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Beyond Expectations: going to Armenia with a mission

By Vartkes Kassouni

Orange, CA–Going to Armenia as a tourist has its rewards, however going there with a mission has its special and unexpected rewards. Mrs. Kassouni and I had the privilege of going there in June and connecting with the programs of Jinishian Foundation… A year ago, after some 53 years, when I first met Mr. Jinishian in New York, I reconnected with him by way of volunteering to serve in the promotion of its programs in California, and then traveling to see with my own eyes…

Mr. and Mrs. Kassouni with children all rasing their hands

For them all, it is obvious that this is not a job but a mission to which they are totally dedicated.

The brains and heart of this whole enterprise are two people and their dedicated staff of men and women. The International Executive Director, Ms. Eliza Minasyan, and the Executive Director for Armenia, Mr. Armen Hakobyan. For them all, it is obvious that this is not a job but a mission to which they are totally dedicated. Whether they personally accompanied us, or their dedicated staff people, we covered city and country, mountain and valley, village and farm, church and cathedral, adults and children, farmers and workers, teachers and students, priests and laypeople. We broke bread with the people in their homes. We ate delicious ripe apricots and cherries sold along the way, right next to the trees loaded with fruit. We drank the ice-cold waters flowing in mountain brooks, and savored their delicious breads right out of the baker’s ovens. I was awe-struck by their history and story, told by silent churches and thousands of “khatch-kars” (cross-stones), standing in eloquent silence, and speaking to me in hushed tones only a heart could hear…

No “charity” there

I have two distinct impressions of the dedication and effectiveness of the Jinishian Program in Armenia. First, the lack of ostentation. No lush quarters and offices, but in effective simplicity all is dedicated to their cause… Second, the way in which they connect with the people of the land. No “charity” there, but support for projects which the people themselves, whether on a farm or in a village, ascertain and organize for action. I met with farmers overjoyed that they had received support to build a small dam… I met with a group of young college graduates in a village [who] bragged that they had the cleanest village in the area because of the success of their efforts. God bless them!

The cause is worthy, the people deserve it, and our love celebrates it

Having returned home to California, Samira and I are filled with grateful memories of the kindness and generosity of our hosts. We are also resolved to continue our support… because the cause is worthy, the people deserve it, and our love celebrates it.


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