For Immediate Release ~ November 13, 2008
Contact: Sarkis Kotanjian ~ 818-243-6222
Los Angeles, CA - Armenia Fund U.S. Western Region is pleased to announce the completion of the Togh Village Secondary School's thorough reconstruction. The school is located in the Hadrut Region of Nagorno Karabakh. Over $115,000 of the total $480,000 needed for the reconstruction was donated by the students, parents and faculty of AGBU Manoogian Demirdjian School in Los Angeles, California.
Togh is a historically Armenian village situated in the picturesque Hadrut mountains. However during the Soviet Azeri rule it had become a "mixed" village due to the forced influx of Azeri families. Armenians were segregated and Armenian children had to enter the school from a separate entrance. During the Artsakh Liberation War, this village witnessed fierce military action and sustained serious damage. Today, the population of the village is growing and has reached 730 residents, exceeding the pre-war numbers. Several families have relocated to Togh from Armenia and Russia.
"The school was built in 1978 and has not been renovated for the last 30 years", said Sarkis Kotanjian, Public Relations Director of Armenia Fund. "I remember visiting the school in 2006 before Armenia Fund found a sponsor for the school. I was shocked to see the conditions. But what touched me the most was that despite those horrible conditions, children were neatly dressed, studying hard and getting good grades. It was like they didn't notice that the windows were broken, bathrooms didn't work and the classrooms were heated with an ancient wood stove. As I spoke to the children, they were full of optimism. They told me: "Don't worry β things will get better...", with a big smile on their faces. As I came back to Los Angeles, I visited the AGBU Manoogian Demirdjian School for a meeting with students and faculty discussing the 2006 Telethon. As I was speaking with the AGBU MDS class of 2006 students, Azatui Karaoglanyan, Aline Mnayan and Anna Vardanyan told me with the same big smile: "Don't worry, we'll raise the funds, we'll build the Togh school!", added Kotanjian.
A year later, Armenia Fund was demolishing everything in the school leaving only bearing walls, floors, and ceilings. Everything was stripped to bear concrete. The school underwent thorough seismic retrofitting: foundations were reinforced and the entire building was encased in a fine rib bar cage β inside and out. Sewage and water piping, electrical wiring was replaced. Carcinogenic asbestos roofing was removed and replaced with metal. Windows and doors were all replaced. All restrooms have been built anew and fitted with new plumbing fixtures. A new stand-alone boiler house with a new internal heating system was installed. Armenia Fund also provided new school furniture for every classroom.
"It is safe to say that Armenia Fund practically built a new school in Togh. We only used the existing concrete skeleton of the building, reinforced it and build everything else from scratch. I want to thank the AGBU MDS school class of 2006, students and parents who made all of this possible. Raising $115,000 dollar-by-dollar by going door to door in 2 months is a mission impossible by itself. This is historic, as no other Armenian school has done anything like this before. I remember the enthusiasm of the students β they organized a walkathon, a fashion show, bake sales, and numerous other events benefiting the Togh school project. I want to thank the AGBU MDS's principal Mr. Hagop Hagopian for his support and faculty member, Mrs. Anahid Nalbandian-Pezeshkian, who helped the students reach their goal", said Ara Aghishian, Vice Chairman of Armenia Fund U.S. Western Region and an AGBU MDS parent himself.
"I believe it is very symbolic that the Armenian school students in the Diaspora donated a new school for Armenian students in Artsakh. I believe that this is the most important course of study that the Class of 2006 took at AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School, just as important as the Armenian language and history. I remember that during Telethon 2006 at the studio, Aline Mnayan, an AGBU MDS student told me that her dream was to one day become the principal of Togh School. Now these Diasporan kids have a tangible connection to their Homeland β a bridge that will help them stay Armenian no matter where they end up in this life", said Maria Mehranian, Chairperson of Armenia Fund U.S. Western Region.
A video story about the reconstruction of Togh School will be featured during Armenia Fund's 11th International Telethon. The 12 hour live broadcast originating from Los Angeles will be aired live in the United States and across the globe on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 8:00am-8:00pm PST. The general sponsor of this year's Telethon is Armenia's largest cellular communications provider, VivaCell MTS Corporation.
Armenia Fund, Inc., is a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation established in 1994 to facilitate large-scale humanitarian and infrastructure development assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Since 1991, Armenia Fund has rendered more than $190 million in development aid to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Armenia Fund, Inc. is the U.S. Western Region affiliate of "Hayastan" All-Armenian Fund. Tax ID# 95-448569