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For the second Armenia-Diaspora Conference By Sevak Khodaverdian February 27, 2002 In order to foster and facilitate cooperation between Armenia and Diaspora, and in order to make the upcoming Armenia-Diaspora conference more than a venue for making speeches only, I suggest that groups be formed around specific projects and goals - these groups could be thought of as advocacy groups - to carry out worthwhile projects and see to the projects from their inception to their completion. These groups could be formed out of interested organizations and non-affiliated individuals, both in Diaspora and Armenia, and the relevant governmental agencies in Armenia. The projects adopted by these groups must be specific, of finite duration - with a beginning, middle and end - verifiable and measurable at different stages of the projects' lives. At the end of a project, the advocacy group dissolves. Its members are then free to join up or start new groups and tackle other worthwhile projects. This would provide the opportunity for individuals who are not affiliated with particular organizations but are eager to work towards the betterment of Armenia, to participate, on their own volition, in the Armenia-Diaspora conference, and join any project they think important and feel the most passionate about. Needless to say, pertinent governmental agencies from Armenia would also be involved in relevant groups to help facilitate the implementation of the goals of the groups. The kinds of projects I have in mind are: SAVE LAKE SEVAN: After all these years of half-hearted promises and efforts, the water level in Lake Sevan keeps retreating, factories keep dumping their refuse in it, and the natural resources that the lake supports, such as the fish life and the vegetation around the lake, keep being pillaged and abused. An advocacy group can be formed around this issue. The group must find funding, sponsor studies as to the best way/s to save the lake and then implement the recommendations. Lake Sevak not only has real environmental impact and role for Armenia it also stands as a symbol of Armenia and Armenians around the world. Every effort must be spent to reverse its deteriorating course and help it thrive. UPGRADE ARMENIA'S SCHOOLS: A group can be formed to gather data, fund and implement renovations to schools' infrastructures in Armenia. (The issue of pay for the teachers is a different matter all together.) This group needs to collect data on the needs of each school in Armenia from kindergartens to high schools. These needs could range from a new coat of paint to heating problems, new furniture, building a play yard or building a school from the ground up. Whatever the needs of a school the advocacy group must try to address and resolve it. NO MORE HOMELESSNESS IN GUMRI: It is a real shame on us all Armenians that after all these years there are still people living in containers in Gumri and not by a small number but a huge one (see January-February issue of AIM magazine). Despite all the promises of the two governments since the independence and the Diaspora organizations, and despite all the fund-raisings this problem lingers. An advocacy group can be formed to do everything it can to once and for all wipe clean this big scar from the face of us Armenians. UPGRADE SUNDUKIAN THEATRICAL HALL: Not all the projects for these advocacy groups need to be extensive and far-reaching. For example, the Sundukian theatrical hall in Yerevan is a beautiful hall surrounded by a beautiful park. But both the hall and the park are in need of improvements. The hall needs things such as a new stage sound system and a new stage lighting system, it needs lighting for its hallways and the outside surroundings, and of course it needs heating for the cold season. The park next to the hall needs to be cleaned, the trees trimmed, and the waters and fountains turned back on. We have excellent theatrical talent in Armenia and any support provided for them would be beneficial to us all. This is an example of a project on a smaller scale. These are suggestions for possible projects - the number and types of projects are limited only by the imagination and resources of the participants of the conference - that organizations and individuals, both in Armenia and Diaspora, can rally around and by addressing them help improve Armenia for generations to come. Sevak Khodaverdian Sherman Oaks, CA -- Sevak Khodaverdian is an IT professional who has been active in various Armenian organizations.