By Ruben Meloyan
A Diaspora-funded pan-Armenian charity raised a record-high amount of money for its infrastructure projects in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh during an annual telethon in Los Angeles on Thursday.
The All-Armenian Fund Hayastan attracted about $15.3 million in donation pledges from Armenians in the United States and other parts of the world, up from $13.7 million raised last year. The 12-hour televised fundraiser featured Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, Karabakh President Bako Sahakian and prominent Diaspora figures urging viewers to continue to support their “homeland.”
A Hayastan spokeswoman, Hasmik Grigorian told RFE/RL that the collected funds will be used for upgrading rural infrastructure in Karabakh and Tavush province in northeastern Armenia. She said that will be part of a rural development program drawn up by the Armenian government. The program, covering 150 underdeveloped Armenian villages, was the main theme of an Armenia-Diaspora conference organized by the government late last year.
Several wealthy Armenian-American businessmen and philanthropists again accounted for a large part of the telethon donations, contributing between $500,000 and $1 million each. According to Grigorian, the collected total includes $1.6 million pledged by the Armenian community in France and $1.2 million from Armenia itself. She said the Yerevan-based contributors are mainly firms.
Proceeds from the several previous Hayastan telethons were mainly channeled into the construction of a 170-kilometer road linking the northern and southern parts of Karabakh. Work on the so-called “backbone highway” got underway in 2000 and was due to be essentially complete this year. With an estimated cost of $25 million, it is the single largest infrastructure project implemented by the fund during its 15-year existence.