History

The First Decade (1910-1920)

Prior to the founding of the Armenian Relief Society, women in Armenia functioned under the name of the “Armenian Red Cross”. These women performed tasks in the Caucasus, Aderbadagan, Vasbouragan, Trebizond, Erzerum, Kharpert and other regions of Armenia. They cared for the wounded and provided food, shelter, clothing, and medicine to Armenian victims of pillage and plunder; in various locations, the ARC also attended to the educational needs of the Armenian people.

In September 1910, Edward Agnouni (Khachadoor Maloomian) arrived in the United States for a tour of the Armenian communities around the country. Through his teachings, writings, and group discussions, he encouraged Armenian women to take a more active role in the service of the Armenian people. Thus, in a period of a few months, Agnouni organized the existing women’s groups and through their union founded the ARF Red Cross.

The first few years were devoted to planning and internal organization. The number of chapters grew rapidly, and by the first convention, held in May, 1915 in Boston, Massachusetts, there were 33 registered chapters across the United States and Canada. This first convention, held during the First World War, discussed the immediate and most pressing issues of the time and ratified the following: fundraising to assist suffering Armenians world-wide; a clothing drive for Armenian refugees in the Caucasus; training of nurses to be sent to the warfront to take care of the wounded; Armenian language courses for its membership; a membership drive; founding Armenian schools wherever chapters existed. A five-member Central Executive board, elected at the first convention took charge of coordinating the activities of various chapters in the implementation of the decisions taken by the convention.

The second convention convened in Boston on June 2, 1919. The first item was to welcome the creation of the Armenian Republic (May 28, 1918) and to formally recognize the Armenian Red Cross of the Republic. The Convention also decided to change the society’s name to the “Armenian Red Cross” (in Armenian) and “Daughters of Armenia” (in English). The 2nd convention also resolved to conduct a campaign to raise funds to establish a hospital in the Republic of Armenia and to strive to bring together all existing charitable and philanthropic organizations under the same name, for the common cause of serving the Armenian nation.

The Second Decade (1921-1930)

The activities of the second decade of the Armenian Red Cross are best defined by the reorganization and establishment of chapters across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and other parts of the world. The primary concentration of the ARC’s efforts was on provision of emergency relief to refugees, establishment of dispensaries, and food and clothing distribution centers.

Despite the difficult conditions in many Diaspora communities, the ARC did not limit its activities merely to the physical sustenance of Armenian refugees; it simultaneously implemented a large-scale education, cultural and social program world-wide. In the years following the fall of the Republic this was of high importance as the preservation of the Armenian identity was necessary.

The ranks of the society were transformed into schools, where members were educated in principles of Armenian existence. Girl-Scout troops and young adolescent groups were founded alongside Armenian Red Cross chapters.

The Third Decade (1931-1940)

By the beginning of the 3rd decade the society’s existence had grown to 10 regions which were affiliated with the U.S. headquarters: France, Greece, Thrace-Macedonia, Iraq, Iran, Bulgaria, Romania, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt.

The ARS had become a veritable stronghold for the preservation of the Armenian cultural identity. This marked the start of a new era for the organization, with a stronger volunteer force to establish schools, and colleges, trade/training centers, and youth camps.

The international network of the ARC branched out with the increasing number of chapters and volunteers. In 1939 the organization launched its official publication the ARC Quarterly, which later became Hai Sird, and officially changed its name to the Armenian Relief Society.

The relatively stable and self-sufficient state of Armenian communities, achieved during the third decade of the ARS, was again shaken, this time by the outbreak of the Second World War.  Once again, war, conscription crisis, and hardships created unforeseen circumstances and needs. Establishments were damaged by bombardment: there was lack of food and medicine which gave rise to diseases in many Armenian communities. Once again, the Armenian Relief Society took on the responsibility of providing emergency relief to the affected areas. The ARS mobilized its chapters and members worldwide to dispense medicine, clothing and food everywhere, to rescue refugees and prisoners of war.

During the years stretching from 1930 to 1950, changing situations and new experiences further strengthened the internal structure of the ARS. Lebanon became a separate region and new entities joined the ARS family: Jerusalem; Haifa; Amman; and South America. Programs in Armenian education took on a wider importance; health and relief activities were systemized.

Rejuvenation and Development

The year 1950 marked a new era for the pan-Armenian ARS family. Spread over all Diasporan communities and having acquired new experiences, strength, and talent, the ARS moved forward with increased momentum and renewed plans. In subsequent decades, existing ARS Social Service Centers were modernized and staffed with professionals; others were established in needed areas. The ARS explored new means to establish schools and initiate youth programs; efforts were also directed to improve existing educational programs. The ARS initiated a scholarship program, with emphasis on providing awards to students attending institutions of higher learning in Armenian education. Theater groups, choral societies and dance ensembles were formed in many communities. The Detroit ARS School was founded with funds generated by the ARS 60th Anniversary fundraising campaign. And among the important accomplishments of the ARS was the creation of its Summer Studies Program.

