Humanitarian aid collected by Armenian communities in Europe and the US with the assistance of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund arrived by plane (courtesy

NEW YORK – Executive Director of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund (“Himnadram”) Haykak Arshamyan briefly visited the United States at the end of August on a working visit. He provided information about the activities of the fund during and after the war to the Mirror-Spectator at the tail end of this trip. While the Himnadram helped the Armenian community in Lebanon last year after the August explosion in Beirut’s port, engaged in a campaign raising some $800,000 to help Armenia deal with Covid-19, and had various other projects, Arshamyan primarily discussed the fund’s work concerning the 2020 Artsakh war and its aftermath.

Haykak Arshamyan

The Fund

The Hayastan All Armenian-Fund is an independent, humanitarian nonprofit organization, Arshamyan said, with Armenian state representatives participating as members of its board of trustees along with representatives of diasporan political forces and church denominations. He said, “The Himnadram is only subject to its board’s decisions, and its mission statement.”

The board discusses its annual general goals, but in addition, during the course of each year, proposals are made from the Himnadram itself, its donors and various government ministries. Arshamyan said that its mechanism is very flexible.

Its board during some years has met to ratify decisions only a few times during the year, but over the last one or two years the trustees have been very active, Arshamyan related, especially during the war. Furthermore, at any time, he is able to consult with any desired trustee for advice. However, the trustees are in general very busy with their own demanding careers, so they are primarily representative in their roles and do not in general carry out programs themselves.

When asked whether the board might be broadened in the future, Arshamyan explained that in 1992, well known representatives of the diaspora and government officials were chosen. If new organizations join the board now, there will be many similar ones that will want to be on it too, and this will create a problem, he said. Furthermore, the larger a board, the slower it will work, Arshamyan said, and it is already large. It should perhaps even be made smaller, he added.

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Trip to US

Arshamyan last came to the United States in November of last year. His trip in August to Los Angeles, Washington DC, and New York was not directly for fundraising. Its primary purpose was to understand dispositions and connect with the people involved in the Armenia Fund headquartered in Glendale, California, as well as supporters in various parts of the US. Arshamyan observed, “However much you speak with people by means of Zoom or the telephone, it is more fruitful to have meetings in person.”

As executive director of the All-Armenian Fund, he works with fundraising bodies in various countries to explain the current programs and needs in Armenia (and Artsakh). In the past there was an East Coast office of the Armenia Fund which Arshamyan said had become passive. He said it was not possible to preserve it and make it more active. Instead, the Glendale office on the West Coast for now serves the entire United States.

While the office may be reestablished sometime in the future, Arshamyan said, “I think it is possible to find other formats. Perhaps it is possible to have ‘ambassadors’ in different cities who will work with the West Coast Armenian Fund office, and thus find a more flexible method of work. They would be empowered to speak in the name of the Armenian Fund.”

Plan for new apartment buildings being built in Ajapnyak district of Stepanakert (courtesy

The annual telethon conducted by the Armenia Fund, Arshamyan said, will take place again this fall, but instead of asking for money, it will report on what was accomplished in Armenia and Artsakh over the last year. He said, “Himnadram is not doing fundraising at this moment because we do not need it, and we have a large capital fund to spend.”

Strengthening of border communities in Armenia will be a focus over the next year, which will require large sums because the border of Armenia has now become much longer, Arshamyan said, declaring, “From Tavush to Gegharkunik, Syunik and Vayots Dzor, the border communities have serious need for reinforcement, so that people can live better in their homes and not think about leaving. So, we must tell people that any money collected this year will be used for this purpose.”


The 50-year-old Arshamyan has a doctorate in Armenian history earned in 1996 from Yerevan State University and many years of experience both in government and nonprofit organizations. He worked for Armenia’s Ministry of Education and Science, and then on the staff of the Armenian prime minister, followed by four years at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and finally 3 ½ years as advisor to the Minister of Education and Science, before starting work at a series of nonprofits. The latter include Birthright Armenian (6 years), the Yerevan Press Club (almost 4 years), the Regional Studies Center with Richard Giragosian (a little over 3 years), and Transparency International Anticorruption Center (one year and 8 months).

He jumped back into government as an advisor for Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan after the “Velvet Revolution.” Arshamyan said that he knew Pashinyan prior to the revolution, and many of his friends were involved in political struggle. However, he said, “I myself have been more in civil society, and always worked in that way.” He worked for the defense of human rights from 2004-5 as part of a struggle for democracy in the civic opposition, explaining: “By saying civic, we organized through various nongovernmental organizations and initiatives, various events, even demonstrations and protests, on ecology, urban development and other issues. I was active like many of my coevals in Armenia.”

