January 15, 2015
$3 Million Raised for 20th Anniversary to Advance Tree Planting and Education Programs
Click here for a photo gallery from the New England event.
BOSTON, MA--Supporters of the Armenia Tree Project turned out in full force this past fall to celebrate the organization's 20th anniversary in Boston. A crowd of 500 enthusiastic guests young and old from a broad spectrum of the community showed up to mark the milestone.
An event at the Grand Atrium of the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse overlooking the Boston Harbor was the third in a series of gatherings. The first was a festive spring outdoor gathering on the grounds of the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in Southern California, while a lively reception was held at the Kharpert Restaurant of the Tufenkian Hotel in Yerevan in October.
Through the efforts of the development team and volunteer ambassadors who organized the various gatherings, the organization has reached its goal to raise $3 million in gifts and pledges for the 20th anniversary year. These results came as ATP completed its annual tree planting programs. A total of 267,451 trees were planted throughout Armenia in 2014, bringing the grand total to 4,723,320 planted since the organization was founded in 1994.
An organizing committee of 30 volunteers in Boston was led by co-chairs Nicole Babikian Hajjar and Nina Festekjian. The New England event featured an art exhibit, sale, and auction of a collection of paintings by Arthur Hovhannisyan titled 'Land in Harmony'. In addition to the artwork, the event at Moakley featured music by Black Sea Salsa and noted folk performer Lilit Pipoyan.
In an especially powerful part of the evening, Armenia's representative to the United Nations in New York, Ambassador Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, presented an award to ATP and its founder Carolyn Mugar, for 20 years of service. This was a significant gesture of official recognition and thanks from Armenia's government, in the form of a Presidential Decree awarding a Medal for Services Contributed to the Motherland. In response, Carolyn shared the praise with everyone in the room including donors and partners, organizational leadership past and present, and committed staff, several of whom travelled to the event from Armenia.
In her remarks, Carolyn outlined some of the philosophy and worldview of the organization: "We've been reminding ourselves how far we've come. Now let's also imagine where we are going and to challenge ourselves to get there...But just as important as the trees we plant are the children we are growing--soon to be adults--who will be committed to how important trees are to the survival of a healthy and prosperous Armenia. We are growing future active citizens," she declared.
Another highlight of the evening was remarks from the young actor David Alpay, whose Hollywood debut started with his role in Atom Egoyan's film 'Ararat'. He is an emerging star with prominent roles on a number of programs including 'The Vampire Diaries,' 'The Tudors,' and most recently 'The Lottery'. Alpay recounted his relationship with ATP, which began several years ago when he was inspired by a visit to several of the project sites.
He reflected on various aspects of ATP's mission and purpose: "Trees stop soil erosion...the soil in Armenia, soil to which Armenians around the world feel a visceral connection. ATP helps prevent the erosion of this soil. Is it also, in a way, helping to fight the erosion of a nation?"
"ATP plants trees, and by doing so it promotes education, economic independence, and food security. By planting fruit trees, it literally puts food on the table. But their mandate runs deeper," emphasized Alpay. "It's nation building in its most sacred form. When you plant a tree with ATP you spread roots in the ground. You nourish a dream of so many of our parents, grandparents, of a free and independent Armenia and Artsakh, and you protect it from eroding, and becoming dust. Because too many before us fought too hard, and sacrificed too much for us to squander it on our watch."
Since its inception in 1994, ATP has planted more than 4.7 million trees, established three nurseries and two environmental education centers, and has greened villages, churches, parks, and open spaces throughout Armenia. In the process, the organization has provided employment for hundreds of people and provided vital resources to thousands of villagers throughout the country.