Monte Melkonian Fund
REPORT ON PROJECTS AND ACTIVITIES UNDERTAKEN BY THE MONTE MELKONIAN BENEVOLENT ORGANIZATION IN THE PERIOD SEPTEMBER 1, 2005 TO AUGUST 31, 2007
The Monte Melkonian Benevolent Organization (MMBO), also known as the Monte Melkonian Fund-Armenia, has intensified its activities and broadened their scope during the last two years. The main focus of MMBO projects continues to be assisting the socio-economic development of rural communities in and around Armenia, particularly in the regions of strategic significance, as well as contributing to the welfare of the next generation of young people, both in the socio-ethical and the physical sense.
During the period under review, the MMBO has continued to run the Smbat Tatosian Adolescent and Youth Center in the village of Karegah in the region of Kashatagh, and additionally has founded two new youth centers in Khachik and Azatavan villages in Armenia. It has also continued to support the very successful Cow Pass-On Program, which benefits local farmers and their families in Karegah and many other villages. It has solved the drinking water problems of Maghavouz and Arakel communities in the Martakert and Hadrout regions respectively, and it has assisted and supervised renovation work at the regional hospital of Berdzor in Kashatagh. (More details about these and other MMBO projects appear in subsequent sections below.)
These projects were realized thanks mainly to the financial assistance of the organization «Aznavour pour Arménie». The total cost of the projects undertaken during the twenty-four months under consideration exceeded the sum of 30 million Armenian Drams,* of which 24.5 million was provided by the NGO founded by Charles Aznavour. Thus, these projects exemplify the successful collaboration of the two organizations, the MMBO and «Aznavour pour Arménie».
MMBO has continued to assist the needy and particularly the handicapped, giving a boost to their educational endeavours.
Finally, MMBO has continued to reach out to the larger public, sharing Monte Melkonian’s moral and ideological legacy and the example of his life. The MMBO has done this both directly through its own outreach efforts and by assisting independent reporters and scholars in this respect.
The following sections provide more details about the projects and activities described above.
The Smbat Tatosian Adolescent and Youth Center of Karegah:
MMBO has continued to sponsor and supervise the Smbat Tatosian Adolescent and Youth Center of Karegah, which it established in 2003. Karegah is situated some four kilometres north of the town of Berdzor (formerly Lachin), the administrative center of Kashatagh. With its more than 250 inhabitants, Karegah is one of the biggest rural communities of Kashatagh.
The mission of the Tatosian Center is, on the one hand, to cultivate the artistic creativity of children and youths and to meet their cultural needs, and on the other, to nurture a cultured, decent, patriotic young generation, a generation well aware of its civic duties and rights and respectful of the environment. In this context, the Center has established computer classes, arts groups, and sports groups, including clubs and classes for theater, dance, photography, ceramics, painting, design, and piano, as well as soccer and karate. Young people may also take courses in English language and psychology. They participate in these activities voluntarily and free of charge. In addition, the Center organizes lectures and game sessions on patriotic, civic, spiritual and contemporary issues, and hosts festivities and excursions on religious and national holidays. Another important component of the Center’s activity is organizing community and environmental work by young people in the village.
The Tatosian Center, which has entered its fifth year of operation, has proven to be a major success. The Center has brought a new quality into the lives of the children and youth of the village, who consider it their second home.
After witnessing the lively and vigorous atmosphere of the Center, many visitors to Karegah have decided to sponsor it financially. Today the Tatosian Center functions thanks to the financial support of the organization «Aznavour pour Arménie» and the « Fondation Diran et Charles Philippossian» of Switzerland.
--Allocated amount for the project during the 24 months under consideration:
Youth Centers of Khachik and Azatavan Villages :
In late 2006, encouraged by the results of the Tatosian Center of Karegah, the MMBO, once again with the financial support of « Aznavour pour Armenie », established two similar centers in the border villages of Khachik and Azatavan in Armenia. Kachik is a border village with Nakhijevan. The village overlooks both parts of this Azerbaijani controlled region and the strategically vital Vayots Dzor highway of Armenia. The nearest Armenian village is twenty-one kilometers (some 13 miles) away. Because of its proximity to the border and its strategic position, Khachik was one of the main hotpoints with Nakhijevan during the war years. In recent years, however, the village has lost a sixth of its population. Today it counts some 220 houses and less than a thousand inhabitants, whereas it counted 1150-1200 persons in 2002-2003. Emigration, as well as the fall in the number of marriages and births—results of plummeting standards of living and everyday difficulties of life—go a long way to explain the dwindling population. As elsewhere, the young constitute most of those who emigrate.