For the ARS, the 1970s were characterized by the Central Executive’s concentrated efforts to promote Armenian education on the North American continent and to provide financial assistance to the newly created Armenian day schools in the United States and Canada. During the same decade, the ARS devoted much time and talent to the amendment of its bylaws, with the purpose of strengthening the internal functioning of the ARS Regions by making them autonomous entities within a pan-Armenian structure.

Thus, the 59th ARS Convention held in 1979, ratified the revised ARS Bylaws and created the Armenian Relief Society of North America. This improved structure provided the opportunity for the ARS Central Executive, the international governing body, to pursue the wider Diaspora issues of the Armenian people by strengthening the pan-Armenian activities and programs of the ARS, leaving the coordination of the activities of the Chapters in the US and Canada to the North American Regional Executive.

A few years later, following the general guidelines of the ARS Bylaws, The ARS of Western USA was formed to represent the Western US chapters of the Society effective July 1984. Similarly, in 1990 the Canadian chapters, having already met the organizational prerequisites, also became a separate ARS Region.

During the long civil war in Lebanon, the Armenian Relief Cross of Lebanon, in cooperation with the ARS Central Executive, took it upon itself to tend to the physical and emotional wounds of the Armenian community in that country.

In the 1980s, having revitalized itself with a new and dynamic organizational structure, the ARS set out with brisk and lively strides to tackle the new challenges of a new era. The Fund for Armenian Resources was created, to be used in emergencies. The worldwide network of the organization was expanded and strengthened. The ranks of the ARS were rejuvenated and developed, raising the standards and image of the organization.

New Challenges and New Horizons

In the late 1980s, soon after the Artsakh (Karabagh) movement began, whole Armenian communities were uprooted from the Azerbaijani cities of Baku, Sumgait and Kirovabad. The ARS was the first among humanitarian organizations to provide funds to shelter the thousands of refugees. Moreover, within hours of the December 7, 1988 disaster in Armenia, ARS earthquake relief efforts were already underway. The ARS set its worldwide organizational network into motion and placed 80-years of experience at the service of the suffering people of Armenia, to help lessen the impact of the disaster, to ensure their survival, and to help them reconstruct a better future.

During the years that led to the independence of Armenia, the ARS worked diligently to reorganize its entity within Armenia, the Armenian Relief Cross, which announced its presence in August 1991, and held its first Regional Convention.

Just a few weeks prior to the announcement of the establishment of the Armenian Relief Cross, the ARS Central Executive announced the reorganization of three chapters-at-large in Bulgaria. In October 1992, for the first time ever, the ARS held its International Convention (the 64th) in Armenia.

Since then, Chapters have been organized in Russia, Sweden, Artsakh, Germany, Javakhk, United Arab Emirates, and Switzerland.

On March 2, 1995, the ARS officially inaugurated its office in Washington, DC, which had been in operation since May 1994. It was created jointly by the ARS Central Executive, the ARS of North America, and the ARS of Western USA.

Today, the Armenian Relief Society stands as an international, independent, non-governmental and non-sectarian charitable organization. The international stature of the ARS is further confirmed through its standing as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) of the United Nations.

At present, there are ARS Chapters in 26 countries around the world, functioning according to local governmental regulations applicable to charitable organizations.

Important Dates

Sept. 1910

New York, N.Y. Agnouni organizes existing women’s groups in the United States and forms the ARF Red Cross.

May 1915

The first convention is held. Emergency assistance program is implemented over the next four years to assist the wounded in Caucasus. (Genocide Survivors)

The ARS “Mayr” Chapter, the first chapter, of the ARS Western USA is founded.

1918

The Armenian Red Cross of Syria is founded in Aleppo (later known as the Armenian Relief Cross).

June 1919

The 2nd Convention ratifies the unification with the Armenian Red Cross, formed upon the declaration of the Republic of Armenia, and changes its name to “Daughters of Armenia”.

The national shelter is opened in Aleppo, Syria.

The first chapter of France is formed in Marseille. Chapters are formed in Bulgaria and Romania (later known as Mercy Cross). They cease to exist in 1939 due to the political situation in those countries.

1921

The Armenian Women’s Association of Tavriz, Iran, joins the Armenian Red Cross. ARC provided emergency assistance to the 10,000 Armenians who found refuge in Tavriz following the February revolt against Communist rule in Armenia.

March 30, 1921

The Armenian Red Cross participates in the 10th Congress of the International Red Cross, held in Geneva.

