NEW YORK — The online and phone fundraising campaign launched by the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) earlier this month to aid Armenian communities affected by the deepening crisis in Syria has seen an overwhelming response, with more than $150,000 donations received in September. Support has poured in from all corners of the world to meet the growing needs of thousands of Armenian families in Aleppo, as well as in Damascus and Kamishli, where cautionary security measures are being taken.
In anticipation of medical emergencies, a clinic, dispensary and pharmacy, all managed by a nurse and doctor, are in place within the site and ready for utilization should the need arise. Moreover, if necessary, the AGBU-AYA committee has made arrangements with local hospitals to admit patients, who would be transported via a van converted into an ambulance, which the committee has acquired. While each of these initiatives is underway, AGBU volunteers are also conducting field visits to families whose homes have been assailed and who require immediate emergency assistance.
Across the country, a specially-formed AGBU Armenian Youth Association (AYA) Committee is overseeing recovery and preparedness activities in collaboration with a pan-Armenian network of local organizations, the Syria-Armenian Emergency Relief Committee. The AGBU chapter in Aleppo has mobilized more than 80 volunteers who are working to administer aid to more than 2,500 families in the city. Every day, food packages with staples such as cereal, cooking oil, dry meat, eggs, lentils, milk, potatoes, rice, sugar and wheat are being distributed to the hundreds of families arriving en masse at a local AGBU facility. All recipients are registering with AGBU, as efforts are coordinated with other Armenian organizations, including Catholic and Evangelical churches, to com- pile official rosters of those in need. More than 250 boxes of food and additional stock- piles are also ready to be allocated to families in Damascus, where, like Kamishli, dozens of volunteers are prepared to take further action should the situation there worsen.
Food is one of the four areas of humani- tarian aid that the AGBU is currently focused on, in addition to emergency response, healthcare and shelter. In the event that fam- ilies in Aleppo are forced to leave their homes, AGBU has made provisions to trans- form a local building into a secure space where they may take refuge. The premises are now equipped with generators, water reserves for bathrooms, supplies of drinking water, fire extinguishers and a kitchen and cafeteria complete with a refrigerator, oven and food storage facilities. A security staff has also been enlisted to keep the outside secure 24 hours a day, while social and educational projects have been developed to keep the youth active and engaged inside.
AGBU’s on-the-ground relief humanitarian aid efforts, and the $1-million emergency fund set aside by the AGBU Central Board, are providing a safety net for scores of Armenians across Syria. Yet, as the conflict continues to escalate, the need is quickly out- pacing resources. The AGBU is appealing to Armenians worldwide to renew their pledges to those families in Syria, to provide them not only with provisions, but also with much- needed hope during this dire time.
Donate online at agbu.org/syriarelief/index.html. Donate by phone at 1-855-AID-AGBU (243-2428), or send checks to: AGBU, Syria Emergency Fund, 55 East 59th St., New York, NY 10022.