This year, Fund for Armenian Relief celebrates 30 years of transformative humanitarian and development work. A gala held last week at FAR’s own Gyumri Information Technology Center (GTech) commemorated this momentous landmark, during which the organization received one of the nation’s highest honors.
About 150 people, including local and national dignitaries, and several beneficiaries who spoke about FAR’s impact on their lives, attended the event. FAR was given Armenia’s Medal of Honor for its development of connection with the diaspora.
Many of its staff and associates were recognized as well. Armenia Country Director Bagrat Sargsyan also received a Medal of Gratitude for his individual efforts, and Board of Directors Chair Randy Sapah-Gulian received a First-Class Medal for Services to the Motherland.
“Conceived immediately after the devastating earthquake of 1988, FAR would evolve since then to become one of the most effective diasporan organizations reaching out to people in need and empowering those in the motherland who just needed an opportunity to have a dignified life,” Armenian President Armen Sarkissian said in a statement.
Members of FAR’s Board of Directors had arrived in Armenia a few days before to visit project sites. Several of them, including Nishan and Margaret Atinizian, Marta and James Batmasian, Carl Bazarian, Edward Mardigian, Sandra Shahinian, Dennis Tarzian, Greg Toufayan and Pontish Yeramyan, were also honored for their work in Armenia by the governors of Shirak and Tavush provinces.
Arev Nersisyan, an assistant school principal from the Berd Region of Tavush Province and beneficiary of FAR’s Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Program (BCPP), spoke about its benefits. BCPP provided her with start-up capital and guidance for building and maintaining her own agri-business, which now greatly supplements her personal income.
“I have to be honest. We often saw other people who would come [to Berd] and ‘promise’ things. Then we would never hear from them again,” she said in her address to the audience. “More than six years later I can tell you that many of those fantastic things FAR was talking about have become a reality. Our children are growing up healthy and happy. Our mothers are taking good care of them; many of our fathers and mothers started working or cultivating land, making much better income for living decently. Tractors have all of a sudden reappeared in our villages and we are now able to revitalize the land we completely forgot about.”