In annual fundraisers held this month, a pan-Armenian charity has secured over $21 million in donations to finance more rural infrastructure projects in Nagorno-Karabakh and help Syria’s struggling Armenian community.
More than half of the sum, $12 million, was contributed by wealthy Russian-Armenian businessmen during a fundraising gala organized by the he Hayastan All-Armenian Fund in Moscow on November 8. One of them, insurance magnate Sergei Sarkisov, donated $4 million during the event attended by Armenian parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian and Karabakh President Bako Sahakian.
Hayastan raised another $7 million during a traditional telethon broadcast from Los Angeles on the night from Thursday to Friday. Americans of Armenian descent accounted for just over $2 million of these donation pledges, compared with $2.5 million pledged by residents of Armenia and Karabakh.
The previous Hayastan telethon organized in November 2011 netted over $12 million. The sharp drop in those televised donations this year further underlines the fact that wealthy Russia-Armenians are now the Yerevan-headquartered charity’s leading donors.
The Moscow-based tycoons donated $18 million last year. One of them, Samvel Karapetian, made a record-high donation of $15 million to Hayastan in 2008. Karapetian, who was born in Armenia, contributed $1.5 million during the November 8 gala.
The Hayastan leadership made clear before the latest fundraisers that Karabakh will remain the main beneficiary of projects financed by it. The bulk of the money raised this year is to be spent on the construction of “community centers” in more Karabakh villages.
A Hayastan spokeswoman in Yerevan, Hasmik Grigorian, confirmed on Friday that 10 percent of the newly collected funds will be used for providing humanitarian assistance to Syria’s 80,000-strong Armenian community increasingly suffering from the bloody conflict in the Middle Eastern state. Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Hayastan will help ethnic Syrian Armenians remaining in Syria as well as those who have taken refuge in Armenia.
Hayastan has implemented $235 million worth of development projects in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh since its establishment two decades ago. In particular, it has built or renovated about 500 kilometers of roads, hundreds of apartments and houses and dozens of schools, kindergartens and healthcare centers.
The charity’s Board of Trustees is headed by President Serzh Sarkisian and comprises other senior Armenian state officials, Catholicos Garegin II as well as prominent representatives of Armenian communities around the world.