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AGBU’S CONTINUOUS EFFORTS TO SUPPORT SYRIAN-ARMENIANS

 

Syria is at war. Human loss and material damage continues among the Armenians in Aleppo, Damascus, Kamishli and other cities throughout Syria. Thousands of Syrian-Armenians have left their homes for a safer haven in the USA, Lebanon, Armenia and elsewhere. In August 2012, AGBU Central Board of Directors established an emergency fund of $1 million US dollars for humanitarian assistance to the Armenian community of Syria. In September, AGBU issued an urgent appeal to Armenians in the Diaspora to raise funds for this cause. Many responded to this appeal and $800,000 US dollars have been raised so far, of which $250,000 US dollars was raised by AGBU delegates and guests during the AGBU 87th General Assembly in Armenia in October 2012. AGBU provides financial support in three directions: Syria, Lebanon, Armenia. The main portion of this assistance goes directly to Syria. AGBU Centers in Syria and the Syrian-Armenian Emergency Body coordinate their steps to help the Armenian community. The AGBU emergency committees of Aleppo, Damascus, Kamishli, Latakia and Kessab have spared no efforts to help the Armenians of Syria survive the hardships. As of January 2013, 2,705 families in Aleppo have received emergency aid packages, which include rice, lentils, wheat, milk, sugar, cooking oil, pasta, tea, lard, tomato paste, washing powder and soap. Distribution of these emergency aid packages have been organized in three phases. AGBU volunteers deliver the boxes to all those who are unable to visit the centers. Emergency packages, which included food and medicine, have been distributed to 250 families in Damascus and 550 families in Kamishli. People in the neighboring regions of Hassakeh, Al-Malikiyah and Ras Al Ain have also received help from the Union. AGBU has covered hospital, medical assistance and funeral expenses. Villages at the Syrian-Turkish border have received support from AGBU. Residents of the village of Yaqubi, an Armenian village on the Syrian-Turkish border, have fled to Latakia, where AGBU helped them rent apartments. The AGBU Chapter of Kamishli received those displaced from border villages. Even during the war, Syrian-Armenian children continue their classes at schools. Thanks to AGBU, not a single child has been denied schooling for lack of tuition. The Union’s relief efforts go beyond the borders of Syria. Neighboring Lebanon was among the first to receive Syrian-Armenians forced to leave their homes. Here housing and job needs of the Syrian-Armenian refugees are comparatively easier to solve, since many of them have moved in with relatives and friends. This is one reason why AGBU has been able to cover tuition costs of 100 Syrian-Armenian students, who now continue their studies in Lebanon. AGBU founded a special committee, which has worked tirelessly for months, to coordinate AGBU support to Syrian-Armenians who have been forced to move to Armenia. About 600 families in Armenia received a monthly stipend of 40,000-60,000 AMD for apartment rent. Supermarket coupons of 10,000 AMD/per person or 20,000 AMD/per family were distributed to 180 Syrian-Armenians. Currently, the Union is focused on providing medicine and warm clothes to those in need. In Armenia alone, AGBU has spent over 58 million AMD (about $145,000 USD) to help Syrian-Armenians overcome the hardships. A new program of clothes distribution will start soon. New programs and initiatives to support the Syrian-Armenian community are being developed. AGBU also continues its assistance to the Syrian-Armenian Relief Coordination Center NGO, established by RA Diaspora Ministry, by providing it with space and paying employee salaries.

 
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