a two bedroom apartment because that is what they lost 30 years ago, how could three families of 10 or 12 people be expected to live in that new apartment.  In this situation, typically one or two of those families would stay in domiks and one would take the apartment.  Finally, back in the day under old leadership, there was a healthy portion of corruption when it came to rebuilding apartments, distributing new apartment and distributing apartment certificates (basically cash certificates to allow one to purchase an apartment on the free market.)  This too left many families with no housing options.

The Apartment:

When we have donor funding in place, our team hits the ground running in Gyumri and works with list.am, Gyumri real estate brokers, and searches through apartment complexes in the Mush II neighborhood for apartments for sale.  The apartments we help secure need to be free of debt and encumbrances and be eligible for resale on the free market.  We also avoid buying apartments from people who do not have a plan on where they are going to live (i.e. we don’t want to contribute to the domik problem in Gyumri.) If the apartments need to be remodeled or if the family needs some basic furniture or appliances, we try and outfit the apartment to the extent our budget permits.  In the past, we have purchased studio, one, two and three bedroom apartments for families depending on the family’s needs.

The Purchase Process:

At the time of contract signing, we bring the entire family to the State Notary Service to have them sign the Purchase Contract with the Seller (nope, no escrow service in Armenia yet!)  We provide the stack of cash to the purchasing family, and they then slide it across the table to the sellers.  The Notary verifies the transaction and the beneficiary family is now legal owner of the new apartment.  At the same sitting, the beneficiary family signs a gift agreement with The Paros Foundation that indicates they are obliged to live in their new apartment until their youngest child turns 18 or for 10 years (whichever is longer.)  They cannot rent, sell or live elsewhere without our permission, or we can take the apartment away from them.  Our goal with this is to ensure a new start for this family.  Secondly, the family agrees to give us their old domik so our friends at the Shirak Center can tear it down and make certain no onewill ever live in those unbearable conditions again.  Then, we help submit the signed purchase contract to the State Cadastre so the family can pick up their new deed in a few days.  Once this is completed, our Shirak Center friends help move the family into their new apartment and the domik tear down begins.

The Family Selection Process:

Family selection is the tough part of this process.  We are not playing God, but sometimes it feels like we are.  How can you look at someone living in a trash heap with rats and pass that family over for another?  It is tough and I think some of my white hair is because of this project.  O.K.  Here is the process we follow.  First, we depend on advice and guidance from Vahan Tumasyan at the Shirak Center NGO.  He is the expert in Gyumri on these families.  Together, with Vahan and our Paros colleagues, we have probably been in 200+ domiks in Gyumri over the last five years. Some of these visits have been to help distribute firewood or food through our other humanitarian projects in Gyumri. Second, we sometimes depend on direction from a donor.  Sometimes we are asked to find a family with lots of children to move; and sometimes, the decision is left to us.  Vahan typically helps us line up several families to visit so we can vet and shorten the list.

The Boghosian Family outside of their domik following the news they would be receiving an apartment in the coming days.

Here are a couple of guidelines we follow:  First, the family has to be willing to surrender their domik to us so we can tear it down.  If they won’t, then we pass them over.  It is hard to believe, but it has happened.  Second, the family has to be trying at some level to work or care for themselves, rather than sitting around waiting for handouts.  I know this sounds harsh, but if you have two families with three kids each, which are you going to support?  The family who’s mother picks potatoes seasonally and the dad that collects recyclables to buy his family bread? Or the family with the mom and dad that sit at home and say there is no work to be found?  Third, while visiting families, we look for signs that they can be successful in their new apartments.  If their domik is as clean as the conditions permit, this is an indication that they would care for their apartment in a similar fashion.  If things in their domik are organized, this again is a potential indicator of future success.  The same indicators exist and stand out with the relationship between the parent or parents and their children.  If there is any indication that there is a strong tie to education for their children, this too helps in our vetting process.  Finally, the family has to have some income to be able to pay the bills in their new apartment.  This income can be pensions, salary, support from family outside of Armenia, etc.  The realities of what these people go through on a daily basis have distorted their family situations to an extreme.  Our goal again, is to provide a beneficiary family with a home so that their family would be successful in living what one might call a more normal life.

In closing, I think it is important to state as part of this last trip to Gyumri, we visited several of the families that have previously benefited from our Purchase A Home project and they were all doing great!  It was absolutely wonderful seeing families and children that looked well, apartments that were clean and so many smiles.  A great big thanks to everyone that has supported this life changing project in the past.

 

 

Paros Blog

Thank You Joe!

Meet Joe Chelebian!  Joe is 16 and lives in the Los Angeles area.  To help his fellow Armenians, Joe decided to launch a charity drive to raise funds and dental hygiene products from his community at St. James Armenian Church in Los Angeles.  This effort will be benefiting the Mobile Dental Clinic and the Apelian Dental Clinic at the Prkutyun Center in Armenia, both projects of The Paros Foundation.

Joe’s effort successfully raised $3,974.  Beyond these funds, which will be used to support dental screenings for almost 625 children, 2,500 toothbrushes were donated, 1,200 tubes of toothpaste were collected and almost one mile of dental floss!

Thank you Joe and the St. James Armenian Church family for your support of this important effort!

Press Releases

GHOGHANJ CHILDREN’S CENTER TEAM TAKES FIRST PRIZE IN 3-D MODELING CONTEST


Ghoghanj Team is interviewed by reporters regarding their 3-D model design and end project.


