Armenia Fund USA Volunteers Prepare For Thanksgiving Day Telethon

By Taleen Babayan
Mirror-Spectator Staff

NEW YORK — The 11th annual Armenia Fund telethon will take place on Thanksgiving Day in a global effort to raise money for the Armenia Fund Rural Development Program (RDP), focusing on the Lori and Tavush regions in Armenia and the Martuni region in Karabagh.

In an effort to maximize participation in the telethon, a phone-a-thon has been organized with the help of many Armenian youth, who will make hundreds of phone calls from November 13 – 23 to inform people of the upcoming telethon and urge them to donate money to this cause. This pre-telethon effort will help spread the word about the telethon and receive early donations for the RDP.

The three key volunteers spearheading the phone-a-thon are Azatuhi Ayrikian, Shaunte Baboumian and Raffi Elchemmas.

Organizing the phone-a-thon for the first time in the Midwest, Elchemmas has mobilized 15 volunteers to make phone calls from the St. John Armenian Church in Southfield, Mich.

On his third trip to Armenia this summer, Elchemmas finally had the opportunity to travel to Karabagh for the first time. While there he visited the Martuni region; he went back to Karabagh three more times during his twomonth stay. “I really fell in love with it and the scenery and the people. And I was happy when I heard that this year’s telethon would be to raise money for Martuni,” said Elchemmas, 22, a senior at Michigan State University majoring in sports communications and kinesiology.

Elchemmas was deeply touched by the children he met during his travels to Armenia and Karabagh, which prompted his participation with this year’s phone-a-thon.

“I saw my face in these children’s faces and saw the same character traits in me in them,” he said.

When Azatuhi Ayrikian traveled to Karabagh and saw first-hand the work that Armenia Fund has done there, she decided to participate in this year’s phone-a-thon.

“Armenia Fund appealed to me because while driving through Stepanakert two summers ago, my father told me that Armenia Fund’s efforts had resulted in the creation of these new roads,” said Ayrikian, 23, and a graduate student at Boston University.

This is the first time Ayrikian is volunteering with Armenia Fund in a coordinating position. Ayrikian has had experience with Armenian activism, working most recently with Armenians for Obama.

When Shaunte Baboumian first volunteered for the New York chapter of Armenia Fund USA, she enjoyed it greatly, especially because of its grassroots approach. She has since continued her involvement and will again participate in the 2008 phone-a-thon and telethon.

“This is an amazing project and it gets the youth and donors here involved and helps bring knowledge to people about Armenia Fund,” said Baboumian, 21, a senior at Columbia University majoring in neuroscience, who will be making phone calls with Ayrikian from New York City. “It’s nice because donors know what they are giving to.”

Armenia Fund USA was founded in 1992 and was one of the first of Armenia Fund’s 19 international affiliates and serves Armenians in the United States, east of the Mississippi. As a nonprofit, non-governmental, non-sectarian organization, the fund represents all Armenians. The fund has adopted a policy to go “Beyond Bricks and Mortar” to provide sustainability for projects it sponsors.

The Armenia Fund Telethon 2008 will take place on Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time.

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