The Hayastan All-Armenian Fund said on Friday that it attracted the bulk of the donation pledges, worth over $7.8 million, during an annual telethon broadcast from Los Angeles. The remaining sum – nearly $4 million – was raised by the charity’s French branch in an annual phonethon held prior to that. Half a million dollars were raised in Canada, Hayastan said.
The four-hour 24th annual International Thanksgiving Day Telethon on November 25 was held “in support of the ongoing recovery of the people of Armenia and Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh – ed.], including dozens of communities and close to 100,000 persons displaced by last year’s 44-day war.”
With the theme “Empowering the Homeland’s Remote Communities,” the telethon, according to its organizers, would “build on the work of the past 12 months by securing comprehensive support for the war-ravaged populations of Armenia and Artsakh.”
“Telethon 2021 is as much about accountability and transparency as rallying global support for the recovery of the people of Armenia and Artsakh,” said Hayastan Fund Board Chair Maria Mehranian prior to the event. “Parallel to informing our supporters about how their contributions have been spent in the course of the past year, the upcoming Telethon will seek to raise urgent support for the recovery of communities and families that were devastated by the war.”
The organizers of the event said that this support will comprise emergency humanitarian assistance; housing construction; extensive medical relief; vital infrastructure repairs and development, including road repairs; and cultural-recovery programs including schooling and arts education for displaced communities.
During its 2020 Thanksgiving Day Telethon Hayastan raised over $26 million for humanitarian and economic aid to Nagorno-Karabakh on top of $170 million raised during an international fundraising campaign launched by the pan-Armenian charity immediately after the outbreak of the Armenian-Azerbaijani war in and around Nagorno-Karabakh in late September that year.
The charity headquartered in Yerevan redirected more than $100 million of those $170 million proceeds to Armenia’s government. The Armenian Finance Ministry said the sum would finance the government’s “infrastructure, social and healthcare expenditures” necessitated by the six-week war.
President Armen Sarkissian and Armenian opposition leaders criticized the donation, saying that it undermined donors’ trust in the Hayastan Fund. Sarkissian said in December that the government should consider redefining the hefty contribution as a “loan” and eventually reimbursing the fund.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian defended the donation, saying that it was used for purposes defined by Hayastan’s statutes. He also suggested that lawmakers scrutinize the donation.
Last month the Armenian National Assembly approved an opposition initiative to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the use of funds raised by the Hayastan Fund for Nagorno-Karabakh during last year’s war.