Armenia Tree Project Celebrates 10th Anniversary

June 17, 2004


For Immediate Distribution

Armenia Tree Project
65 Main Street
Watertown, MA 02472
Phone: 617-926-8733
Email: [email protected]

Armenia Tree Project Celebrates 10th Anniversary
Special Anniversary Event Held on June 5 in Boston

BOSTON – The Armenia Tree Project (ATP), one of the few Armenian
Diaspora-based environmental protection organizations working in
Armenia, held a special celebration event on June 5 commemorating 10
years of greening Armenia. The event was held in the Grand Ballroom
of the Seaport Hotel.

The evening’s program included award presentations, congratulatory
messages, and honorary speeches as well as dinner and dancing, with
musical performances by Artie Barsamian’s Big Band, the Seventh Veil,
and the Richard Hagopian Ensemble.

Ms. Stella Aftandilian, the 10th anniversary committee co-chair,
opened the program by welcoming and thanking the nearly 600 attendees
and guests. Several dignitaries were present at the event, including
Armenian Ambassador to the US Dr. Arman Kirakossian, US Congressman
Edward Markey, and State Representative Peter Koutoujian.

ATP Executive Director Mr. Jeff Masarjian was the program’s first
speaker, who briefly discussed the progress the organization has made
since 1994.

“The ATP has planted and restored over half a million trees in
Armenia, while providing jobs for hundreds of people, Mr. Masarjian
explained. “Our plans for the next decade include expanding our
community reforestation programs in partnership with villagers and
other organizations, which will also provide social and economic
development opportunities. Our new tree nursery in Vanadzor will
produce over one million saplings each year to begin reforesting the
devastated landscape of Armenia.”

Mr. Masarjian then introduced a film depicting the ATP’s new
reforestation and poverty reduction programming in remote Armenian
villages. The 18-minute long film was produced and directed by Kennedy
Wheatley of Los Angeles.

Following the film, 10th anniversary committee co-chair Mrs. Annie
Balikian announced that over $1 million had been raised thus far
in honor of the ATP’s 10th anniversary. These collected funds will
provide a firm foundation for expanding the ATP’s community forestry
and economic development programs and launching its large-scale
reforestation program in the northern city of Vanadzor.

Several ATP staff members based in Yerevan were also in attendance,
including Country Director Susan Yacubian Klein, Deputy Director Jason
Kauffeld, and Program Managers Anahit Garibyan-who is the ATP’s first
Yerevan staff member-Samvel Ghandilyan, and Tigran Palazyan.

Ms. Garibyan discussed the history of the ATP’s activities in Armenia,
and how the two-person staff was at first equipped only with a donated
laptop computer, working in a corner of the Armenian Assembly of
America’s Yerevan office. She commented on how far the organization
has grown, citing its multiple accomplishments and the increase of
the Yerevan office staff to over 45 employees.

Ms. Carolyn Mugar, the ATP’s founder, presented a brief history
timeline of the organization and how it came into existence, beginning
with her 1993 visit to Armenia. She honored Dr. Nora Gabrielyan, who
holds a PhD in botany and is the author of over 16 books studying
Armenia’s diverse plant life. Dr. Gabrielyan spoke about Armenia’s
unique and varied ecosystems and identified examples of rare and
endangered flowering plants that rely on rapidly disappearing forest

“The forests, which recently covered only 10% of the territory of
our country, now cover even less,” Dr. Gabrielyan explained. “If
trees are chopped down without any plan or thoughtful system, the
consequences will affect everything-underbrush with rare plants
immediately disappears, the rain washes away soil, springs dry up,
the biodiversity becomes impoverished, and the climate changes.”

Dr. Gabrielyan is the first recipient of the John T. O’Connor
Environmental Activist Award, which was presented to her by
Ms. Mugar. Additionally, Dr. Gabrielyan has been awarded a $25,000
grant by a private donor for publishing her latest book, printed
in English and Armenian, titled the “Illustrated Guidebook-Index of
Armenian Flora.”

Ms. Mugar continued by honoring Ms. Regina Eddy, ATP’s former Executive
Director, for her tireless efforts in guiding the organization during
its early years. She revealed that Ms. Eddy rose to the challenge of
spearheading the organization’s initial project planning by performing
extensive research on Armenia’s biodiversity as well as the grave
environmental risks facing the country in modern times. Ms. Eddy was
honored with a special plaque commemorating her achievements, which
was accepted by her close friend Ms. Ellen Kurz, due to Ms. Eddy’s
inability to attend the program.

Another advocate recognized for the preservation of Armenia’s
environment was Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian, who passed away earlier this
year. He was a founding member of the Land and Cultural Organization
and was the chief planner for the renovation of St. Gevorg of Moughni
Monastery in Armenia, having also planted several hundred trees
in its surrounding environs. He also served as an advisor to ATP’s
programs in Armenia and inspired the planting of over 19,000 trees
at 51 church sites during ATP’s 1700th Anniversary of Christianity
in Armenia tree planting campaign in 2001.

Mr. Robert Aram Kaloosdian, ATP advisor and supporter, gave closing
remarks and made reflections on the importance of the organization’s
undertakings. Ms. Mugar and her late parents, Stephen and Marion
Mugar, were also honored for their long-standing commitment to Armenia,
as plans were revealed to develop a special site for reflection and
contemplation at the Tsitsernakerberd Armenian Genocide Memorial
in Yerevan.

The organization is now gearing up to expand its programs in Armenia,
which will include large-scale reforestation, social and economic
development in rural villages, public education, and the promotion
of sustainable forest management policies.

The ATP is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1994
during Armenia’s darkest and coldest years with the vision of
safeguarding Armenia’s future by protecting its environment. Funded
by contributions from Diasporan Armenians, the ATP has planted and
rejuvenated 531,000 trees at more than 400 sites ranging from Gyumri
to Goris.