1922

The ARC participates in the activities of the Central Committee for the Salvation of Armenia, then continues to provide emergency assistance to Armenia on its own.

1924

The Armenian Blue Cross of Greece is founded in Athens. In a response to an appeal by the government of Soviet Armenia, the ARC provides financial assistance for the transportation of hundreds of repatriating Armenians.

1926

With the “One orphan, one gold piece” motto, the ARS begins the search for Armenian orphans.

All ARC entities organize and provide emergency relief to the survivors of the earthquake in Shirak, Armenia. This assistance program continues for two years.

1928

Girl scout troops and youth groups of the ARC are formed.

1929

ARC chapters in northern Greece are recognized as the Armenian Mercy Cross (of Salonica).

March 27, 1929

At its second convention the headquarters of the West European Region are officially moved to Paris, France; and the name of the entity is officially changed to the Armenian Blue Cross of France.

1930

The Armenian Relief Cross of Lebanon, formerly part of the Syrian entity, is formally established.

From various parts of the Armenian Diaspora, the ARC provides emergency relief to the victims of the earthquake in Salmast, Iran.

The Armenian Red Cross of Iraq is founded. (It ceased to exist later due to political reasons.)

The Armenian Women’s Organization, founded in Egypt in 1920, and is reorganized as part of the Armenian Red Cross.

The “Drop of Milk” and Beach Camping programs are established in Alexandria for needy children.

1932

The Armenian Red Cross of Jerusalem is founded (later to be called the Armenian Relief Society of Jerusalem).

1933

The Armenian Red Cross is founded in Argentina (later to be called the Armenian Relief Society of South America).

1935

The Summer Youth Camp program is established in France.

1937

The Armenian Relief Society of Haifa, Palestine, is founded.

1939

The Society starts publishing its official periodical (currently Hai Sird)

1942

The “Bnag Me Geragour” (A Plate of Food) program is launched.

1946

The ARC is renamed Armenian Relief Society (ARS). In response to a request from Ejmiatzin (the Holy See in Armenia), the ARS provides financial assistance for the purchase of beds for the Gevorkian College.

The summer youth camp program is established in Greece.

The ARS actively participates in the efforts by ANCHA to relocate in the United States thousands of wartime displaced persons.

1947

The Armenian Women’s Society for the Care of the Poor is founded in Amman, Trans-Jordan; two years later it becomes an entity of the Armenian Relief Society.

The ARS launches its Social Services program.

1948

ARS launches a fundraising campaign across the United States for the Hamazkyain Jemaran (College) in Lebanon and raises $127,000.

1950

In the United States, the ARS raises $278,000 to aid the victims and refugees of WWII.

1953

The ARS provides emergency relief to the victims of war in Jerusalem.

1954

The ARS launches a second fundraising campaign in the United States for the Hamazkayin Jemaran and raises $140,000.

The Armenian Blue Cross of France acquires its own campground in Bellefontaine.

1962

June 12, marks the opening of ARC – Greece’s Levon and Sofia Hagopian School.

1965

The First chapter of the ARS of Australia is founded in Sydney.

1968

The ARS Sophia and Levon Hagopian $1,000,000 Trust Fund is established with the proceeds from the estate of the benefactor and long-time member, Sophia Hagopian.

August 25, 1968

The ARC of Syria opens a campground in Kessab.

1970

The ARS begins to work with the United Nations.

1975

The ARS “Onnig Bodourian – Ohanness Diarbekirian” Retirement Home is established in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

1976

The Amman, Jordan ARS establishes an Old Age Home; it closes its doors after eight years when no elderly in need of care remains.

The ARC of Lebanon establishes the Workshop for Armenian Embroideries and, four years later, opens its center for Armenian Handicrafts.

1978

The ARS “Nairi” Dance group is formed in Buenos Aires.

July 1979

The 59th International Convention restructures the organization, forming an international executive body known as the Central Executive Board and creating a separate body to govern the ARS of North America.

The Armenian Relief Society of North America is created.

February 1980

The Social Services Program is created in Los Angeles, California, with the opening of three offices located in Glendale, Hollywood and Pasadena.

1982

The Armenian Relief Society of Australia is formed with the unification of the 3 existing chapters.

The Armenian Mercy Cross of Salonica acquires a parcel of land for a youth camp.

1984

The 62nd International Convention, in 1983, ratifies the formation of the ARS of Western USA, (All states west of the Mississippi would belong to the newly formed ARS Western USA.)

The 64th Regional Convention of North America elects the 1st Regional Executive Board of the ARS of Western USA by delegates representing the ARS Western Region.

The ARC of Syria establishes a socio-medical center.

