ARMENIANS AROUND THE WORLD MOBILIZE TO HELP HAITI
By Nanore Barsoumian

Armenian Weekly
February 1, 2010

WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)-It has been three weeks since the devastating
earthquake hit Haiti, but aid is still barely making its way into
the country. The 7.0 magnitude quake which, according to Haitian
officials, killed as many as 200,000 people, has left unimaginably
rough conditions for survivors and refugees. More than 100,000
people are already crowding the tent cities of Port-au-Prince,
and aid handout spots are scenes of fighting. Haitians need food,
water, and about 200,000 additional tents, but aid distribution is
alarmingly slow. If this wasn't enough, the Daily Telegraph informs
us that up to one million children are now left vulnerable to abuse
and child trafficking.

The Armenian government, on Jan. 21 allocated $100,000 in financial
assistance to Haiti.

Almost immediately after news of the earthquake and ensuing disaster
reached Armenia, a senior official at the Armenian Rescue Service,
Nikolay Grigorian, told RFE/RL that its 52-strong team, along with
search dogs and special equipments, would be heading to Haiti.

Grigorian was quoted as saying, "Our rescuers will fly to Moscow
today and proceed, on a Russian Emergency Situations Ministry plane,
to Haiti where they will take part in search and rescue operations."

However, merely a few days after the announcement, Armenian Prime
Minister Tigran Sargsyan said, "Unfortunately we could not carry out
[the mission] because Haiti was not prepared to receive [the team]
and there were numerous problems with logistics and aid coordination...

International structures told us that there are problems with
physically shipping things and that financial assistance would be
more expedient," And so, the Armenian government, on Jan. 21 allocated
$100,000 in financial assistance to Haiti.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has been getting some heat due to its
15,000 troop deployment to the country, which as some critics point
out, fills the airstrip with U.S. planes full of troops and military
equipment, while aid is left behind. The BBC quoted Medecins Sans
Frontieres (MSF) as saying, "Everything has been mixed together and
the urgent and vital attention to the people have been delayed while
military logistics-which is useful but not on day three, not on day
four, but may be on day eight-has really jammed the airport and led
to this mismanagement."

Still, in times of such disasters, when the need for compassion and
humanitarian aid is at its highest, people respond. At the sight of
human suffering, even for a brief moment one might become inspired
and determined to train and be part of a search and rescue team, sing
songs of human unity (to raise money, of course), sell overpriced
beverages or cookies to send the profits to those in need, or-maybe
even for the first time in one's life-plead for help and mercy from a
higher mysterious power. Well, all that is being done. Musicians like
Beyonce, Bon Jovi, Kylie Minogue, and our very dear Charles Aznavour
are lending their voices to raise funds for quake-stricken Haiti.

School children, like 11-year-old Armand Istanboulian and his friends
in Ontario, are selling hot cocoa and handing over their hard-earned
cash to their local Red Cross. And priests, like Western Prelate
Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian and others-borrowing a line from The
Doors song-are petitioning the Lord with prayers during Divine Liturgy,
and calling upon the faithful to do their part in the humanitarian
efforts through the many organizations involved in these efforts.

Finally, it is important to note the efforts of the Armenian Relief
Society (ARS) which has established a Haiti Relief Fund. Sossie
Poladian, the chairperson of the ARS Regional Executive, issued the
following statement: "The ARS feels the suffering of the Haitian
people, especially since we experienced similar devastation after
the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. Many of us still remember the pain
and anguish that we felt and how comforting it was to know that the
world came to help the people of Armenia. It is our duty to help
the Haitians who fell victim to a similar disaster." ARS chapters,
from Javakhk to Lebanon, to Canada and the U.S., have been involved
in the fundraising efforts. Ten more days, and the ARS will wrap up
its fundraising, so if you don't have time after your double-shift
to sell hot cocoa on the side of the road, and if, unlike Aznavour,
you are stuck with a crow-like voice, you still have about 10 more
days to make a donation to the ARS (by visiting www.ARS1910.org).

On Jan. 25, Massachusetts State Representative Peter Koutoujian called
on Armenian Americans to contribute to these efforts. "As a fellow
Armenian American," wrote Koutoujian, echoing Poladian's words, "I am
asking for your help for Haitians in their time of need, much like the
kindness and generosity that was shown towards Armenians 21 years ago.

We as a community have an opportunity to express our gratitude and
lend a helping hand." You can find his open letter on his website,
www.peterkoutoujian.com.

You can also submit an online donation through the American Red Cross
(www.RedCross.org), Partners in Health (www.PIH.org), and the Catholic
Relief Services (www.CRS.org). You even have a texting option; by
texting Haiti to the number 90999 on your cell phone, you can donate
$10 instantly. And, one other thing, make some noise! Call or write
your representatives and demand that the aid that we all have been
putting together reaches the destination it was intended to reach-now!

Nanore Barsoumian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly.