WATERTOWN – The recent catastrophic war in Nagorno Karabakh and the resulting humanitarian disaster seems to have moved the problems of other Armenian communities to the backburner. But many of our communities also face survival challenges. We are particularly concerned with the plight of the Armenian community in Lebanon, which is struggling to recover from the ravages of the explosion in Beirut last August.
The Central Board of the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada (TCA) took immediate action to help the Vahan Tekeyan School in Bourdj Hammoud. The school and the Tekeyan Cultural Center in downtown Beirut had both sustained considerable damage, like other Armenian community centers and schools. The Central Board allocated $110,000 to the school for renovation and for educational programming in 2020.
The Central Board further committed itself to future assistance to guarantee the survival of the school, because many dangers lie ahead. As the school was reorganizing itself with TCA assistance and local help to continue operations under covid-19 restraints, salutary news arrived of a major complement to TCA efforts. Indeed, benefactor Sam Simonian and his wife Silva allocated a magnanimous grant of $100,000 to the school. Mr. Simonian has close emotional ties to it since he received his early education there.
This is not the only instance of Mr. Simonian’s generosity toward the school, which has always been on his list of charities. He is a member of the Central Board of Directors of the AGBU and member of the boards of the American University of Armenia and Teach for Armenia. He is a successful telecommunications entrepreneur, but he and his wife are perhaps best known among Armenians for their creation of the Tumo Center for Creative Technologies, a free digital media learning center for teens. The first TUMO center opened in Yerevan in 2011, and then centers in Gyumri, Dilijan and Stepanakert. The model was so successful that centers were established in Beirut, Berlin, Moscow, Paris and Tirana, while many more are being planned.
The Simonians have provided Armenians an inspiring example of creative philanthropy with TUMO. They also have shown how to honor one’s past and help struggling portions of our community. The TCA Central Board is as grateful as the Vahan Tekeyan School’s students for their generosity. During this Christmas season, the Central Board hopes that we can all be inspired by this to be better human beings and to help struggling Armenians, wherever they may be, as much as we are able.