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Category Archives: News

Armenian Independence Day Celebrated in South Florida

Arm Indp-SMAC 1.jpg

HOLLYWOOD, FL – On Sunday, September 23, Armenia’s Independence Day was celebrated with much enthusiasm by all of the children, parishioners and visitors at St. Mary Armenian Church in Hollywood, FL. The ceremony included a blessing of the Armenian and U.S. flags, a procession, and the raising of the flags. Graciously, Ara Kocharyan and Suren Hairapetyan sponsored and prepared the traditional Armenian Khorovadz (BBQ) of the day. Anny Yaghdjian cooked the rice-pilaf, and other parishioners assisted in preparing and serving the luncheon. Many thanks to all our lovely sponsors and volunteers for a memorable Independence Day celebration.

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Armenia Needs Both Charity & Investments, Not Only Investments

Pashinyan UN-2018

 Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan addressing the United Nations General Assembly for the first time (September 23, 2018).

By Harut Sassounian

Throughout the years, since Armenia’s independence in 1991, I have had the unique opportunity of spending hundreds of hours with the country’s three previous Presidents, discussing privately with them Armenia’s many problems. I offered them my professional assessments and frequently my criticisms of the way they were running the country. Although the Presidents were not pleased that I was pointing out their shortcomings and mistakes, they understood that my intent was not to disparage them, but to help them improve the living conditions of the population.

Ever since the earthquake of 1988, I have been doing charitable work in Armenia and Artsakh, initially as President of the United Armenian Fund (UAF), subsequently the Armenia Artsakh Fund (AAF), and as Vice Chairman of Kirk Kerkorian’s Lincy Foundation, delivering over $800 million of humanitarian aid to Armenia and Artsakh by the UAF and AAF, and managing $242 million of infrastructure projects funded by Lincy. Despite all the corruption prevailing in Armenia during those years, I fought hard to protect the humanitarian supplies and funds, persistently bringing to the attention of the Presidents the abuses by high rankling officials, and demanding that they be disciplined or fired.

During my 58 trips to Armenia and Artsakh, I saw firsthand the miserable conditions of most people in our homeland, deprived of money, food, medicines, clothing and other basic needs. Seeing the Presidents’ neglect of the people’s deprivations, I frequently and forcefully brought their dismal situation to the attention of the country’s leadership. I was particularly upset when I heard government officials speaking about Armenia needing investments, not charity. I found such remarks to be callous of the people’s suffering. After each such pronouncement, I confronted these officials explaining the negative effect of their statements.

Consequently, I was surprised when Armenia’s new Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, a man of the people, during his remarks in New York on September 23, 2018, announced that in the context of Armenia-Diaspora relations, work must be encouraged, not charity: “Armenians can assist Armenia only with one option: carry out economic activity in Armenia, establish any business, and work. Today, Armenia’s understanding is the following: It is a country where it is possible to carry out economic activity, establish a business, earn profits, get rich and enrich. Our message to all of you is the following: get rich and enrich. We want Armenia to be known as such a country. Not charitable, but developmental projects must be implemented in Armenia….”

To be fair to the Prime Minister, in his speech, he also spoke about many other topics which I agree with whole-heartedly. He has tremendous support both in Armenia and around the world! He has practically eliminated corruption in Armenian society and has represented the voice of the people who had remained voiceless for more than a quarter of a century since independence. However, just as I have told the previous Presidents, I would like to provide the following explanations to the new Prime Minister:

