Armenians around the World Mobilize to Help Haiti

WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—It has been three weeks since the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, but aid is still barely making its way into the country. The 7.0 magnitude quake which, according to Haitian officials, killed as many as 200,000 people, has left unimaginably rough conditions for survivors and refugees. More than 100,000 people are already crowding the tent cities of Port-au-Prince, and aid handout spots are scenes of fighting. Haitians need food, water, and about 200,000 additional tents, but aid distribution is alarmingly slow. If this wasn’t enough, the Daily Telegraph informs us that up to one million children are now left vulnerable to abuse and child trafficking.

The Armenian government, on Jan. 21 allocated $100,000 in financial assistance to Haiti.

Almost immediately after news of the earthquake and ensuing disaster reached Armenia, a senior official at the Armenian Rescue Service, Nikolay Grigorian, told RFE/RL that its 52-strong team, along with search dogs and special equipments, would be heading to Haiti. Grigorian was quoted as saying, “Our rescuers will fly to Moscow today and proceed, on a Russian Emergency Situations Ministry plane, to Haiti where they will take part in search and rescue operations.” However, merely a few days after the announcement, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan said, “Unfortunately we could not carry out [the mission] because Haiti was not prepared to receive [the team] and there were numerous problems with logistics and aid coordination… International structures told us that there are problems with physically shipping things and that financial assistance would be more expedient,” And so, the Armenian government, on Jan. 21 allocated $100,000 in financial assistance to Haiti.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has been getting some heat due to its 15,000 troop deployment to the country, which as some critics point out, fills the airstrip with U.S. planes full of troops and military equipment, while aid is left behind. The BBC quoted Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) as saying, “Everything has been mixed together and the urgent and vital attention to the people have been delayed while military logistics—which is useful but not on day three, not on day four, but may be on day eight—has really jammed the airport and led to this mismanagement.”

Still, in times of such disasters, when the need for compassion and humanitarian aid is at its highest, people respond. At the sight of human suffering, even for a brief moment one might become inspired and determined to train and be part of a search and rescue team, sing songs of human unity (to raise money, of course), sell overpriced beverages or cookies to send the profits to those in need, or—maybe even for the first time in one’s life—plead for help and mercy from a higher mysterious power. Well, all that is being done. Musicians like Beyonce, Bon Jovi, Kylie Minogue, and our very dear Charles Aznavour are lending their voices to raise funds for quake-stricken Haiti. School children, like 11-year-old Armand Istanboulian and his friends in Ontario, are selling hot cocoa and handing over their hard-earned cash to their local Red Cross. And priests, like Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian and others—borrowing a line from The Doors song—are petitioning the Lord with prayers during Divine Liturgy, and calling upon the faithful to do their part in the humanitarian efforts through the many organizations involved in these efforts.

Finally, it is important to note the efforts of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) which has donated a sum of $50,000 to the earthquake victims, and those of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) which has established a Haiti Relief Fund. Sossie Poladian, the chairperson of the ARS Regional Executive, issued the following statement: “The ARS feels the suffering of the Haitian people, especially since we experienced similar devastation after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. Many of us still remember the pain and anguish that we felt and how comforting it was to know that the world came to help the people of Armenia. It is our duty to help the Haitians who fell victim to a similar disaster.” ARS chapters, from Javakhk to Lebanon, to Canada and the U.S., have been involved in the fundraising efforts. Ten more days, and the ARS will wrap up its fundraising, so if you don’t have time after your double-shift to sell hot cocoa on the side of the road, and if, unlike Aznavour, you are stuck with a crow-like voice, you still have about 10 more days to make a donation to the ARS (by visiting

On Jan. 25, Massachusetts State Representative Peter Koutoujian called on Armenian Americans to contribute to these efforts. “As a fellow Armenian American,” wrote Koutoujian, echoing Poladian’s words, “I am asking for your help for Haitians in their time of need, much like the kindness and generosity that was shown towards Armenians 21 years ago. We as a community have an opportunity to express our gratitude and lend a helping hand.” You can find his open letter on his website,

You can also submit an online donation through the American Red Cross (, Partners in Health (, and the Catholic Relief Services ( You even have a texting option; by texting Haiti to the number 90999 on your cell phone, you can donate $10 instantly. And, one other thing, make some noise! Call or write your representatives and demand that the aid that we all have been putting together reaches the destination it was intended to reach—now!

Nanore Barsoumian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly.

Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).
Nanore Barsoumian

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  1. Dear Hrag, my bad — I meant to include it.  It is a huge sum and I will try and update the article.  Thank you for pointing that out.

  2. The aftermath of the quake and human suffering are devastating! Millions have lost everything – homes, food, jobs! For the next 12 months, the World Food Programme says 2 million people will need critical food assistance! If you want to help and learn more about the crisis response, go to:> or you can text FRIENDS to 90999 to make a $5 donation.

  3. Good write up Nanore and thanks for updating the article with the AGBU’s commendable donation.
    Now if only the AGBU could stick to their philanthropic mandate as a non-political organization in rightly addressing such efforts, what a wonderful world this would be…

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