U.S. Ambassador Explains Impact of U.S. Aid

June 9, 2003

By Valerie Avalos-Lavimodiere
The Fresno Bee

Yettem — John Ordway, U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Armenia, told a church group of Armenians in this small rural community Sunday that the country in which many of their ancestors were born is far from prosperous.

At a luncheon at St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church Hall, Ordway told the audience of 60 about the progress made in the past year in housing and feeding the poor with the help of donations from the United States.

But he also warned: “Just surviving was a major problem there. They’ve got a long way to go. They have to create jobs and prosperity.

“I don’t know when we’ll get to the point where we can say this is a prosperous country. But I do know that we can push them in the right direction.”

Ordway, an ambassador for 19 months, told parishioners he is working to develop a peaceful environment with Armenia’s bordering countries, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Both countries have closed their borders to Armenia, limiting methods of shipment and driving up trade costs.

The Armenian National Committee of America estimates that Armenia misses out on more than $570 million of potential revenues annually because of the border closures. It also said the economic hardships have forced more than 800,000 Armenians to leave the country in search of higher-paying jobs.

“It has a huge negative economical impact on Armenia,” said Arthur Hampar, a parishioner and member of the ANCA. “Hopefully, we will see that alleviated.”

Ordway said, however, that talks of opening the borders are at a standstill.

“It is Turkey that has closed the door to communication and literally closed the door at the borders,” Ordway said. “This is going to take a long time…. It may never happen.”

During the luncheon, Ordway played an 18-minute video that showed how donations have improved the lives of some Armenians.

The church does not send donations to agencies that specifically help Armenia. Instead, church officials send money to the Armenian Diocese in Glendale. The diocese routes the money to areas that it considers a priority.

“I think they are hoping that individuals or parishioners as a whole would start donating. I think that would be wonderful,” said Danna Kasparian, who was impressed by Ordway. “We have a lot of feelings for the home country. If we can help, we will.”

Parishioner Seda Derrick said she has seen the poverty firsthand and is pleased Ordway wants to help. Derrick said she flies to Armenia every few years to visit relatives. Her last trip was in September, when Pope John Paul visited the country.

“When I saw the grief and poverty, I came back and started to write,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I came back a different person.

“They can’t take care of their families…. How lucky we are to have the welfare system.”

For more information about how you can help Armenia’s farmers, contact the ATG office at (559) 224-1000 or by e-mail (info@atgusa.org). Tax-deductible donations can be sent to ATG; 1300 E. Shaw, Suite 149; P.O.Box 5969; Fresno, CA 93755-5969.
You may also donate to ATG online.