Arshamyan served on the board of trustees of the Civil Contract Foundation for Return [Kaghakatsiakan Paymanagir Veradardzi Himnadram]. It was established to raise money for the Civil Contract, the future party of Nikol Pashinyan, and, Arshamyan said, many of the trustees were from civil society, which was seen as suitable for supervision of fundraising and finances. When Pashinyan’s formal political party was established, this board no longer had anything left to do, he said.

After Pashinyan was in power with Arshamyan as an adviser, troubles erupted at the Himnadram due to the scandalous actions of its then executive director Ara Vardanyan, accused of embezzlement and misuse of funds. A call was announced for a new director through a competition and Arshamyan said he thought with his background of work with the Armenian diaspora he could help in this position to restore the credibility of the Himnadram. Arshamyan won the competition and was chosen as executive director. He said, “I do not regret accepting this mission.” He thanks his team for its hard work and the donors who placed their confidence again in the Himnadram.

 Fundraising and Aid during the War

When asked to respond to criticism voiced in the media that the money collected in unprecedented amounts during the 2020 Artsakh war was spent far too slowly, Arshamyan replied, “During the war, the Himnadram sent millions of dollars of aid on demand. Power generators, and even beds or basic items of aid were needed, and the Himnadram coordinated it all. Several million dollars of aid were sent during the war itself.” He specified that in all, some four million dollars of direct assistance was given plus a great deal of humanitarian items sent from diasporan communities.

Some of the Ottobock prostheses procured by the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund (courtesy

The largest expenditure of money during the war was actually the transfer of approximately $107 million to the Armenian government, a sum which actually constitutes more than half of the $170 million raised at that period. This act gave rise to much criticism. Arshamyan exclaimed, “I can say that in the months of November and December there was a campaign against the Himnadram organized in various places. Some people were of course upset, and not looking into the details, said as soon as the war ended, why did we give money and then you gave that money to the government. They did not take into account that it was wartime with military circumstances — unprecedented circumstances — and everyone was told to centralize fundraising with the Himnadram.”

He accepted that some criticism about the Himnadram was justified, declaring: “Some said truly, it would be better to do this instead of that, and we accepted that.” However, the fact that such a large sum of money was transferred to the government led to great attention and even envy, he said. Much criticism came with ulterior motives.

He said there was a political exploitation of the situation, adding: “those artificially created [criticisms] come from several centers which were against the government of Armenia, without understanding that the Himnadram is not a government body. When you harm the Himnadram, you are not harming the government. You are hurting the diaspora, your compatriots.”

Arshamyan pointed out that the board of trustees of the Himnadram had agreed to transfer this money and that the government signed contracts that it be used for humanitarian needs of infrastructure, social assistance, primarily for Artsakh Armenians, and health care. He noted that two members of the Himnadram board, former Armenian president Robert Kocharyan and former Artsakh president Arkady Ghukasyan, did not vote on this decision because they were not in communication with the board.

Kocharyan, a member of the board since 2009, did not participate in any board meeting for over ten years, Arshamyan said. When Arshamyan became executive director, all board members were sent information on voting, but, Arshamyan said, neither Kocharyan nor Ghukasyan responded, so they consequently had no connection with the fund. Therefore, when the request for votes were sent during the war, they did not receive it, but even without them there was a majority vote accepting the decision for the transfer to the government. On this situation, Arshamyan concluded, “There is the technical fault of the Himnadram and the passivity of some of its members of the board.”

He said furthermore that the money transferred to the government deliberately excluded funds raised in the US and Canada, and for the most part was from collections in Armenia and Russia, in order to avoid complications with North American donors.

Arshamyan related, “When the war ended, immediately there were demands for reporting. It was unbelievable. It takes time to do such work, and I cannot imagine a foundation that collects $100 million and in one month spends $100 million and can give a report. Time was necessary to do reporting.”

On the other hand, he said, that in general the Himnadram reports on Facebook and its website weekly about the programs it is conducting and what is being spent, so that people can follow in this fashion publicly. The Himnadram was ready to present its annual report for 2020 in April or May of this year, but it wanted the Ministry of Finance of Armenia to give its information on the use of the $107 million it had received to make the report complete. The ministry wanted to wait until all spending ended and all work was finished, so it only submitted its report to the Himnadram in June.

The Himnadram had a special committee created with its own board members, and Arshamyan, which worked on it with auditors and met separately. Arshamyan said, “That report we found is in line with the mission of the Himnadaram and in line with the contract we signed with the Ministry of Finance. The purposes that were put into that contract are in line with the reporting.” The audit and reporting required examining hundreds of government decisions to see if they were in accordance with the Himnadram mission and it was a huge operation, Arhsamyan said.

