Fundraiser Aims to Make Camp Experience Possible for Indigent Armenian Children

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By Alin K. Gregorian
Mirror-Spectator Staff

BELMONT, Mass. — A group of young friends from the Greater Boston area is putting its collective power together to help a nun in Gumri who is bringing joy to poor and orphaned children in Armenia.

The friends are organizing a fundraiser to help Sister Arousiag Sajonian, the founding principal of the Armenian Sisters’ Academy of Radnor, Penn. and a long-time advocate for children in Armenia, on Friday, August 6, here.

Carolyn Atinizian, who served on the ad hoc group planning the evening, explained how she and friends, Tanya Najarian-Iliadis and Melissa Krikorian, were visiting Armenia together in 2007 and heard about the tremendous efforts of Sajonian in Gumri. Atinizian, an alumna of the Armenian Sisters’ Academy in Lexington, and her friends, were eager to meet Sajonian and thus went to her camp, called the Our Lady of Armenia Summer Camp in Tsaghkadzor, about one hour outside of Gumri. The experience is one they have not yet forgotten.

“When we got there, we called ahead and some of the kids performed and put together a small program for us,” Atinizian recalled. The children, she said, were laughing and regaling the guests with stories of what they do, where they sleep and what sort of activities they do. The activities, she said, include both educational programs as well as sports.

The children, she said, either come from desperately poor families in and around Gumri or are orphans, and the camp is a chance for them to spend 17 day in a fun environment, away from their day-to-day difficult lives.

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Incredibly, the camp supports 850 youngsters each summer and money to house, feed and entertain those children for the four 17-day sessions. The camp serves children between the ages of 8 and 14.

Sister Arousiag raises funds to send the children to camp. “Most of the funding comes from people like you and I,” said Atinizian. “There are [also] some donors that help her year after year.”

Atinizian said that the trip to the camp left an indelible memory in her mind, as well as those of her friends. “It was a number of things. It was seeing the children and the joy that the program brought to them. It was the goals that she had, both cultural and spiritual and we got a sense that this is a good place for the children to be.”

Atinizian praised Sister Arousiag as someone who is both “knowledgeable and open-minded.” She stressed that Sister Arousiag was “quite surprised” at the suggestion that the friends from the Boston area hold a fundraiser for her.

Sister Arousiag, it seems, cannot help but elicit praise and support from every corner.

She has been in Armenia since 1993 and is a member of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. In 1967, she became the founding principal of the Armenian Sisters Academy of Radnor and was there until 1986, when she took a position in Rome. According to Sister Hripsime, the ASA’s current superior of the convent, Sister Arousiag is “an exceptional person. She is dedicated to people and does not pay attention to her health when it comes to her nation. She just cares about her people.”

The ad hoc committee, in addition to Najarian-Iliadis and Atinizian, includes Nayiri

Ajoian-Salibian, Maria Chapian, Mary Kioumejian, Melissa Krikorian, Stephanie Ross,

Sossy Sarkissian and Salpi Stepanian.

Najarian-Iliadis, who came up with the idea of helping Sister Arousiag with a fundraiser, said while they have set no limits regarding the amount they seek to raise, they would like to raise $10,000.

“Sister Arousiag is amazing. We are really inspired to help them,” she explained.

She noted that tickets to the program have been priced at $70 because the cost for sending one child to one session is $140 and thus, two tickets would cover the cost of one child.

The Midsummer Night’s Dream program, featuring food, dancing, entertainment and camaraderie in the name of Sister Arousiag and her campers, will take place on Friday, August 6, at 7:30 p.m. at Holy Cross Armenian Catholic Church’s Atinizian Hall. For tickets, e-mail armeniandreams@gmail.com.

Also, donations in any amount can be made out to Armenian Sisters/Armenia Acct, and mailed to Our Lady of Armenia, PO Box 724, Watertown, MA 02471.

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