Event To Benefit The Armenian American Wellness Center In Armenia

March 19, 2004
Embassy of the Republic of Armenia
2225 R Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20008
Tel: 202-319-1976, x. 348; Fax: 202-319-2982

Armenian Parliamentarian Hranush Hakobian Participates In An Event To
Benefit The Armenian American Wellness Center In Armenia

On the evening of February 28, approximately hundred and fifty people
gathered at the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to hear from Hranush
Hakobian Ph.D., member of the Armenian Parliament and chair of the Standing
Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Youth Issues of the National
Assembly of Armenia, in a tribute to the Mothers of Gyumri.

The event was sponsored by The Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, H. E.
Amb. Arman Kirakossian, and the Armenian American Cultural Association, Inc.
(AACA) in support of the life-saving work of the Armenian American Wellness
Center (AAWC) in Armenia in its mission to save, prolong and improve the
lives of women in Armenia through early detection and treatment of their
breast and cervical cancer.

Since Armenia’s independence in 1990, Hranush Hakobian has served four terms
as a member of the National Assembly of Armenia. Ms. Hakobian holds a Ph.D.
in Law, a Master’s Degree in Mathematics from the Yerevan State University,
and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the Academy of Political
Sciences in Moscow. She has also briefly studied International Law in the
United States. She has served Armenia in several capacities, including
Minister of Social Security (1996- 1998) and Chair of the Standing Committee
on Health, Social Services, and Ecology of the National Assembly
(1994-1996). She has authored 85 laws on issues concerning women, children,
health, privatization and human rights in the Armenian Parliament.

M.P. Hakobian is in the United States as the official guest of the Armenian
American Cultural Association, Inc., the US sponsoring organization of the
Armenian American Wellness Center, which is a humanitarian health project in
Armenia. As a volunteer, she serves as Co-President of the Wellness Center,
along with Rita Balian, and together they are responsible for the
operations, development and expansion plans of the Center.

Sonia Crow, the vice president of AACA, served as emcee for the evening.
“This event is being held as a tribute to the Mothers of Gyumri. Gyumri is a
city which is still struggling to overcome the devastating effects of the
1988 earthquake. AAWC’s Monthly Medical Missions have been extended to
encompass the women and mothers of Gyumri. Living in a high health care risk
zone, the women of Gyumri are subjugated to severe stresses and diseases,
among which are breast and cervical cancer. The children of Gyumri (ages 6
to 13) have joined forces with us at the AACA/AAWC by producing these
paintings displayed on the walls which are for sale today. The proceeds will
go towards continuing to provide life-saving medical services to their
mothers during AAWC’s monthly missions.” She also announced that an
anonymous donor would match all the funds raised on that day. Then she
invited the Ambassador to the podium.

In his opening remarks, Ambassador Arman Kirakossian introduced M.P. Hranush
Hakobyan saying, “From the very first days of Armenia’s independence,
Hranush Hakobian has committed herself to improving the Armenian State
through her capacity as a member of the National Assembly. Apart from her
active public service, Hranush Hakobian finds time to help Armenian women
through her work with the Armenian American Wellness Center.” Ambassador
Kirakossian closed his remarks by expressing the Embassy’s and his personal
appreciation of Hranush Hakobian and Rita Balian for their tireless work on
behalf of the women of Armenia and wished them further success in their
future endeavors in helping saving lives of mothers.

M.P. Hranush Hakobian then took the podium. “The most serious problem facing
Armenian women today is poverty and the polarization between the rich and
the poor,” said Ms. Hakobian, “yet one of the ways we can fight poverty is
by providing women with access to modern health care facilities, and this is
the reason why we founded the Armenian American Wellness Center.”

“The Armenian people are held up by four pillars: the first pillar is the
Armenian language; the second is the Armenian Church; the third is the
Armenian culture; and the fourth pillar is the Armenian family, of which the
mother plays the predominant role. Therefore it is of vital importance that
we, as Armenians, ensure the health and well-being of our mothers and
sisters in Armenia in order to guarantee a productive future for Armenia.”
Hakobian concluded her remarks by saying, “I believe that when Armenians are
healthy, Armenians are wealthy and happy, and this will lead to a strong and
secure Armenia.”