At present, the Finance Ministry report is being examined by the Himnadram’s trustees. After it is accepted, it will be published publicly and the 2020 annual Himnadram report can also be issued. Arshamyan said, “It will be understood then that the clamor that was raised was in vain.”

“There was a long battle which I hope I overcame,” Arshamyan said about the attacks, concluding, “people now are calmer and feel more confident [about the justifiability of the transfer].” He said that President Armen Sarkissian tried to calm the public during this process when he demanded reporting from the Ministry of Finance and declared that if the reporting does not correspond to our goals, the Himnadram can demand the transferred money back.

Post-War Activities

Starting during the war, and continuing to the present, Arshamyan said, there have been some 200 tons of humanitarian aid distributed. The Himnadram finds beneficiaries, transports the aid and distributes it.

After the war, with 60-70,000 Artsakh refugees in Armenia, the Himnadram started to provide them with aid and food, costing millions of dollars. Arshamyan said, “Our staff is very small. Everybody thinks we are a huge organization but we have in all 30 employees, of whom one-half are technical employees. The core staff which does program work is 10-15 people. Therefore, we spoke with various nonprofits in Armenia which work with the Artsakh refugees and distributed everything through them.” For example, he said, AGBU was given $450,000, which then took care of some tens of thousands, while in Marduni (Gegharkunik province), another nonprofit helped refugees in that region. In Yerevan, various hotels were paid to host refugees from Shushi and Hadrut until they can return to Artsakh. Food is provided daily. In Tsaghkadzor, hundreds of people live in the Golden Palace Hotel from December 2021 until the present, Arshamyan said, with the Himnadram paying for their food too.

The Armenian government of course also provides important aid to refugees, he added.

Despite all the aforementioned activities, when the war ended in early November, there was a delay in spending the bulk of the money collected. Arshamyan explained: “After the war, we and the Artsakh government needed a good amount of time to choose programs. What needs they [Artsakh] had needed to be examined by a session of our council of trustees in order to decide the direction of the plans of the Himnadram for this year. It took two months, together with Artsakh, to shape and crystallize these plans. All these plans were presented at the March 15 meeting of the council of trustees, leading to the Himnadram to adopt a plan for approximately 60 million dollars of expenditures.” This amount was to be spent in Artsakh.

There are several categories of significant programs, which include construction or repair of homes, schools and roads. Important work is conducted in treating those with handicaps due to the war and helping them recover as much as possible. After the initial decisions were taken on programs, many steps had to be taken, including researching lands appropriate for constructing buildings, and architecturally planning the constructions. Then competitions were announced for bids on these projects.


When it became apparent that there would be many people with lost or damaged limbs after the war, the Himnadram immediately negotiated with two large companies producing prostheses, Ottobock in Germany, and Össur, an Icelandic company making bionic limbs. Simultaneously, Arshamyan said, Armenia’s Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs investigated how many people need prostheses for arms or legs. This led to the purchases of material for 100 prostheses for legs, prostheses for hands, and a new laboratory from Ottobock, which the Himnadram donated to the Soldier’s House Rehabilitation Center (Zinvori Tun), an organization in turn connected to a foundation called Rehabilitation Center of the Defender of the Homeland (Hayreniki Pashtpani Verakangnoghakan Kentron). Arshamyan said that while they expected the numbers to be greater, there were only around 130 people in all needing prostheses, of whom 22 needed hands and the rest feet.

The opening ceremony took place at the prosthetics laboratory at Zinvori Tun, where Armenian servicemen presented flowers to their mothers with their first independent steps on April 23, 2021 (courtesy

At the end of this August, the Soldier’s House had received prostheses for more than 50 people. A specialist from Holland had been invited and training of the people in Armenia who must prepare the prostheses took place. Three million dollars of work already has been done.

Bionic upper limb prostheses at the Zinvori Tun were donated through the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund (courtesy

In addition, three centers with equipment for rehabilitation, including the Arabkir Medical Center, the Wigmore Clinic in Yerevan, and the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center in Stepanakert, Artsakh, will provide free treatment to individuals needing it.

The Himnadram made an agreement with two large centers to provide psychological help for free to Armenian soldiers who participated in the recent war and their family members. By the end of August, over 400 people have used these two centers, for a total of over 3,000 visits.

It also gave $1,100,000 aid at the end of 2020 to the Insurance Foundation for Servicemen, also known as the 1000+ Himnadram, the stated goal of which according to its website is “insuring and providing compensations to soldiers and families of soldiers who have been injured or deceased when defending the borders of our two motherlands.”

Construction in Artsakh

Arshamyan said that by the end of the year, the Himnadram hopes to have 250-300 apartments ready to give to Artsakh refugees. It also bought furniture and other items for the same number of families. Arshamyan said, “The people moving there have nothing. They had fled their homes. So imagine — we have provided 300 refrigerators, washing machines, gas ovens, furniture, and so forth for each family.”

