Telethon 2010: Armenians pledge more than $20M in donations for Karabakh in Thanksgiving Day fundraiser

Armenians around the world have made a total pledge of more than $20.8 million for a pan-Armenian charity as part of a 12-hour Thanksgiving Day telethon in Los Angeles, USA – $5 million more than during a similar fundraiser last year.

The telethon that ended 8.00 am Friday Yerevan time was the 13th such fundraiser in support of projects implemented in Armenia and Karabakh by the All-Armenian fund Hayastan. This year it was entitled “Water is Life” and all of the money raised would be directed at building drinking water supply and irrigation infrastructure in Karabakh as well as supporting the continuing development projects in borderland villages in Karabakh and Armenia.

According to the Fund (www.himnadram.org), the project brings tangible and long-term change in the life of the people living in these areas.

“Let us together prove that Armenia and Armenians, through united efforts, can solve their problems by themselves,” Hayastan Fund Executive Director Ara Vardanyan said after the announcement of the start of the November 25 telethon.

And after the Lord’s Prayer that heralded the start of the telethon head of the Artsakh Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan underlined the importance of the project. He said: “I have lived in Shushi for18 years and I know very well what it means not to have water for weeks. Last year the problems with water were solved in Shushi. This year such problems will be solved elsewhere [in Karabakh].”

Nagorno-Karabakh President Bako Sahakyan also spoke about the importance of the Fund’s projects during the event. He emphasized that solving problems with irrigation and drinking water will help all sectors of the country.

“If we have that irrigation system, we will be able to develop agriculture, grow grain, which will not only meet our demands, but also partly the demand in Armenia,” said Sahakyan.

During a charity dinner in Russian capital Moscow on November 16, Armenian businessmen in Russia pledged to contribute $8 million to the Fund, and in days preceding the telethon the pan-European (Armenian) phone-a-thon organized from Paris, France, raised about €1.3 million ($1.7 million).

Last year, the Hayastan Fund telethon raised $15.8 million, and during the last 13 years more than $200 million have been donated to the Fund for various projects.

Many people in Armenia, including businessmen, have wired their money for the good cause, but not all appeared ready to contribute last night.

Rights activist Lara Aharonian spent all day on Facebook outlining reasons why she can’t give money.

Among the reasons mentioned by Aharonian are violations of people’s constitutional rights in Armenia, lack of free speech, lack of an attitude from the authorities towards people’s concerns. The activist also said she did not trust the current composition of the Hayastan Fund’s Board of Trustees that includes Armenia’s current and former presidents, Serzh Sargsyan and Robert Kocharyan, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, NKR President Bako Sahakyan, and others.

“Armenia doesn’t need charity, and more than relief work Armenia needs development and strengthening of its own civil society, invest your 20, 30, 100 dollars in that because only then you will contribute to building a sustainable country,” said Aharonian.