The Fund for Armenian Relief’s Board of Directors spent a week in Armenia during September. In an intense itinerary of meetings, events, and discussions, the board members reviewed FAR projects, evaluated the use of FAR’s resources, and examined the performance of FAR’s staff in Armenia as they meet the goals of the organization’s mission in Armenia and Karabagh.
A special leg of the trip involved traveling to Armenia’s impoverished Tavush province, where FAR has launched a groundbreakings project in the called “Saving a Generation: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty” (BCPP). Three years ago, the Mardigian Family Foundation provided financial resources to implement the project, and on this visit Mr. and Mrs. Edward and Janet Mardigian were able to personally witness how the program works.
After spending three days in the region, the impact of the project was highly praised by the benefactors, as well as by all the board members, including Carl Bazarian, who sits on BCPP Supervisory Committee.
A visit to the town of Berd—the center of the BCPP region—became a joyful celebration for the entire population, who greeted their benefactors with bread and salt, and demonstrated how the generosity of the Mardigian family is being translated into real change in the day-to-day lives of the citizenry.
In this impoverished part of Armenia—lying perilously close to the border with Azerbaijan—the people are gradually regaining hope through BCPP, and making tangible improvements in the lives of their families, communities and parishes.
On September 27, Armenia’s President Serge Sargsyan met with the FAR delegation and presented awards to Edward and Janet Mardigian. The awards—the “State Medal for Service to the Motherland”—were granted for the couple’s long-term support of Armenia’s people, and their contributions to Armenian causes and communities worldwide. President Sargsian spoke highly of the late parents of Edward Mardigian—Edward (Sr.) and Helen—who left an incredible legacy of philanthropy by initiating and supporting multiple causes in the U.S. and worldwide. The President praised Ed and Janet for not only building on that legacy, but also educating their children to pass the torch to the next generation.
His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, graciously greeted the FAR delegation at the Holy See. The September 27 visit coincided with the official opening of the Yeremian Monastic Residence, whose renovation was funded by the Mardigian Family Foundation. His Holiness bestowed upon Edward and Janet the highest award of the Armenian Church: the “St. Gregory the Illuminator Medal.” His Holiness expressed appreciation to FAR and its leadership, mentioning FAR’s president Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, its chair Randy Sapah-Gulian, and the entire board. He stressed that FAR takes inspiration and motivation from its affiliation with the Armenian Church.
A traditional feature of the FAR Board visits to Armenia involves a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan. On this occasion, Ambassador Richard Mills greeted the visiting FAR delegation, and led an active discussion where the Ambassador, his assistant Jeffrey Paretchan, and newly appointed USAID Armenia director Deborah Grieser shared the current work of the Embassy, as well as its plans for promoting bilateral relations between the two countries.
To concluding their visit, the board members held a press conference with Armenia’s media, and had an informal discussion of FAR’s next steps based on what they had witnessed over the preceding week.