No announcement yet.

For Armenians, helping others is a way of life

This is a sticky topic.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • For Armenians, helping others is a way of life

    Los Angeles Daily News
    Sept 17 2010

    For Armenians, helping others is a way of life

    By Susan Abram, Staff Writer

    The women wore pretty dresses and stared into the camera with
    expressions of determination as their legacy was recorded for history.

    Few may have realized it when the black-and-white photograph was taken
    in 1930, but those dozens of women were among the matriarchs of the
    100-year-old Armenian Relief Society.

    "Many people don't know this, but the Armenian Relief Society is the
    oldest existing Armenian women's philanthropic organization in the
    world," said Nyree Derderian, regional executive and vice chairwoman
    for the Armenian Relief Society of Western USA Inc.

    The photo is one of many displayed inside the Armenian Relief
    Society's Western USA headquarters in Glendale.

    Founded as the Armenian Red Cross in 1910 in New York City, the
    international organization evolved into the Armenian Relief Society.
    With 15,000 members in 26 international chapters, it provides social,
    economic and educational assistance to Armenians throughout the world.

    The nonprofit organization celebrated its centennial in May with a
    gala and will hold a symposium today at the University of Southern
    California featuring speakers from across the nation. They will
    discuss the society's history, its work in preserving the Armenian
    culture, its philanthropic mission, and the role of women in the

    "The dedication and perseverance of its members have propelled this
    organization that so many of us hold near and dear to our hearts
    through the past century, and we are looking to build on that stable
    base as we evolve during the 21st century," Arous Melkonian, chairman
    of the Armenian Relief Society of Western USA said in a statement.

    In October, members of the society will travel to Armenia, Syria and
    Nagorno-Karabakh. They will plant trees in their homeland and
    reinstate the Bowl of Food campaign, which provides meals to orphaned

    Derderian said she sifted through decades of photographs and documents
    and found that while time has passed, the society has never wavered
    from its mission to serve Armenians and others in need.

    "Our bylaws were rewritten maybe 10 times, but our goals have always
    remained the same," she said. "What we've added was the concept of
    human rights."

    Since it was founded, the Armenian Relief Society has proven itself in
    some of the most extreme circumstances. The group's work intensified
    as the conflict that came to be known as the Armenian Genocide
    unfolded in 1915. Members of the society worked to care for survivors
    - the refugees and orphans left behind after the massacres that
    claimed the lives of 1.5 million people.

    The society's mission continued decades later, during the civil war in
    Lebanon when Armenians also were displaced. In 1988, it rebuilt
    villages, started schools and cared for 7,000 orphans after a
    devastating 6.9-magnitude earthquake that shook the northwestern
    portion of the Republic of Armenia.

    >From its Western headquarters in Glendale, the agency serves 40,000
    people each year, helping them find jobs, apply for citizenship, learn
    English and care for elderly residents.

    Some say Glendale, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley are home to
    the largest Armenian community outside of Armenia itself.

    The last U.S. Census counted almost 300,000 nationwide, but most agree
    the figures are low. Some estimate there are anywhere from 500,000 to
    2million Armenians living in the United States, the majority in the
    western portion of the nation.

    "It's very helpful here," said Hranush Frangyan, 33, who immigrated to
    the U.S. when she was 26 and now lives in Glendale. A teacher in her
    homeland, she has since earned an additional college degree and has
    found employment with help from the center's job counselors.

    "I came here today for help filling out my citizenship papers," she
    said during a visit earlier this week. "I could fill them out, but I'm
    not as proficient and these papers are important."

    What many don't realize about the organization is that the help
    extends beyond Armenians, said Talar Aintablian, secretary at the

    "We're here for anyone in need," she said.

    The society's Western Region raised $10,000 for Haitian relief after
    this year's earthquake, and money after Hurricane Katrina pummeled the
    Gulf states and for other countries after other natural disasters.

    During a recent morning, English instructor and social worker Lena
    Karagueuzian taught her class of more than 30 senior citizens such
    popular phrases in English as "nice to meet you," and "my name is..."

    "They try their best to learn because they want to talk, to be
    independent," she said of her elder students, many in their 70s.

    Karagueuzian said she feels good when students come to her beaming
    with pride for learning how to print their name in perfect English.

    "They are so happy when they know how to pay their own bills and write
    their own checks," she said. "They tell me, they are happy they don't
    have to bother their children."

    From: A. Papazian