Construction of an apartment building near Tigran Mets Street in Stepanakert (courtesy

The Himnadram is building more than 900 apartments and over 100 homes in Artsakh, which in all will provide housing eventually for 1,000 families. It also plans to build another 100 homes in a later stage. The governments of Armenia and Artsakh are cooperating and the Armenian state provides aid. Arshamyan said that homes of wood could be built much more quickly but they would not have a long life and would need to be maintained regularly, so this was not a reliable long-term solution. Instead, the Himnadram decided to construct homes of stone as a permanent solution.

Construction of residential houses has begun in the vicinity of Ivanyan community of Askeran region (courtesy

In particular, the refugees from Shushi and Hadrut who lost their homes were all city dwellers, so the Himnadram’s goal is to make apartment buildings in Stepanakert and surroundings for them. The Artsakh government also allotted large plots of land in the Ivanyan community of Askeran Province, not that far from Stepanakert but not in a city environment, for approximately 80 houses for families displaced from various villages. These families will also get land for cultivation. An additional 50 houses will be built later in Hovsepavan, next to Ivanyan.

The Artsakh government has its own plans for restoring abandoned homes in more distant villages, costing perhaps ten to fifteen thousand dollars each, which will be cheaper and quicker than building new ones. Perhaps around 300 such homes will be ready by this winter, Arshamyan estimated.

Arshamyan accepted that this will not suffice for thousands of refugees. In all, including efforts of the Artsakh government and others besides the Himnadram, he estimated that by this winter, there will be only be homes or apartments ready for approximately 1,000 families (perhaps thus for 4-5,000 people) in Artsakh.

Arshamyan noted that in addition to housing, the Himnadram is completely renovating two schools of Artsakh, one in Ivanyan and the other in Chldran village.

Portion of local road being built in Artsakh (courtesy

The Himnadram is also building approximately 50 km of roads in the Republic of Artsakh from this May till November of 2022, Arshamyan said, which is significant since the borders have changed and alternative internal routes are necessary.

Some of the Programs in Armenia

A number of important programs are being carried out at present in Armenia, in the border villages of Syunik, Tavush and in Gyumri. In Syunik, 12 programs were initiated in villages near the state border, including the renovation of 8 schools, and the provision of solar-powered water heaters for all residents in four places, Arshamyan said. At present,one million dollars from last year’s fundraising is being used towards these projects.

New water supply system being installed in the Paravakar of Tavush (courtesy

In Tavush province, the three villages of Berkaber, Paravakar and Baghanis will be provided with water. Barkaber will be able to irrigate 120 hectares of land, while the last two villages will be provided drinking water, which they previously lacked. These Tavush projects are using funds separate from last year’s war-connected fundraising.

In Gyumri, where people are still living in domiks or metal huts intended as temporary housing after the 1988 earthquake, homes will be provided for families by building two apartment buildings, and also initiating construction of two more buildings. Those from Gyumri who had lost limbs during the recent war or who are socioeconomically disadvantaged will be included. The two initial buildings will offer 36 apartments, 4 studios for artists, a kindergarten, and are being built with funding raised separately from the wartime campaign. The two planned buildings will include 60 apartments, of which 25 will be distributed to handicapped soldiers and officers with full accessibility features. They will be built with 2 million dollars from last year’s campaign.


The influx of huge sums of money, at least in the context of Armenia and Artsakh, might cause fears about corruption. Arshamyan noted that to prevent this, the Himnadram follows strict procedures. When money is given to a third party nonprofit for use, there is a grant agreement with a reporting mechanism. When the Himnadram carries out construction, it is done through tenders and competition, and there are strict rules and a reporting system. There is also supervision, he said, with visits on site during the course of the work. Arshamyan said, “It is true that large sums have been collected in a short period of time. We need to be very strict and transparent, and give reports to our donors.”

At the same time, he stated that it would not be possible to provide information about how money from an individual donor or organization was specifically used if it was not donated for a declared purpose. Arshamyan said, “It is a little like asking what happens to my taxes. What does the state do with that money?” For example, the roughly $100,000 donated through the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada was given, as requested during the war, for general fundraising and so it was not separately tracked but was placed under one code together with all money received during the war. The forthcoming 2020 annual report of the Himnadram, consequently, will explain what the total money raised during wartime was used for during that year.

Arshamyan spoke forcefully on the importance of Artsakh strategically and the goal of the Artsakh government to bring back all the refugees. He said, “We cannot leave these people and say, do whatever you want. We must stand with Artsakh and strengthen it through diplomacy and expenditures. Artsakh without people will have no value. Meanwhile, however long the refugees stay in Armenia, we will continue to help them.”

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