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International Volunteers Day
Date: Friday, December the 3rd, 2004
Place: Haigazian University Auditorium

Lorig Saboundjian lectures in Haigazian University: He who does nothing for others does nothing for himself.

When I first chose my major Social Work, my aim was not a well-paid job, or a position in a well-reputed institution, but it was the product of the influence of a family where I was raised in.

With these words, Lorig Saboundjian, an ex-Haigazian graduate, opened her lecture in the auditorium of Haigazian University, in the presence of the president, Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian, some professors and students.

Lorig has been working in the field of social work for more than 5 years, and besides her regular full time job, works as a volunteer in the Armenian Relief Cross of Lebanon.

First, Miss. Saboundjian gave a brief interpretation of the word "volunteer" or "volunteer work".

Being a volunteer is working on a project or a task without being paid for it.

It is based on the concept of helping people, serving and helping them build a better future in their community. The volunteer is the one who does community work which is a work done not for private financial gain, benevolent, philanthropic, charitable, for education or cultural purposes, such as working for religious groups, NGO's, etc. This could be done through fund raising, first aid, food distribution , disaster awareness, this is to name but the few. Volunteer work benefits both society and the person volunteering.

Volunteering empowers the individual, builds solidarity, and protect the vulnerable against economic and social marginalization.

In 1995, the United Nations designated Dec. 5th as the International Volunteer Day.

Nowadays, some NGO's prefer the term PVO's ( Private Volunteer Organization) which is also non-governmental institutions which work on international development activities.

Based on UN 2001 records, there are 819000 registered NGO?s, with 10,900,000 volunteers in the world.

The records of the UNDP show 380 registered NGO?s in Lebanon, but the real picture includes around 1000 NGOs, but unfortunately not all of them comply with the UN rules and regulations.

One of the UN?s recognized NGO's, is the ARS (Armenian Relief Society), which is a charitable organization. It is worth mentioning that the Armenian Relief Society was founded in 1910, 35 years prior to the establishment of the UN.

Groups of Armenian women performed important tasks in Caucasius, Vasbouragan, Drabizon, Erzroum, Kharpert, and other regions of Western Armenia, where besides caring for the wounded, provided food, clothes, medicine, and shelter to Armenian victims. Similarly,there were some other groups of Armenian women in larger Armenian communities if the US that existed along side other supportive groups which performed functions such as raising funds for the ongoing reform movement in the homeland.

These Armenian women's group organized in a cohesive group to form the "Armenian Relief Society" in New York city in 1910. The number of chapters grew rapidly and by 1915, there were 33 registered chapters across the US and Canada.

After the Armenian genocide, ARS began fundraising to support Armenians worldwide, training up nurses to take care of the wounded, teaching the Armenian language to its members and founding Armenian schools.

The raison d'etre was clear, the goals were set and the purpose was to serve the humanitarian needs of all communities regardless of ethnic origin or religious affiliation, to preserve the cultural identity of the Armenian people worldwide, and to promote education and social welfare of communities, and encourage involvement in public service.

With its motto, from the people to the people, presently the ARF has chapters in 24 countries around the world. The total number of volunteers in the ARS is 18000.

Armenian Red Cross in Lebanon was founded in Lebanon in 1929, and is the Lebanese member of the ARS family. It was officially recognized by the Lebanese government in 1935. The ARCL works for the relief, rehabilitation and development of the Lebanese Armenians and the Lebanese society. It has 4000 active members throughout its 26 chapters all over Lebanon.

After presenting the history of the ARS and the ARCL, miss. Saboundjian shared with the audience her experience as a volunteer working for cultural, religious, educational, humanitarian, and student and youth organization. She cherishes the spirit of team work, and has discovered a whole school of knowledge: she learned to be patient, satisfied, listen, discuss, resolve, follow and to lead as well. She earned to share and most importantly she learned to give, because it is in giving that we receive .

Miss Saboundjian quote the famous saying of Winston Churchill: you make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give, so go and try to make a life.

Finally, miss Lorig concluded the lecture by a nice analogy, asking the audience not to ever question the value of volunteers, because Noah's arc was build by volunteers whereas the Titanic was build by professionals.

Mira Yardemian
Director of Public Relations.
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