NEW JERSEY—The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Eastern United States Central Committee (ARF Eastern US CC) is leading a regional initiative to collect medical supplies to aid in the humanitarian efforts in Armenia and Artsakh. After obtaining a list provided by the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Armenia, the ARF set up a virtual donation link through Amazon Smile. Donors across the east coast have purchased items such as gauze, latex gloves, instrument sterilizers, masks and antibiotic ointment to assist medical teams and hospitals in treating the wounded.
As donations were made almost immediately, the ARF Eastern US CC decided to partner with the local New Jersey ARF Dro Gomideh and Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church in Ridgefield, NJ, to serve as the hub for receiving and processing the donations. The ARF CC also coordinated with the Armenian American Health Professionals Organization (AAHPO) and Armenian Medical International Committee (AMIC) to ensure the supplies are tracked and redundancies are not created. Dr. Ara Nazarian is an integral part of this effort, advising the ARF team on types of supplies needed and helping secure funds for the shipment. Besides the supplies donated by the general public through the Amazon Smile list, the ARF also secured a large amount of supplies donated by various medical groups, hospitals, universities and doctors in the region.
Volunteers worked together to sort, pack, and label over 250 boxes of donated supplies. As one of the volunteer coordinators, NJ ARF and Homenetmen (HMEM) member Tamar Samuelian discussed the coordination efforts. “We’ve had two shifts [of people who] bring the packages from the front down here, and then once a member of the committee arrives, we’ll open the packages and sort them based upon what’s in them. Once a box is complete we’ll package it up, write the number in order, what’s inside of it, and how much there is inside,” she explained, noting that people have been very eager to come help every evening.
Fellow volunteer coordinator NJ ARF member Barkev Sanossian agreed. “Everyday I’d receive at least 10 phone calls from different organizations volunteering to help us. We had a large number of volunteers who expressed desire to come and help. Volunteers from as young as eight years old to 70 years old did their best to help prepare the boxes,” he said.
The importance of the specific supplies was noted by NJ ARF member Pauline Dostoumian who also serves on the organizing committee. “Here we have [things for] hospitals, operating theaters, items to treat wounds, specific medical instruments for first responders,” she said. Dostoumian also noted the outpouring of support from volunteers. “It’s with great willingness and in high spirits that volunteers come to help. You know, it is hard when you are far away and you want to help in any way and we are so thankful for every single volunteer,” she said.
Volunteers include members from various community organizations and individuals who want to join the effort. Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Central Executive Board treasurer Silva Takvorian Kouyoumdjian reflected on volunteering and specifically the feelings of being in the Diaspora during this difficult time. “As an Armenian who is living in the Diaspora this was the least I could do by helping with sorting and packing medication for our soldiers who are fighting and dying for Artsakh. My prayers are with our soldiers,” she noted.
ARS member Maral Kaprielian said even though she is far from Armenia, she can help in this way. “I am not on the battlefield, I am not next to them, but in spirit and with our work, together we battle,” she said. Fellow volunteer Hoori Samuelian, a member of the Hamazkayin of New Jersey, also shared her reason for participating. “I’ve come to lend a hand… whatever is needed we will do. If we can help at least one person, we are ready to do what it takes,” she said.
Volunteers of all ages have joined the efforts. New Jersey AYF member Alex Vartanian explained why he gave up his evening to help. “I am here because I see all the people suffering in Armenia and Artsakh and I can’t watch this happen anymore,” he said. Fellow volunteer and New Jersey ARF member Varouj Kijilian shared these sentiments. “We hope that we will get these supplies quickly to Armenia and aid in the necessary treatment for the Armenian soldiers,” he said.
On Tuesday October 20, having processed and packaged over five-thousand pounds of medical supplies, volunteers carefully loaded each package onto a truck donated by New Jersey Dro ARF member Boghos Balanian who drove it to the warehouse to be prepared for shipment. From there the shipment will fly to Yerevan to be processed and distributed. After the truck was loaded, Sts. Vartanantz Church pastor Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishyan offered a prayer for a safe departure and arrival to Armenia. Funds for the shipment were raised by Dr. Ara Nazarian and ARF Eastern US CC member Ani Tchaghlasian. Before the truck departed, Tchaghlasian stated that she is confident about the positive effect this effort will have. “We must not spare any effort to help Artsakh and Armenia today. Our army is doing its part to secure our borders; we must do our part to secure our nation’s well being,” she said.