For Armenian-Americans, Thanksgiving means tuning in to watch the annual Armenia Fund Telethon. All proceeds go to improve the lives of those in need in Armenia and Artsakh.
The need is great, especially now, following the recent war.
Araksya Karapetyan has been co-hosting the telethon for several years now. This was the 23rd annual Armenia Fund Thanksgiving Day Telethon.
"It's like a human chain around the globe that comes together on Thanksgiving Day to bring assistance," said Maria Mehranian, President of Armenia Fund.
The charity, Armenia Fund, was created after a chain-reaction of disasters in Armenia in the 1990s.
As the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the economy of Soviet Armenia, there was the 1988 earthquake -- which left half a million homes -- and the chaos was compounded by the war with neighboring Azerbaijan.
"Armenia Fund was born in an attempt to provide humanitarian aid to the population of Armenia and Artsakh," said Mehranian.
During those cold, dark years in Armenia and Artsakh, a united Diaspora worked toward one common goal -- to ensure the livelihood and survival of the Armenian people. Since then, Armenia Fund has implemented $350 million in assistance.
"Building large scale infrastructure, building roads which connected Armenia to Artsakh, hospitals, schools, waterways to bring economic development, to create a quality of life for the population of Artsakh and Armenia," said Mehranian.
But this pandemic year, Armenians faced another existential threat, when Azerbaijan invaded Artsakh to reclaim what it said were its territories. Cluster bombs and rockets destroyed what Armenia Fund donors had built over the years.
"The hospital was just a gift. It was a maternity hospital and it was the state of the art. We had an architect that went from the U.S. to design it, and we had a number of donors that gave their funding to build it. It is destroyed and it needs to be repaired. And also a lot of homes and apartment buildings that were built are general are destroyed and they need to be rebuilt," said Mehranian.
Fundraising to rebuild what was built over decades and destroyed in 44 days will take time. Now, Armenia Fund is addressing the humanitarian crisis after a historic loss of life and land.
Armenia Fund is using donations to provide housing, food and other essentials to displaced Armenians, fulfilling its mission to help improve the lives of those in need. Those interested in helping Armenia Fund can click here for more information.