Ghoghanj Team participants present their 3-D model and final print.

Yerevan, Armenia—The Paros Foundation is excited to announce that students from the Ghoghanj Children’s Center Arm-math Robotics program took first place in the Armenia’s nationwideUnion of Information Technology Enterprises (UITE) 3-D Modeling contest.  Seventy teams from throughout Armenia and Artsakh entered the contest.  Of these teams, 38 were selected to advance to the finals, including teams from the Debi Arach Children’s Center and the Nerkin Karmir Aghbyur School.  The Paros Foundation is the primary sponsor of both the Ghoghanj and Debi Arach Children Centers.  Paros has also renovated the Nerkin Karmir Aghbyur School including their computer and robotics classrooms. The team from Nerkin Karmir Aghbyur received honorable mention in the Historical Monuments category for their 3-D model of the church in Berd.

“I am very proud of my student’s accomplishments.  Since we began teaching our Arm-math curriculum at Ghoghanj three years ago, I have witnessed the manner in which our students have engaged and understand engineering technology,” said Diana Grigoryan, Executive Director of the Ghoghanj Children’s Center.

“It is very exciting to see three of the organizations we support achieving such high accolades in this impressive competition,” said Peter Abajian, Executive Director of The Paros Foundation. “We congratulate the students and teachers for this outstanding accomplishment, and the donors to these organizations for their vision and on-going support.”

The Ghoghanj Children’s Center operates two locations in Yerevan’s downtown and Nork communities. The center’s students are defined as at-risk, with most of the children coming from economically challenged families. The Debi Arach Children’s Center operates in Gyumri and works primarily with children from impoverished families living in domiks and inadequate housing.  The village of Nerkin Karmir Aghpyur is located in the isolated and often dangerous Berd community of Armenia’s Tavush Region.

For more information about these organizations or The Paros Foundation, please visit www.parosfoundation.org or call (310) 400-9061.

Press Releases

MASSARA CELEBRATION BENEFITS THE APELIAN CLINIC


Kessabstis, family and friends gather for the Massara ceremony and prayer.

Thousand Oaks, CA—On Saturday, November 3, more than 150 Kessabsti’s and friends of Kessab gathered at the home of Dr. George Apelian to celebrate the traditional preparation of Massara.

This annual tradition—preparation of the massara or grape molasses—takes place soon after the grape harvest begins. It is meant to be a time of celebration and merriment. Dr. Apelian and his family hosted the annual event. Guests each left with a jar of the rich and delicious molasses as a memento of the evening.

“It is important to me to keep this Kessabsti tradition alive.” Said George Apelian “I am so appreciative of my friends and family who support this tradition each year.”

Proceeds from donations benefited the Apelian Dental Clinic in Yerevan, Armenia. The Apelian Clinic provides free of charge dental services for children with disabilities and their families at the Prykutun Center. Dr. Apelian established the clinic 12 years ago bearing the name of his son.


Dr. George Apelian, Host of the Massara celebration, Peter Abajian-Paros Foundation, Esther Tognozzi-Kessab Educational Association and Narine Panosian-Paros Foundation at the Massara celebration.

To learn more about the Apelian Clinic and to donate towards its important mission, please visit www.parosfoundation.org.

Paros Blog

Why Gyumri?


Sarah Derderian enjoying the afternoon with one of her four legged friends.

Almost three years ago I made the move from Philadelphia, PA to Gyumri, Armenia to work at the Debi Arach Children’s Center. What I expected to be a one-year assignment has evolved into a longer-term, life changing adventure. Since the day I arrived, I have been asked the same question repeatedly from everybody I meet (whether they are from Armenia or elsewhere.) “Why Armenia? Why Gyumri?”. The “Why Armenia?” question is very simple to answer.  I am one of many repatriates who were born outside of our motherland, but decided to move back. “Why Gyumri?” is the question that I struggle putting its answer into words.

Today, Gyumri is commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Spitak earthquake; the earthquake that took the lives, homes, jobs, and futures of so many people. Now, 30 years later, many locals say that not much has changed. Sure, there are new buildings, new businesses, new places to go, but an uneasyness arises any time the topic of the earthquake is mentioned. A city that was once the cultural capital of Armenia, which prospered under the Soviet Union, the home of some of Armenia’s most famous comedians, playwrights, and artists,  is now a place  where many people struggle daily to survive. Three generations of people continue to live in what seems to be a never-ending cycle of poverty.

 Why Gyumri? I chose Gyumri because there islife outside of Yerevan and I wanted to move to a community where I felt I could contribute to a greater cause. I chose Gyumri because I believe in the power of education and the importance of nurturing the next generation. I chose Gyumri to instill hope among students who may not believe in a future.

 Gyumri is not an easy place to live. On the contrary, it’s very difficult to live in a community riddled in poverty and in many aspects stuck in a Soviet mentality. But, what gets me through is my work at Debi Arach and the hope that the investment we make in this next generation will be a solid step in moving Gyumri forward. I currently work with an amazing group of children who are the next generation of Armenia’s doctors, politicians, programmers, and leaders. 

 I guess I’m here to say that there is hope in Gyumri, and that’s “Why Gyumri.”

 

Sarah Derderian works as development officer and special projects director at the Debi Arach Children’s Center in Gyumri.  Sarah has also founded the D.O.G.-Dogs of Gyumri project, which works to spray and neuter street dogs and arrange for adoptions of puppies.  Be sure to visit Sarah, Debi Arach and D.O.G when you are in Armenia.