AMSTERDAM, Holland — Entrepreneur and entertainer Aristakes Jessayan who, among others, owns two event agencies and for six years has run two travel agencies, was born in Athens, Greece in an Armenian family. In 2007 he traveled for the first time to Armenia, the land of his ancestors, and fell instantly under the spell of the country. There he saw a wealth of musical talent alongside lots of poverty. He has since set up a charitable foundation, partially funded by the proceeds of a garment factory, which started, in his words, “with a bit of struggle.”
“During my trip to Armenia I came impressed by the country. Setting foot for the first time in my motherland felt as refreshing experience. The people are enormously friendly, but also I found it challenging; there is a sharp contrast between rich and poor and much corruption hindering further development. During my stay I visited a music academy. You see, besides being a businessman I am also a musician and music matters very much to me. Let me make a side note about a highpoint in my singing carrier: It was the 2005 invitation to perform the national anthem of Armenia at the opening ceremony of the Netherlands-Armenia European Soccer Championship game. The school director made sure that a number of kids performed during my visit. I was impressed by the great number of talented piano and violin players, especially one girl who was playing piano for already 12 years. As it became evident that these youngsters were in needy circumstances, I made a contribution toward their teachers’ salaries and the acquisition of music instruments.”
Foundation Formed to Help Armenia
Back in the Netherlands, Jessayan, who has also been a singer for years, began a small charity to assist the deprived in Armenia. “The Aristakes Jessayan Foundation (AJF) aims to generate funds for children, orphans, war victims, the handicapped, elders and other needy people. We make sure to reach the recipients directly and not via middlemen or entities. This is done under the close scrutiny of local AJF staffers.”
The AJF has been running for a couple of years and is making steady progress. Many young musicians unable to afford music lessons are helped to pay their teachers. The run-down heating at a home for elderly and an orphanage has been repaired and running. In March, Jessayan traveled again to Armenia where he came upon Hakob Harutunyan, an expert in the garment trade, who had previously managed a fashion design school in the Netherlands.
“Together with him we visited a diamond factory where we met another mutual friend. The factory was housed within an enormous industrial complex dating back to the Soviet times.” Wondering around they saw a large room full of machinery, as it happens 120 sewing machines, covered with sheets of plastic. “Prompted by my entrepreneurial instinct I told Hakob: You are a fashion designer; these machines are left idle with no purpose. Let’s put them to use.”