Revitalizing and developing the village will require reactivating social and economic life and encouraging the emergence of energetic and conscientious young people. With this in mind, the MMBO decided, in concert with « Aznavour pour Arménie » to establish a youth center in Khachik, similar to that existing in Karegah. The new center has been functioning since late 2006. A similar center was established at about the same time in Azatavan, a border village in the Ararat region of Armenia. These two centers have already succeeded in bringing new vigor to the daily lives of the young people of these villages.
Other youth-oriented projects of the MMBO include a tailoring and knitting club that has been functioning for almost two years in the village of Maghavouz, in the Martakert region. At this club, local children receive training in these career skills.
--Allocated amount for the Khachik Center until August 31 2007: 1,356,510 drams
Renovation of the Drinking Water Networks of Maghavouz and Arakel-Saralandj in the Martakert and Hadrout Regions:
Maghavouz is situated at the north-east of the northern Martakert region. From 1992 to 1994, it witnessed fierce fighting, changing hands several times between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. Since the return of its inhabitants in 1994, most of the village has lacked running drinking water because of damage to the network during the war. For more than twelve years, most of the villagers had to carry, sometimes by hand, from a water source at one of the entrances of the village.
As it turned out, the solution to this debilitating problem was quite straightforward. It required nothing more than installing a water pump at the existing reservoir at the water source, and replacing a few hundred meters of damaged underground pipes with new ones. The entire problem could have been fixed back in 1994, in a few days and at the cost of around one thousand dollars, and the population of the village could have benefited from running water all these years since. The fact that so simple a problem remained unsolved for more than twelve years is symptomatic of the moral situation reigning throughout much of the country, including the rampant irresponsibility of authorities and the apathy and lack of initiative of the citizens.
After becoming aware of the problem, the MMBO took charge of it, again with the financial assistance of «Aznavour pour Arménie». The MMBO insisted that the inhabitants of the village actively participate in the reparation works. 747 thousand drams, or USD 1887 (at the exchange rates of April and October 2006), were enough to make water run again through the taps of the houses of Maghavouz after twelve years without running water. Once again, we are reminded of how much can be done with modest resources to improve the lives of many people.
The villages Arakel and Saralanj are situated at the south-west of the Hadrout region. Both had been occupied and destroyed by Azerbaijani forces since the beginning of the war in 1991. After their liberation and the end of the hostilities in 1994, the organization France-Karabagh embarked on the reconstruction of Arakel. A few years later it also embarked on the construction of Saralanj. (Today the two villages constitute a single administrative community.) Unfortunately, France-Karabagh ceased its activities before completing construction of the water network in Saralanj. In the meantime, Arakel too found itself confronted with a serious water shortage problem. Thanks once again to the financial assistance of «Aznavour pour Arménie», MMBO shouldered that task of solving of the drinking water problem of these two villages. By the end of August 2007 more than 90% of the work had been completed.
--Allocated amount for the Arakel-Saralanj water project through August 31 2007:
Cow Pass-On Program and Agricultural Loans:
Since late 2005, the MMBO has purchased eleven cows (either pregnant or with a calf), and has provided them to nine families under the “pass-on” system. Under this system, each family will maintain the cow and benefit from its milk for two years, after which time they will retain the first already-mature calf, and return the original cow, plus the second (and sometimes a third) calf to the MMBO, which in turn passes them on to another family under the same terms. Over the course of several years, this simple, self-sustaining and expanding pass-on system has provided crucial nutrition and income to families in Karegah and many other villages in the region of Kashatagh.
In addition, MMBO has lent during the period under review 500,000 drams to two farming families at 0% interest.
All in all, since early 2003 the MMBO has allocated some 12.5 million drams as agricultural assistance to family farmers, of which more than 6 million within the cows’ “pass on” program, 4 million for bee keeping and the rest as other forms of easy loans and aid.
