damaged exterior of the Tekeyan School in Bourj Hammoud

Beirut Tekeyan School and Center Survey Great Damage, Need Our Help

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BEIRUT – The August 4 explosion in Beirut has caused great loss of life and property (see also https://mirrorspectator.com/2020/08/04/massive-explosion-ripped-through-beirut-tekeyan-school-and-armenian-institutions-damaged-video-included/). Among the many Armenian institutions damaged are the Tekeyan School in Bourj Hammoud and the Tekeyan Center in Gemmayze.

The Tekeyan School serves a largely low-income Armenian population in Bourj Hammoud, and, like many other Lebanese institutions, was already struggling during the difficulties of the recent Lebanese economic crisis, compounded with the arrival of the novel coronavirus. The Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada had sent the school financial assistance this year, but now it is clear that the need is much greater and much more urgent.

The principal of the Tekeyan School, Galina Shememian Nadjarian, related the situation the day after the explosion, on August 5. Still clearly shaken, she said, “Yesterday, we lived through an utter nightmare. We did not understand what happened. Only now are some explanations emerging about the situation and its causes. It took place yesterday at approximately 6 or 6:30 p.m. our time. While I pulled myself together, I received photographs from the school’s guard. I rushed to the school this morning.”

“Where can I start? How can I explain it? Everything is topsy-turvy. The Tekeyan School has no doors or windows. There are no offices, no computer room, no kitchen, no music room, no laboratory. Everything is ruins, the library, the hall, the sound system.” The iron gates of the school were also destroyed.

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She exclaimed, “It is as if we went through an earthquake or a war. Windows are hanging outside in pieces. Pieces of glass are all around the courtyard. The enclosed kindergarten playroom is destroyed. We still have to see whether the building itself is in usable conditions, with its foundation and columns.”

She would have not been able to leave alive if she was in her office at the time of the explosion, she said. Shememian Nadjarian was principal for 9 years, and has worked at the school for 18 years in all. She said that the loss is so great because even getting one desktop computer was difficult in Lebanon, let alone paying teachers’ salaries.

There is a guard who lives in the building with his family. Fortunately he was unharmed, and there were no lives lost at the school, though some of the parents and children have been wounded or harmed. Most live in apartments in Bourj Hammoud.

Again fortunately, the explosion did not take place on a school day. There are 107 students enrolled and 24 teachers and staff.

The prior week, the principal said, teacher training was being conducted, to prepare for reopening on September 1. Special measures were to be taken due to coronavirus and probably it would have been a hybrid style opening, with distance learning several days a week. This would have required extra assistance for families without computers or internet access.

The school is insured, but Lebanese insurance companies will not cover this type of act, which is either force majeure or an act of war. The school is vulnerable to both robbery and damage from rain, which is common in August in Beirut. Consequently, the first task will be to secure the building from the elements.

Այսպիսի՞ դասարաններ պիտի ուզէինք տեսնել… 😢😢

Posted by Vahan Tekeyan on Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Nearly all the Armenian community structures in the quarter have been destroyed or greatly harmed, including churches, political party clubs and compatriotic union halls. The Catholicos of Cilicia Aram I visited the municipality on August 4 and the Lebanese Interior Minister on August 5.

The Tekeyan Center

Ara Terzian, who manages the Tekeyan Center, on August 5 said that he rushed in his car from a village and reached the center by a quarter to eight the night of the explosion. The latter is located closer to Beirut’s port and the epicenter of the explosion, so it was more heavily damaged. Terzian remarked that the center had the double disadvantage of being not more than 400 meters from the explosion site and being in an open area.

The building is a commercial site and eight people were wounded there. Of these, one is an Armenian who was visiting someone in the building, he said, and the other seven worked in the offices. There probably were about 40 people in the building at the time of the explosion, Terzian estimated.

He exclaimed that the seven-floor Tekeyan Center building was in ruins. Nothing remained but the columns. Twenty percent of the walls had fallen and all the doors and windows are gone. The two underground parking floors were the only parts that were not that relatively damaged.

Terzian said that the center used to be an important source of support for the Tekeyan School, and various other Armenian organizations, including newspapers, musical and theatrical groups. Unfortunately, in the last few years the general decline in the Lebanese situation also severely affected its revenues. Now to repair the destruction from the explosion will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Formal estimates are being obtained. As in the case of the Tekeyan School, the priority is first to secure the building from the elements and thieves.

There are many worthy causes now to support in Lebanon, and many organizations are working hard to this effect. The Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada will continue its historical role of helping its eponymous institutions in Beirut, and the school in particular, which helps so many Armenian families secure a good education for their children irrespective of their own financial situation. American Armenians have been involved in the development of the school from the start and now without a doubt they will help it rebuild and overcome this new tribulation.

Outside the Tekeyan Center on August 6

Those who wish to help the school financially can send their donations online by credit card at https://givebutter.com/bXn8Lm or by check to the Tekeyan Cultural Association (memo: Beirut Tekeyan School), at its headquarters (755 Mount Auburn Street, Watertown MA 02472). For more information, email tcadirector@aol.com or call 617 924-4455. All administrative costs for this campaign will be borne by the Tekeyan Cultural Association.

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