DETROIT — The Nareg-Shavarshan Lodge #6 of the Knights of Vartan celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2018. Over the past century, between the Detroit lodges of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, about 2 million in aid has been sent to Armenia and Armenians, beginning with the survivors of the Genocide at the time of the organization’s founding.
This past year, the lodge nearly doubled that amount by sending over $1.6 million worth of medical supplies to Armenia.
The supplies were sourced through Metro Detroit-based organization World Medical Relief, and the transportation of three large shipping containers over the period of eight months was directed by Nareg-Shavarshan Lodge Commander Kazar Terterian working together with Peter Abajian of the Paros Foundation, Greg Baise, a lodge member who is also on the board of World Medical Relief, and a small circle of Knights. Due to the inherent risks of shipping supplies through Turkish waters into the Black Sea in order to aid Armenia, particularly in the middle of the 44-day war, the operation was kept secret and not even the broader Detroit lodge membership was made aware of what was going on.
Genesis of the Project
World Medical Relief is a Detroit-based charity focused on getting needed medical supplies to developing countries. The organization is the 9th largest of its kind in the United States and has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator. Instead, the organization relies heavily on volunteers from the Metro Detroit community to run its day-to-day operations. In fact, World Medical Relief for many years has been a very popular venue for individuals, organizations, and religious congregations to find a way to give back to the community.
Medical goods are sourced from doctors, patients, and especially hospitals. The materials are either leftovers from hospitals where it is more economically efficient to buy new supplies or are used supplies that are not considered up to code under US regulations but are still usable for all intents and purposes and could save lives in developing countries. The sorting of the goods into different categories to then be shipped is a rate-limiting factor for the organization’s operations, which can be moved along in a major way by the simple act of volunteers coming in groups to help sort supplies. This is the reason that the organization, since its days of operating out of a Downtown Detroit warehouse, has been so popular for groups looking to do community service.