--Allocated amount for the cow “pass-on” program and other agricultural loans in the 24 months under review: 2,205,000 drams*
*We note with great appreciation that the France-based organization «Terre d’Armenie» has generously provided 385,600 drams of the total sum of money allocated for the cow pass-on program for 2005-2007.
Renovation of the Regional Hospital of Berdzor:
The regional hospital of Berdzor (formerly Lachin) was founded in 1996 and is the sole medical center of the northern and central parts of the Kashatagh region. Since its first days the hospital has been headed by Dr. Artsakh Punyatian, a devoted field-surgeon during the Karabagh war years. The hospital building had not undergone any renovation or repairs for more than a decade--a situation that could have created hygiene problems in that health institution. The president of «Aznavour pour Arménie», Mr. Gerard Margosian, who had already helped the hospital many years ago, decided to sponsor, through the MMBO, the work of renovating the interior of the building. Thanks to the MMBO’s reputation and the experience it has gained by working in the region, it has cultivated close working relations with Dr. Punyatian, and was able to take charge of supervising the renovation work.
--Allocated amount for the renovation works: 4,862,500 drams
Assistance to the Monte Melkonian School of Berdashen, Martuni:
In 2006 MMBO assisted the Monte Melkonian School of Berdashen, a village in the Martouni region, with the acquisition of needed tools and equipment.
--Allocated amount: 126,800 drams
Digitalisation and Distribution of Films about Monte Melkonian and Other Films, and Acquisition of Books and Monographs about Monte:
MMBO undertook the digitalisation of the available films and tapes about Monte Melkonian. Films that lacked Betacam masters were transferred to this high-quality format, and all of the films were dubbed on DVDs, of which multiple copies were issued. In addition, the MMBO produced multiple DVD copies of films about other renowned freedom fighters (notably the commander and intellectual Leonid Azkaldian), as well as recent documentaries about western Armenia and the environmental problems of Armenia today. These DVDs were distributed to the youth centers sponsored by MMBO and to other centers and schools in Armenia.
In keeping with its mission the MMBO also assisted a number of scholars in their research about Monte’s life, work and legacy, and purchased books for its publicly accessible archives.
--Allocated amount for the digitalisation and distribution of DVDs:
--Allocated amount for the acquisition of books about and providing assistance to researchers and acquiring books about Monte: 157,000 drams
Assistance to Needy Blind Students:
The MMBO has assisted the academic endeavors of a number of needy blind students, providing them with digital recorders and personal computers with installed speech synthesis software. These devices are not optional conveniences nowadays; rather, they are necessary tools for blind students. The computers were second-hand PCs that had been upgraded. All in all, three PCs and four digital recorders were distributed. One of the students, who is extremely destitute, received MMBO assistance for some of his social needs.
--Allocated amount: 523,890 drams
Assistance to the Public Awareness Campaign concerning the Situation in Kashatagh:
Due mainly to corrupt governance and the lack of a clear developmental policy, the inhabitants of the Kashatagh region have led very difficult lives in recent years. As a result, the population of this strategically important region has fallen sharply. (Kashatagh is situated between the south-eastern territory of the Republic of Armenia and the territory forming the former “Autonomous Region of Nagorno Karabagh.” It was liberated in 1992-93.)
This worrisome situation has prompted concerned individuals to uncover the real state of things and highlight its dangers. The Association of Investigative Journalists of Armenia and its president Edik Baghdasarian lead a public awareness campaign, as a result of which the corrupt regional governor was dismissed and the region’s problems have come under public scrutiny. The MMBO provided direct logistical help to the journalists and established most of the necessary contacts during their investigation.
Administrative expenses during the period under review
--Expenses of transportation and of stopovers in Artsakh: 652,300 drams
Cost Distribution of Projects Realized by the Monte Melkonian Benevolent Organization from September 1, 2005 to August 31, 2007:*
Smbat Tatosian Adolescent and Youth Center of Karegah 11,518,625 drams
Transportation and stopovers in from Yerevan to outlying regions 652,300 drams
TOTAL 30,153,615 drams
* $1=336 drams (August 31, 2007).
Report prepared by
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