Nestled among gentle green slopes and bordered by a tributary of the Karkar River, Krasni is a quintessential Artsakh village: timeless in its breathtaking beauty; timeless in the hospitality of its hardy residents and their deep-rooted traditions.

Yet the word “timeless,” in reference to rural communities across Armenia and Artsakh, still remains perilously conditional. That’s because if economic opportunity is lacking, and if infrastructure investment is nonexistent or marginal, it’s only a matter of time before people leave their towns and villages in search of work — and ultimately in search of a better life for their children.

This is a reality which the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund has grasped from the very first moment of its launch in 1992. It’s a core reason that, as of 2017, it has invested over $350 million toward the prosperity of the Armenian homeland, encompassing every conceivable sector of development. And it’s a reality which the Fund’s benefactors have taken on energetically, as both challenge and duty. Hacop Baghdassarian, who passed away in September 2017, was among those devoted benefactors.

What made Baghdassarian such a remarkable philanthropist was not just his down-to-earth demeanor and extraordinary generosity, but his inexhaustible passion for helping empower his compatriots to fulfill their potential. Baghdassarian was an avid supporter of the Armenian Educational Foundation because he believed in the singular importance of education. And he was a staunch supporter of Armenia Fund because he understood, beginning with the first-ever Telethon, that the Fund’s work is all about enabling communities throughout the homeland to reach for greatness.

Today, the outlines of a wonderful structure are coming into view in Krasni. This is the future community center of the village, designed and built by Armenia Fund, and the last project to be sponsored by Baghdassarian before his passing. It’s part of a legacy that’s coming to life day by day, as construction crews forge the building into shape, to the immense joy, even incredulity, of the local residents. When Armenia Fund sought Baghdassarian’s support for building the community center, the fact that Krasni has a population of less than 300 actually made the initiative more appealing to him. He thought every village in Artsakh, irrespective of its size or location, is precious in its own right, equally worthy of our attention and care.

Like scores of other multifunctional community centers built by Armenia Fund throughout Armenia and Artsakh, the one now being constructed in Krasni is of vital importance to the civic, economic, and cultural development of the village. For starters, the community center will spell the end to a number of long-standing issues. Among these is the fact that Krasni’s municipality has had to make do with a woefully inadequate, dilapidated structure, and the fact that the medical clinic of the village currently operates out of a small, cramped space inside the community school.

Slated to open in summer 2018, the community center will house not only municipal and administrative offices and the medical clinic, but a multi-purpose hall, a library, and a computing center, as well as auxiliary rooms. This will be a state-of- the-art facility, complete with central heating, air-conditioning, and other amenities and comforts. As part of the project, the community center will also be fully furnished and provided with computer systems and online access. The goal is multifold: to streamline and improve public services, foster more robust civic engagement, and, ultimately, give residents one more compelling reason to continue to live and work in their birthplace.

“Nothing compares to the thrill of giving and seeing its results, and I wish everyone can experience it,” Baghdassarian has said in a recent interview. “To me, even a relatively small-scale project such as providing the classrooms of a school with new desks is invaluable, as it brings joy to the faces of students, strengthens their attachment to their school. If everybody supports Armenia Fund in its quest to improve lives in our homeland, imagine what an enormous difference would be made.”

In Krasni, the difference Baghdassarian has referred to will take the form of a vibrant, creative, and, yes, joyous civic life revolving around the brand-new community center of the village. Thanks to the project, municipal affairs will be conducted with unprecedented ease and efficiency; children and young people will be able to expand their horizons by using the facility’s library and computer room, especially through access to the Internet; the event hall will be used for theatrical productions and movie screenings, as well as various banquets and celebrations; and the medical clinic will provide residents with top-notch care, in a welcoming and comfortable space.

All this is part and parcel of the cherished vision that was pursued by Hacop Baghdassarian — a modest, tireless, and deeply inspiring guardian angel who, from thousands of miles away, dreamed of bettering the lives of his compatriots and gave generously for the realization of his goal.

Stay tuned.

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