Countless individuals from around the world helped Aleppo-NGO raise $181,500 through the “Save a Life” Campaign, which helped save 468 lives by resettling IDPs from Aleppo to Yerevan between 2015 and 2017.
The project was primarily implemented through the efforts of the dedicated volunteers of Aleppo-NGO and the support of its board members from around the world. As such, the total operational and administrative fees of the project was $1,500 from the total $181,500 raised during the campaign.
- 468 Syrians were resettled from Aleppo to Yerevan via Beirut. The one-way ticket prices ranged between $260-380 each;
- 460 Syrians received $100 in pocket money upon arrival to Yerevan;
- All Syrians were referred to UNHCR’s Office in Armenia to receive rental subsidy assistance for 3-9 months.
This life saving mission would not have been possible without the incredible humanitarianism of Mr. Vreij Kolandjian, the Chair of the Parish Council of St. Kevork Armenian Apostolic Church of Houston, Texas in 2016 and Mr. Christoph Bierwirth, the Representative of UNHCR in Armenia between 2013 and 2018, and long-time supporters of Aleppo-NGO like Rachel Nadjarian, Talar Tcholakian, Carmen Gulbenkian, and Maral Karakashian.
- St. Kevork Armenian Apostolic Church of Houston, Texas
- IDeA Foundation;
In December 2017, Aleppo-NGO’s Founding President, Ms. Ani Balkhian, was awarded the “Woman of Courage” Award at the Universal Rights Awards Ceremony hosted by the international community in Armenia (including the office of the United Nations, the delegations of the European Union and the Council of Europe, and the embassies of the United States, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom) for her critical and relentless efforts in launching and implementing the “Save a Life” campaign.
Ani Balkhian’s speech during the award at the Universal Rights Awards Ceremony
“On April 11, 2015, I woke up with the news that my mother’s apartment building in Aleppo had been bombed, causing the death of dozens of innocent people including our neighbor Maha Diyarbakerli and her 22-year old daughter Dana to whom my mother used to teach French years ago when Dana was just a child.
In the following weeks, when the conflict in Aleppo reached its peak and the situation became unbearable, hundreds of Syrian-Armenians requested Aleppo-NGO’s assistance to escape Syria.
When I proposed the launching of the “Save a Life” project at our executive committee meeting, everyone was skeptical about our ability to fundraise and implement the project.
More importantly, the decision to resettle Armenians from Syria to Armenia was an unpopular one because it went against the pan-Armenian position of “preserving the Armenian community in Syria at all cost.”
Nevertheless, despite the criticism we faced from outside and inside and the skepticism of our committee members from within, we pushed through with the project, and helped rescue more than 480 Syrian-Armenians by moving them to Armenia in the past two years.
I stand here today humbled to be receiving the “Woman of Courage” Award, but honestly this award does not only belong to me but to the countless humanitarian philanthropists like Rachel Nadjarian, Talar Tcholakian, Carmen Gulbenkian, Maral Karakashian, the Parish Council of the St. Kevork Church in Texas lead by Mr. Vreij Kolandjian who extensively contributed to the rescuing of Syrian-Armenian lives.
This award also belongs to the IDeA Foundation, which has financed the Save a Life project since October 2016 and helps us to evacuate civilians from Syria.
It also belongs to the dedicated volunteers and staff of the Aleppo-NGO like Dzovig Baytarian, Rita Karagulian, Silva Kablanian, Talin Chemberjian, Hayasa Tahmazyan, Sarkis Balkhian and many others.
I am thankful to the international and diplomatic community in Armenia for this award and for their continued support for the development of civil society in Armenia and the advancement of democracy and human rights.
Most importantly, I want to thank the UN office in Armenia, especially Mr. Christoph Bierwirth and Mrs. Anahit Hayrapetyan of the UNHCR for their unwavering support to the Syrian refugees over the past several years.
Mr. Bierwirth’s leadership has been instrumental in protecting the rights of Syrians in Armenia.
Finally, I pray that peace, security, and justice prevail in the world, especially in Syria.
Thank you again for the award, and congratulations to all the nominees and winners being recognized here tonight”.