By Hagop Vartivarian
Without a doubt, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) has been a gift of providence for Armenians throughout the past 110 years. It has achieved preeminence over the course of time as a philanthropic organization, and it impartially served the myriad of needs of our people, humanitarian, educational, cultural and youth-oriented.
The AGBU kept pace with the daily life of our people and its homeland over time. Though born simply as a philanthropic organization in the diaspora, it quickly expanded the scope of its mission, especially after the Armenian Genocide, in order to meet the limitless needs of Armenians in exile by opening orphanages, maternity hospitals, schools, poorhouses and dispensaries in nearly all our newly established communities.
Its chief concern remained providing an Armenian upbringing to the new generation. It opened the Melkonian Educational Institute, where our public figures who would lead Armenian life were formed. On this model, the Union opened in nearly every community its schools, which not only became the furnaces of formation of Armenian culture, but also brought good things to the Armenian nation in general. The educational and Armenian patriotic level of these schools turned into synonyms of success and accomplishment.
Simultaneously, it opened gathering places, clubs, for these youth who graduated these schools or were in various fields of work. There in an Armenian environment our healthy and idealist youth matured.
Moreover, with the Sovietization of Armenia, the AGBU for 70 years kept alive that spirit of wholesome patriotism in the new generation, and in the masses, so that they would love the homeland and be proud of its scientific, cultural, educational, and, during the days of World War II, military exploits. It encouraged the repatriation of Armenians to Soviet Armenia. It provided its financial support in the initial stage to construction efforts, and later, to repatriation. It informed the Armenians of the diaspora of the cultural ascendance of our homeland, now already at peace and with secure borders.