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Armenia-Diaspora Conference 2002 Commentary

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For the second Armenia-Diaspora Conference

By Sevak Khodaverdian

February 27, 2002

In order to foster and facilitate cooperation between Armenia and
Diaspora, and in order to make the upcoming Armenia-Diaspora
conference more than a venue for making speeches only, I suggest that
groups be formed around specific projects and goals - these groups
could be thought of as advocacy groups - to carry out worthwhile
projects and see to the projects from their inception to their
completion.

These groups could be formed out of interested organizations and
non-affiliated individuals, both in Diaspora and Armenia, and the
relevant governmental agencies in Armenia.

The projects adopted by these groups must be specific, of finite
duration - with a beginning, middle and end - verifiable and
measurable at different stages of the projects' lives. At the end of a
project, the advocacy group dissolves.  Its members are then free to
join up or start new groups and tackle other worthwhile projects.

This would provide the opportunity for individuals who are not
affiliated with particular organizations but are eager to work towards
the betterment of Armenia, to participate, on their own volition, in
the Armenia-Diaspora conference, and join any project they think
important and feel the most passionate about.

Needless to say, pertinent governmental agencies from Armenia would
also be involved in relevant groups to help facilitate the
implementation of the goals of the groups.

The kinds of projects I have in mind are:


SAVE LAKE SEVAN:

After all these years of half-hearted promises and efforts, the water
level in Lake Sevan keeps retreating, factories keep dumping their
refuse in it, and the natural resources that the lake supports, such
as the fish life and the vegetation around the lake, keep being
pillaged and abused.  An advocacy group can be formed around this
issue. The group must find funding, sponsor studies as to the best
way/s to save the lake and then implement the recommendations.  Lake
Sevak not only has real environmental impact and role for Armenia it
also stands as a symbol of Armenia and Armenians around the world.
Every effort must be spent to reverse its deteriorating course and
help it thrive.


UPGRADE ARMENIA'S SCHOOLS:

A group can be formed to gather data, fund and implement renovations
to schools' infrastructures in Armenia.  (The issue of pay for the
teachers is a different matter all together.) This group needs to
collect data on the needs of each school in Armenia from kindergartens
to high schools. These needs could range from a new coat of paint to
heating problems, new furniture, building a play yard or building a
school from the ground up. Whatever the needs of a school the advocacy
group must try to address and resolve it.


NO MORE HOMELESSNESS IN GUMRI:

It is a real shame on us all Armenians that after all these years
there are still people living in containers in Gumri and not by a
small number but a huge one (see January-February issue of AIM
magazine).  Despite all the promises of the two governments since the
independence and the Diaspora organizations, and despite all the
fund-raisings this problem lingers. An advocacy group can be formed to
do everything it can to once and for all wipe clean this big scar from
the face of us Armenians.


UPGRADE SUNDUKIAN THEATRICAL HALL:

Not all the projects for these advocacy groups need to be extensive
and far-reaching.  For example, the Sundukian theatrical hall in
Yerevan is a beautiful hall surrounded by a beautiful park.  But both
the hall and the park are in need of improvements. The hall needs
things such as a new stage sound system and a new stage lighting
system, it needs lighting for its hallways and the outside
surroundings, and of course it needs heating for the cold season. The
park next to the hall needs to be cleaned, the trees trimmed, and the
waters and fountains turned back on. We have excellent theatrical
talent in Armenia and any support provided for them would be
beneficial to us all. This is an example of a project on a smaller
scale.

These are suggestions for possible projects - the number and types
of projects are limited only by the imagination and resources of the
participants of the conference - that organizations and individuals,
both in Armenia and Diaspora, can rally around and by addressing them
help improve Armenia for generations to come.

Sevak Khodaverdian
Sherman Oaks, CA

--
Sevak Khodaverdian is an IT professional who has been active in
various Armenian organizations.

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