The event also included a musical program organized and coordinated by Leon
Khoja-Eynatyan, faculty member at the prestigious Levine School of Music in
Washington, DC. The program consisted of three musical pieces, the first of
which was from Armenian American composer Alan Hovhaness and was performed
by Nayiri Poochikian on violin, Virginia Lum on piano, and Leon
Khoja-Eynatyan on percussion (marimba). This was followed by a piece from
Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu and performed by Mrs. Poochikian and her
daughter Hoorig on violin with Ms. Lum on piano. The final piece of the
program was from Japanese composer Keiko Abe and was performed as a solo by
Mr. Khoja-Eynatyan, along with the performer’s own improvisation. The
musical program, especially the final piece, was received with great

AACA President and Co-founder Rita Balian then gave closing remarks,
commenting on AACA’s vision for the future of the AAWC. “I began this
project seven years ago with the goal of taking one mammography unit over to
Armenia to aid in the prevention of breast cancer. With the help of Hranush
and as a result of the hard work and dedication of everyone associated with
the AAWC/AACA, we have since seen our goal of one mammography unit evolve
into a state of the art Wellness Center for diagnostic and preventative
health care with two satellite clinics. As we look to the future and begin
our renovations of the building donated to us by the Armenian government, we
envision a modern health care center that focuses not only on the health of
our mothers and sisters in Armenia, but a health care center that will help
to improve and prolong the lives of the entire family. I would like to thank
everyone who has ever donated a “gift of hope” or volunteered his or her
time to our noble cause. I would also like to thank all of out committee
members who have helped to make this event benefiting the mothers of Gyumri
such a great success.”

The guests were then invited to participate in a raffle by giving a “gift of
hope,” a donation which will be used to provide free mammograms and pap
smears to women at the Wellness Center. The winners received boxes of
chocolate which were specially created with the AAWC logo through a business
and philanthropic partnership between the AAWC and the Grand Candy Company
of Armenia. One raffle winner also went home with a very special painting
from one of the children of Gyumri.

In attendance at the event were Armenian Ambassador to the U.S, H.E. Arman
Kirakossian and his wife, Susanna; former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia H.E.
Michael Lemmon and his wife Michele; Donna Dowsett-Coirolo, Armenian Country
Director from the World Bank; USAID Team Leader for the Caucuses, James
Watson and his wife Susan; Joseph Simone, the Founder of the International
Spirit of Life Foundation, along with his wife Osa; Gerald Hill, Director of
Global Outreach for Disease Management from Capital Technology Information
Services, Inc.; Barbara Brocker and Suzanne Grinnan from the American
International Health Alliance; from International Relief and Development,
President and CEO Arthur Keys and his wife, Jasna Basaric-Keys, Director of
Public Health for IRD; and many members of Washington’s Armenian American

The Armenian American Wellness Center, previously known as the Armenian
American Mammography University Center, was established in April 1997 by
Founding President and CVO (Chief Volunteer Officer), Rita Balian, with the
overwhelming contributions and assistance of hundreds of donors, volunteers,
U.S. medical teams, corporations, institutions, and the U.S. and Armenian
Governments and their respective embassies. The AAWC has screened over
53,000 women, and has helped to save, improve and prolong the lives of over
1,200 women through early detection and treatment of their breast and
cervical cancer. The Center was initially established in Armenia as a
response to the alarming increase of breast cancer cases and the critical
need for accurate and early detection of the disease. In January 2002, with
the addition of gynecology and pathology departments, the Mammography Center
was renamed the Armenian American Wellness Center to better reflect the
range of services it now provides.

A satellite clinic was opened in the suburbs of Yerevan in April 2000.
Among the recent achievements of the Wellness Center is the opening of a
second satellite clinic on July 6th, 2003, in the town of Gavar located in
the Gegharkunik Province of the Lake Sevan Region. In addition to
mammography and basic gynecological services, the Gavar Clinic will also
provide American style primary health care services for the entire family.
The AAWC, with its Yerevan Clinic and two Satellite Clinics, now has a total
staff of 36 people, most of who have received additional training in US
medical institutions and provide high quality clinical services to their
patients. Since the establishment of the AACA, its overhead expenses have
not exceeded 3% of its total grassroots fundraising.

For more information on the Armenian American Wellness Center, interested
persons should contact AACA, Tel: 703-416-2555 or e-mail: [email protected]