On Nov. 1, the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Eastern USA conducted its Regional Educational Seminar at the Hovnanian School in New Milford, N.J. It was hosted jointly by the four New Jersey ARS Chapters—Agnouni, Bergen County, Shakeh, and Spitak.
The day started with a rich spread for breakfast. The ARS anthem was sung by Silva Kouyoumdjian, and joined by all. Talin Daghlian, chairperson of the ARS of Eastern USA, gave her welcoming remarks. She acknowledged the ARS Central Executive Board (CEB) treasurer, Caroline Chamavonian, and the guest speaker Khatchig Mouradian, and welcomed all 13 chapter representatives from 7 states to the fiscal year Regional Seminar.
Daghlian in her remarks stressed the organization’s mission, programs, and projects, and the difficult task our communities are facing with limited financial sources and manpower. She encouraged members to stay actively involved in fulfilling the ARS’s humanitarian projects.
She thanked the four ARS New Jersey chapters for sponsoring the seminar, and thanked Hovnanian School Board of Trustees administrator Hilda Baronian for reserving the hall for the seminar in a short time.
In his presentation, Mouradian went back in time and gave a comprehensive report about the Armenian Red Cross, which was also known as the ARF Red Cross and later became the Armenian Relief Society. He showed the reports, minutes, and correspondence of the early women’s groups that functioned in Armenian cities and towns within the Ottoman Empire, as well as elsewhere in Georgia (then part of the Russian Empire) and Persia.
The Armenian Red Cross was founded by Agnouni in 1910, during a two-month prolonged visit to the U.S. During its first Convention, on May 30-31, 1915, it made an appeal to U.S. President Wilson.
The ARS, in coordination with the Near East Relief, carried out relief work during and after the Armenian Genocide. During the ARS Convention in Boston in 1926, it adopted the “Meg vorp, meg vosgi” (“One orphan, one gold coin”) program to secure the freedom of Armenian orphans who were taken by Turks and Kurds.
From 1918-21, after World War I and before Ataturk came in power in Turkey, the ARS and other Armenian organizations were active and flourished in areas of the Ottoman Empire under Allied control. During this time, the activities of the ARS expanded throughout the Middle East, Europe, the Americas, and elsewhere where survivors of the genocide had settled. The ARS even reached Shanghai. Interestingly enough, an American missionary from Van went to China and helped the Armenian refugees there. Mouradian is currently researching this subject through a China Fellowship grant from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
After a plentiful and delicious Armenian lunch, during which the ungerouhis had a chance to co-mingle and reminisce, the seminar continued with a presentation by Sevan Kolejian on the ARS’s current activities worldwide and especially in Armenia, Artsakh, Javakhk, and Aleppo. Especially dire is the situation in Aleppo, she said, which needs our full dedication and sacrifice.
She handed out forms, and everyone participated and offered suggestions for building and strengthening of the ARS.
The last hour of the seminar was dedicated to a Q&A session and discussion of issues. Everyone left the seminar with positive feelings and high spirits.