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(SAN DIEGO) – The Knights of Vartan, Gomidas Tahlij #43 of San Diego has donated a commissioned painting of St. Vartan and Ghevont Yeretz for the side altar of St. Sarkis Armenian Church, San Diego.

The painting by Armenian artist Tigran Hovumyan was dedicated and blessed by His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese, and parish priest Very Rev. Father Pakrad Dz. V Berjekian, on Sunday, February 5, 2023, as part of St. Sarkis’ First Anniversary Celebration.

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Armenian Schools Support Project – World Bank ASIF /ATDF 90/10 Program

In 1993, the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, Inc. initiated to financially assist the public schools in the Republic of Armenia. It was known as the “Adopt A School Project”. (AASP) During those early years of independence, the Republic of Armenia did not have the resources to adequately fund the needs of its public school system. With inadequate teacher salaries, deteriorated conditions of school facilities and lack of school supplies, helping schools in Armenia was a very worthwhile endeavor for the Knights and Daughters of Vartan.

Past Commander Jack Medzorian of Ararat Lodge #1, Boston, Massachusetts, was appointed as the first chairman of the AASP. A minimum of $500 per year for a three (3) year commitment was required for sponsorship of a school. In the next five (5) years, over $150,000 was raised from the Knights and Daughters of Vartan and friends of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan and over 100 schools throughout Armenia were assisted.

In the fall of 1997, Past Commander Jack Medzorian resigned as chairman to devote more time to the new programs assisting Armenia initiated by the Sister Cities Program of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Past Commander Levon Karakashian of Yeprad Lodge #9, Fresno, California, was appointed as the succeeding chairman of the AASP.

All administrative costs for the AASP Program were borne by its committee members so that 100% of monies contributed to the program went to the school of the sponsor’s choice. This program proved successful for the ensuing five years. In 1998, due to inflation and the devaluing of the currency of Armenia, $500 had less purchasing power than it did in 1993 when the program began. It was determined that the committee members who were traveling to Armenia to disperse the funds were spending more of their money for travel, lodging and transportation then they were distributing.

Realizing the growing dilemma, members of the AASP Committee began investigating the possibility of other ways to continue assisting the schools in Armenia that would have a greater impact. In the fall of 1998, Grand Commander Simon Javizian, Past Grand Commander Charles Tateosian and AASP Chairman Past Commander Levon Karakashian traveled to Armenia and contacted Mr. Ashot Kirakosyan, Executive Director of the Armenian Social Investment Fund (ASIF) and inquired about a forth-coming program involving the World Bank. The ASIF is an entity funded by the World Bank, operating in conjunction with the government of the Republic of Armenia to conduct the oversight work necessary in the construction and supervision of a variety of projects.One year later, the World Bank announced a program for Armenia. The World Bank designated $30 million dollars for use in school rehabilitation and water projects throughout the communities of Armenia. The World Bank program matches each dollar raised by the community with nine (9) additional dollars toward a specific project, through the ASIF. This constitutes a nominal 10% contribution from each community or school. Thus, our involvement with the World Bank ASIF 90/10 Program began.

In April of 2000, the AASP Committee pledged to the ASIF that the Knights and Daughters of Vartan would raise $500,000 over the next five years to rebuild and renovate as many schools in Armenia as possible. The funds would be utilized to meet the 10% Community Contribution requirement for the ASIF Program. It was understood at that time that our involvement would be only for the rehabilitation of the schools and not water projects. And in conjunction with the Adopt A School Project, the Knights and Daughters of Vartan Armenian Schools Support Project (ASSP) World Bank ASIF 90/10 Program was established with Past Commander Levon Karakashian as its first chairman, a position he still retains. In 2001, the ASIF recommended to the Government of Armenia that Past Commander Levon Karakashian, representing the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, Inc. should occupy the only non-resident seat on the Board of Directors of the Armenian Social Investment Fund. It was proposed to the Parliament and ratified by the President of the Republic of Armenia, Mr. Robert Kocharian.

Fund raising toward the $500,000 began by the Lodges and their corresponding Daughters of Vartan Chapters. Foundations, corporations and individuals other then members of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood have also participated in the program.

In six years (6) years, the Knights and Daughters of Vartan have transferred over one million dollars ($1,000,000) in the support of the new construction or the renovation of 135 school projects throughout Armenia. This is double what our original commitment was to the ASIF in the year 2000. We have presently committed to an additional 11 school projects with projected construction costs of $175,000.

Some of the kindergartens and schools renovated by the Knights and Daughters of Vartan

It must be noted here for clarity in how the funds designated for the 90/10 Program are managed. ALL monies are forwarded to the Knights of Vartan Grand Council, where they in turn deposit the funds in a separate account for the ASSP. When we commit to a school project in the ASIF 90/10 Program, we wait until all of the preliminary plan checks have been made, plans finalized, contracts issued and construction is to begin before the Knights of Vartan Grand Treasurer transfers the required funds into an account that has been established in Yerevan, Armenia by the ASIF. At no time are there any administrative costs applied to the ASSP money received other than the nominal transfer fee required by the banks transferring the money from the United States to the ASIF account in Yerevan, Armenia. All costs incurred in the administration of the ASSP, as well as travel to and from Armenia, lodging, travel within Armenia, meals and other expenses by the ASSP Committee, is absorbed by each ASSP Committee Member.

Members of the ASSP Committee are continually traveling to Armenia to review the progress of the 90/10 Program and attend the dedications of completed school projects that we have supported. (The World Bank is considered the Sponsor of a project with their 90% contribution, and we, the Knights and Daughters of Vartan, are considered the Supporter of the project with our 10% contribution)

In September of 2005, the World Bank announced that Phase I and Phase II of their initial plan has been completed and due to the success of the program in Armenia, the World Bank was committing to continue the 90/10 Program from 2006 through 2001 for Phase III. The funding for Phase III will be transferred to the ASIF in Armenia in the third quarter of 2006.

Update, May 2019 from Avak Tivan Report:
The Avak Tivans in office have transferred a total of $2,701,758.00 in support of 252 World Bank ASIF and ATDF Projects. This was leveraged to $33,422,687.00 of construction performed on those 252 projects. There were 100,391 students enrolled either during renovation or the building of a new school. Today, the students are in a more comfortable learning environment in the schools that the Knights and Daughters have supported.

The Knights and Daughters of Vartan remain committed to our participation in the World Bank 90/10 and 95/05 Programs in the building of new or the renovation of schools in Armenia.