By Hrach Melkumian
An annual televised fund-raising in Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora has generated just over $6 million worth of promised donations for the ongoing construction of a 170-kilometer highway running across Nagorno-Karabakh, its organizers said on Friday.
As always, the bulk of the money raised at the “telethon” broadcast from Los Angeles the previous night came from the United States, which is home to the most affluent Armenian community abroad. Armenian-American donation pledges totaled some $4 million this time.
The overall figure, which is 20 percent higher than the sum raised last year, includes $900,000 collected by the Armenian community of France in a separate phone campaign earlier this month.
The latest telethon, organized by the All-Armenian Hayastan Fund, saw a further surge in donations from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh which contributed $720,000, or almost three times more than in November 2002. Most of the contributions came from local companies and wealthy individuals.
Large-scale donations dominated the Diaspora fund-raising. Louise Manoogian Simone, whose Detroit-based Armenian General Benevolent Union has long engaged in charitable work in Armenia, gave $1 million for the second consecutive year.
A $1 million payment to Hayastan was also made by businessman Albert Boyajian. Speaking at the telethon, Boyajian complained that fellow Armenian-Americans are too tight-fisted with regard to their historical homeland. They should have raised much larger sums, he said.
Also taking part in the fund-raiser were Armenians living in Russia. Their most famous leader, Ara Abrahamian, gave $200,000.
The $25 million project launched in 2000 aims to link northern and southern parts of Karabakh with a modern highway which officials say will boost the Armenian-populated region’s security and economy. Direct transport communication between those mountainous areas has for decades been carried out via nearby lowlands in Azerbaijan proper.
A 44-kilometer stretch of the road has already been build, and work is currently underway on its separate 26-kilometer section. Hayastan officials said before the telethon that $15 million is needed for completing it.