The 72nd International Convention of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) was held in Montreal, Canada from October 7 to 11, 2019. Seventy-one delegates participated, as well as outgoing members of the Central Executive Board (CEB), invited guests, representatives of sister organizations and committees, staff members and 180 observers.
Prior to the start of the meeting, on Sunday October 6, 2019, ARS Vice-Chairperson Nyree Derderian led a workshop on the Parliamentary Procedures at the St. Hagop Armenian School “Pastermadjian” Hall. Later on at “Le Chateau Royale,” over 400 guests gathered to celebrate the start of the meeting. Messages were relayed by honored guests, including Archbishop Papken Charian, H.E. Anahit Harutyunyan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to Canada Melanie Jolie, Former European Union Parliamentarian Dr. Eleni Theocarous and ARF Bureau Representative Raffi Donabedian.
The meeting was kicked off with the singing of the ARS anthem. On behalf of the ARS Regional Executive Board of Canada, Chairperson Annie Ohanian delivered welcoming remarks and emphasized the need to adopt new ideas in order to achieve new heights. ARS Central Executive Board Chairperson Caroline Chamavonian welcomed the delegates and thanked the Regional Executive Board of Canada and its members for their hospitality. She then invited the Convention to observe a moment of silence for departed ARS members. In her remarks, Chamavonian thanked all the entities for their continuous dedication and support of programs in the homeland and throughout the Diaspora in education, health and social services, humanitarian aid and other domains totaling 12 million US dollars.
Rev. Fr. Datev Mikaelian delivered the invocation for the meeting, followed by former European Union parliamentarian Dr. Eleni Theocarous, ARF Bureau representative Raffi Donabedian and Homenetmen representative Mosig Topuzian, who relayed their congratulatory messages and well wishes for a successful convention. The meeting also read messages addressed to the Convention from Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society’s Central Executive Board and St. Hagop Church’s Board of Trustees.
After review of the delegates’ credentials by the Credentials Committee, the convention was brought to order and the officers were elected as follows: Chairpersons Anna Boulgarian (Armenian) and Talin Mkrtschjan (English); and secretaries Maral Touloumian and Hellen Khayat (Armenian) and Nayiri Shahinian and Nora Grigorian (English).
Following approval of the agenda, the resolutions, archival and budgeting committee members were elected by the delegates. The Central Executive Board then introduced its guests, Hasmig Derderian and Dr. Arpie Balian. The convention then elected other guests: Vicky Marachelian, Maral Mekhjian, Maro Froundjian, Liza Gillibert, Pauline Dostumian and Jojo Bedrossian, all of whom participated in an advisory capacity during the meeting.
Subsequently, Chairperson Chamavonian presented the quadrennial report of the CEB along with the newly created Impact Map, presented by ARS Executive Director Verginie Touloumian. ARS “Mother and Child” Health and Birthing Center director Dr. Sevak Avagyan followed with a presentation of the challenges ahead and equipment needs of the hospital. An on-the-spot donation of 10,000 USD was made by Chake and Nora Gunjians and 1,000 USD by Seta Guevrekian in support of this initiative.
Delegates then participated in breakout brainstorming and discussion sessions on educational, youth, health and social services and organizational topics and then shared their respective reports with the entire convention. During the course of five days, the delegates evaluated the previous four-year term, analyzed various organizational topics and programs and ratified various resolutions related to programs planned for the next term. The convention also paid particular attention to continuing humanitarian assistance for Syrian-Armenians and homeland initiatives in Artsakh and Javakhk.
The convention took note of the financial difficulties of the ARS “Bodourian” Nursing Home of Argentina arising from the local economic conditions and the participating chapters and regions collectively raised over 20,000 USD of assistance within minutes.
During the convention, a call to action was released for ARS entities to support the Armenian communities of Kamishli, Hasakah and Derik affected by the recent military attacks.
The Convention concluded with the election of the Society’s new Central Executive Board, whose function is to govern the administrative and organizational aspects of this international organization. The following members were elected to serve on the 2019-2023 board:
Dr. Nyree Derderian (Western US) – Chairperson
Mayda Melkonian (Eastern US) – Vice-Chairperson
Maral Matossian (Western US) – Secretary
Silva Takvorian (Eastern US) – Treasurer
Arous Melkonian (Western US)
Talin Mkrtschjan (Eastern US)
Arminee Karabetian (Canada)
Hamesd Sassounian (Armenia)
Nelly Vekilian (Middle East)
Liza Gillibert (Europe)
Nora Sevagian (Australia)