By Hrach Melkumian
The Diaspora-led All-Armenian Hayastan Fund has secured more than $5 million in donation pledges at its annual televised fundraiser in support of an ambitious plan to link the northern and southern parts of Nagorno-Karabakh with a modern highway, fund officials said Friday.
They said the money collected during Thursday’s “telethon” broadcast live from Los Angeles to Armenia and major Armenian communities abroad will enable Hayastan to complete half of the $25 million project.
Work on the 170-kilometer road, described by Armenian officials as Karabakh’s future transport “backbone,” began in 2000. Several of its sections with the total length of some 40 kilometers have already been built and are now open for traffic.
The bulk of the contributions came, as usual, from the Armenian community in the United States. A large part of that was donated by three wealthy Armenian-Americans, with Louise Simone Manoogian and Hirair Hovnanian pledging $1 million each. Another U.S. businessman of Armenian descent, Albert Boyajian, gave $500,000.
Manoogian runs the U.S.-based Armenian General Benevolent Union, one of the largest Diaspora charities that has long assisted Armenia and Karabakh.
The influential Armenian community of France was the telethon’s second-largest contributor, with a total of $650,000 in donation pledges. It was followed by Armenia proper and Karabakh which together raised over $260,000 -- much more than during previous fundraisers.
According to Hayastan’s deputy director, Samvel Yengoyan, most Armenia-based contributors are businesspeople. “In the past, their participation was negligible. There were some donations, but they were not large and regular,” Yengoyan said.
“Now this business class has taken roots in Armenia. They have steady revenues as a result of economic growth and are more willing to engage in charitable work,” he added.
Last May, for example, Hayastan opened three new apartment buildings in Spitak, an Armenian town razed by the 1988 earthquake. Their $450,000 construction was funded by several businessmen from Armenia.
The planned Karabakh highway is the biggest of 138 different infrastructure projects in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh implemented by Hayastan since its establishment in 1992. The fund has so far spent more than $75 million on them.