Saturday, April 14, 2007

100 Years and Seven Days: AGBU celebrates centennial in Armenia

Issue #15 (235), April 13, 2007
By Arpi Harutyunyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

Some 150 delegates from around the world were in Armenia April 2-8 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU).

“The respectful late founders of the Union dreamt to see Armenia an independent state. We, as the torch-bearers of these devoted Armenians’ vision, have come to the Motherland to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Benevolent Union and to restate that we, the true heirs of this inimitable organization, will continue their mission to the glory of the Armenian nation and the prosperity of Armenia,” Berge Setrakian, President of AGBU said during the closing ceremony.

Founded in Egypt, AGBU held earlier celebrations in Cairo.

“The AGBU achievements are achievements for all of Armenia,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Vartan Oskanian, told the delegation, on behalf of President Robert Kocharyan.

Founded in 1906, AGBU is the largest Armenian benevolent organization. Today the Union has 24 offices across the world. The beneficiaries of the allocations and programs of the Union are some 400,000 Armenians.

With capital and assets of around $272 million and an annual budget of $35 million, AGBU finances numerous projects (including the sponsorship of New Times Journalism Training center, producers of ArmeniaNow) in educational, cultural and youth spheres, as well as organizations and structures facilitating the promotion of national culture and development of the Armenian way of life.

The Union also celebrated its 100th anniversary in Paris last year, where its central board operated before WWII. Celebrations were held in all countries with big Armenian communities.

From April 2 to 4 the AGBU members visited Nagorno Karabakh to see the ongoing situation with the resettlement project financed by the Union.

In NKR, AGBU initiated reconstruction of the Norashen village (Hadrut region) 70 kilometers to the southeast of Stepanakert where AGBU has financed construction of 22 residential houses, a kindergarten and a medical aid outlet.

“We wish this village will have a population of at least 300 in several years,” Levon Kebabjian, member of the AGBU board says.

Smbat Khachatryan, head of the local community says there are 44 families (nearly 144 people) living in the community at the moment.

The AGBU has initiated also reconstruction of Bareshen and Jrakn villages in Hadrut region. There are already three houses built in Bareshen. And Jrakn, some 200 meters from Norashen, has appeared in the most advantageous conditions. All the infrastructure of the Norashen will also provide this village. Some 20 houses are planned for construction in Jrakn before mid-2008.

“We understand we need settlers to restore the village. If we manage to bring settlers here and find financing, we will start building the village,” Kebabjian says.

The delegation of the Union also met with NKR Prime Minister Anushavan Danielyan and National Assembly speaker Ashot Ghulyan. The latter congratulated the jubilee of the Union and expressed gratitude to the benefactors; emphasizing that the long history of AGBU is encouraging to the young republic.

“The Benevolent Union has been by our side from the very beginning of our hard days. We build the independence of Artsakh together. We witness Artsakh’s getting stronger. It encourages us and inspires us with a belief we will become a strong state. This encourages you too as your investments have not been vain,” Danielyan said.

The Union delegation and NKR officials attended a concert by the Chamber Orchestra of Karabakh, which was founded by AGBU donations. Benefactors also put wreaths at a monument to the Honorary Life President of AGBU Alex Manoogian, located on the street named after him in Stepanakert.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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