1985

The ARS founds a chapter-at-large in Jaffa, Israel.

1987

The ARS launches its Youth Exchange program.

The ARS of Australia establishes the ARS Happy Kids Kindergarten.

1988

The ARS of Cyprus is officially recognized by the government.

November, the ARS contributes $50,000 as emergency relief for Karabagh.

The ARS mobilizes its worldwide network to aid the victims of the December 7 earthquake in Armenia.

1989

The first ARS leadership team departs for Armenia on January 26.

The ARS Central Executive Board opens an office in Washington, DC to secure grants for relief and reconstruction programs in Armenia.

1990

The ARS of Canada is formed through the re-organization of the ARS of North America.

The ARS of Bulgaria is reorganized.

1991

The ARS Central Executive opens its headquarters in Yerevan, Armenia.

The ARS entity in Armenia, the Armenian Relief Cross, is organized and its first Regional Convention is held.

The ARS “Nigol Aghbalian” school is opened in Akhourian.

The ARS Western USA establishes psychological Centers in the earthquake regions of Gyumri and Spitak.

The “Sponsor an Orphan” project is established.

1992

For the first time ever, in October the ARS holds its International Convention in Armenia.

The ARS of Artsakh is created.

1993

Two ARS chapters are founded in Sweden one in Stockholm and the other in Uppsala.

1995

April 27, the ARS of Kuwait is founded.

An ARS representation composed of members from Australia, France, Greece, Iran, Lebanon, Russia, and the United States, attends the 4th International Women’s Conference in Beijing.

The ARS WUSA Optic Centers are opened in the cities of Yerevan, Talin, and Vanatzor.

1997

The ARS Mother and Child Health Center, built through the efforts of the ARS of Eastern USA, opens in Akhurian, Armenia.

1998

May 9, the ARS of Germany is re-organized.

May 29-30 – The ARS organizes a seminar in Yerevan, Armenia “Armenia and the Diaspora at the Start of the 21st Century”.

The ARS “Sosse” Kindergarten program is launched in Arstakh.

On May 28, the Armenian Relief Society is officially accepted as a member of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).

The remains of Sosse Mayrik, the wife of Aghbiur Serop, are returned to Armenia.

The ARS Sosse Kindergarten/Day-Care center is officially opened in Stepanakert, capital of the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic.

Under the auspices of President Kocharian, the ARS organizes a symposium entitled “Armenia-Diaspora Relations at the Threshold of the 21st Century” in Yerevan.

The ARS entity of Germany is reformed.

1999

The ARS participates in The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference as a member of the organizing team. Representatives attend the Paris Conference promoted by the Medecins du Monde, at the UNICEF Culture of Peace Conference; and regular meetings of that body take place in Geneva, Switzerland.

Two representatives take part in the UN-NGO Conference, October 10-15, in Seoul, South Korea.

2001

The ARS of Javakhk is founded.

2003

2004

The ARS of South America receives the UN “Messenger of Peace” Award.

2005

The newly established birthing center at ARS Akhurian Mother and Child clinic is opened. The first child born in the center is born on April 24, 2005, and is named Vrej.

2006

September 18-20, the ARS participates in the 3rd Armenia-Diaspora Conference, in Yerevan, Armenia

The ARS of Russia is re-established, its official name is ARS –Armenian Women’s Society of Russia.

September 2, the ARS of Switzerland is founded.

The ARS Member-at-large classification is called into existence by two individuals in Milan, Italy.

2008

The ARS “Cruise for the Centennial Anniversary is organized by the Central Executive.

2009

In April the President and First Lady of Syria visit the ARS Children’s Shelter in Aleppo.

November 12 – The ARS of West USA hosts the unveiling of the Centennial Logo at the ARS WUSA headquarters in Glendale, California.

2010

March 10 – Marks the official opening to the ARS Centenary celebration in New York, New York.

October – The Centenary Celebrations end in Yerevan, Armenia.

2015

In April, the ARS hosted a 4-day events at the United Nations dedicated to the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide.

Since 2012 - The ARS has provided over $831,311 for the Syrian Armenian Relief.

The ARS holds its 71st International Convention in Yerevan, Armenia.

2016

The ARS provided assistance to the families of the fallen soldiers immediately following Four Day War. Over $470,405 has been provided to the families through the Artsakh Relief Aid.

2017

The ARS “Mother and Child” Health and Birthing Center celebrates its 20th Anniversary.

Global Emergency ReliefWe need your help

The ARS has also set up a Global Emergency Response Fund which will accept donations of medical equipment and funds to help reach out to our communities across the globe. The purpose of the Fund is to support those in need during this time of hardship -- to help with vital necessities to sustain the wellbeing of our compatriots.

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