  1. I fully support the Prime Minister’s initiative that Armenia needs economic investments in order to create jobs and expand exports. By creating jobs, not only the people will have the income to pay for their daily expenses, but the government will also have the tax revenues to support the country’s and population’s multiple needs.
  2. However, the Prime Minister’s urging that “work must be encouraged, not charity,” would deprive hundreds of thousands of poor people of their basic necessities. Investments take time to trickle down to the people and produce results. In the meantime, if charitable efforts are discouraged, many poor people will not survive.
  3. Not all Diaspora Armenians can invest in the Armenian Republic. There are dozens of charitable organizations which by law cannot get involved in economic activities, as they can only do charity. Since the earthquake and Armenia’s independence, Armenian and international charities have provided a large amount of aid to Armenia and Artsakh. If it were not for this humanitarian assistance, the standard of living would have been even lower, jeopardizing the survival of many Armenians. By discouraging charity, we are simply asking charitable organizations not to help the needy people of Armenia.
  4. Armenian governments so far have been unable to meet the many needs of their population due to lack of money. Diaspora’s charitable organizations have provided the aid that the government could not. If there were no charitable assistance in Armenia ever since independence, the people’s many needs would not have been taken care of and Armenia would have been a poorer country.
  5. Even if the Diaspora would start investing in Armenia today, that does not mean that the influx of new funds would take care of all the needs of the people overnight. Certainly, a large number of people would eventually be employed, but many others, such as the elderly, would still be left with hardly any income from their negligible pensions. Those who are unaware of the extent of appalling poverty in Armenia should read the Guardian newspaper’s Sept. 29, 2018 article by Nick Danziger, titled: “‘It’s better to die’: the struggle to survive poverty in Armenia.”
  6. There is the mistaken notion that if there were many investments in Armenia, there would be no need for charity. In almost all countries, even in the most advanced ones, there are hundreds of charitable organizations that tend to the needs of the poor. In the United States alone, billions of dollars are provided annually to needy individuals and families by charitable organizations. If the Americans require charity, Armenians would certainly need charitable assistance for a long time to come.

Paradoxically, Prime Minister Pashinyan’s wife, Anna Hakopyan, recently launched her own charitable organization “My Step Foundation” to support educational, healthcare, social and cultural projects. She is doing what’s absolutely necessary because the people of Armenia desperately need help.

Florida Armenians Adds New Contributors in Boca Raton, Tampa, Orlando

FLArm New Contributors

BOCA RATON, FL – Florida Armenians is pleased to announce the addition of three new contributors: Mireille Samra in Boca Raton, Suren Oganessian in Tampa, and Elina Azaryan in Orlando. “The addition of Mireille, Suren, and Elina is a testament to the growing readership of FLARMENIANS.COM,” stated Editor-in-Chief Taniel S. Koushakjian. “These talented individuals are a great addition to our team and I know the entire Florida Armenians family is looking forward to reading their columns, as I am, in the weeks and months ahead,” Koushakjian said.

Mireille Samra
FLArmenians Boca Raton Reporter

Mireille Samra is a native of Boca Raton, FL and has been active in the Armenian American community since a young age. A life-time member of St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, Samra is the former Chair of the St. David Armenian Church Youth Organization (ACYOA). She is a graduate of Spanish River High School and is currently a sophomore at Lynn University where she majors in Criminal Justice. Since 2017, she has worked as a student ambassador for Lynn University. Samra just returned from Washington, DC as a participant in the Armenian Assembly of America’s Terjenian-Thomas 2018 Summer Internship Program where she worked on Capitol Hill in the office of Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL).

Suren Oganessian
FLArmenians Tampa/St. Petersburg Reporter

Suren Oganessian was born in Concord, California, and developed a passion for writing at an early age. By the time he graduated High School he already had several unpublished short stories and comics under his belt, and he would continue writing throughout his college years. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Human Communications from California State University Monterey Bay in 2011, he went on to receive a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Fresno State University in 2014. While there, he honed his skills writing for the local Armenian community newspaper Hye Sharzhoom, and began writing and work-shopping what would become his Master’s thesis and debut novel, ‘Odinochka: Armenian Tales from the Gulag.’ Upon completing his Master’s degree he volunteered in Armenia via Birthright Armenia, teaching Creative Writing at the American University of Armenia in Yerevan and teaching English at the NGO Center and American Corners in Vanadzor. Upon his return to the United States he chose to focus on his lifelong dream of becoming a published novelist. He currently resides in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he may be sighted roaming about downtown wearing fancy hats and suits and looking totally overdressed for Florida.

Elina Azaryan
FLArmenians Orlando Reporter

Elina Azaryan has close to twenty years of experience in international business and finance. She has a passion for writing and is an avid traveler. Elina spent her childhood years in Europe. She moved to Fort Lauderdale, FL in 2000, and since 2009 she has called Central Florida home. She received an MBA from Florida Metropolitan University with a concentration in accounting, and is a Certified Public Accountant licensed in the State of Florida. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family, reading and writing, and staying current in world affairs.