The Centre for Armenian Information and Advice was established after funding was granted by the London Boroughs Grant Scheme in October. It’s main objectives were:
- To establish an Armenian resource centre / library for anyone interested in Armenian affairs.
- To document the history, culture and other subjects related to the Armenians.
- To pursue the social issues facing the various sections of the London Armenians. Its main work is to help Armenians in London, and the rest of the country, primarily the elderly, parents with young children, refugees, the unemployed and those seeking legal advice.
- To educate local authorities and other statutory bodies to assist the development of the Armenian community and in its welfare, in the fields of education, employment, health and culture.
The bilingual newsletter Armenian Voice was launched in January followed by the Armenian community playgroup in July which provided parents with low cost/free childcare support three times a week. In August the Centre organised it’s first outing to Burnham Beeches. The CAIA also embarked on a major research initiative about London Armenians and the social-cultural and economic situation of the community. The research was carried out in partnership with the London Research Centre and published by the London Boroughs Grant Scheme.
CAIA services are suspended following the Spitak earthquake; the CAIA becomes a channel for aid to Armenia and is heavily involved in the British relief effort. Its appeal for money raises £10,542.72 for Aid Armenia, a charity which the CAIA supported who raised £3 million for a children’s hospital in Kirovakan.
CAIA also organised an Armenian cultural evening at Hammersmith Town Hall, to raise funds for the appeal. The evening includes contributions from the musician Levon Chillingirian, dance troupes and support and speeches from local councillors, MPs and Archibishop Yeghishe Gizirian.
An Elders’ Club is setup and takes place twice a week (once in Chiswick supported by Hounslow Social Services) and the other in Acton with the cooperation of Notting Hill Housing Trust. The Centre sucessfully managed to fundraise to purchase minibus and it is used to transport elderly and disabled members of the community to and from various projects run by the centre. The CAIA holds Armenian language classes for adults and also broadcasts Armenian news on a new radio station, Sunrise for a period of one year.
A primary area of focus for the CAIA is to help refugees settle and integrate into British society by providing advice and support with immigration, housing, employment and interpretation. During this period, many Armenians from Iraq come to the Centre for help after eing refused help by the Home Office fearing that they will be conscripted into the army or be caught up in war if they return home. (The Gazette, Friday 21 Sept. 1990 and the New York Reporter Thursday 10 Jan. 1991) Over the next few years the Centre also helps Armenians fleeing Azerbaijan to find accommodation and emotional support, as well helping with the relief effort to Artsakh, including the setting up of a relief fund to send aid.
CAIA produce a directory of Armenians living in the UK.
The CAIA negotiates referral rights to a 6 bedroom house in Acton with Acton Housing Association, which provides six single disadvantaged Armenians, mainly refugees a home. The agreement is still in place today. A similar referral arrangement was agreed with Notting Hill Housing Trust for six flats in Acton. That agreement lasted until 2003.
The CAIA outgrows its location in Market Place and moves to larger premises in Gunnersbury Lane.
Baroness Cox, member of the charity Christian Solidarity International, visits the new office for its official opening and receives a donation from the CAIA to help her humanitarian aid work in Artsakh.
Following several years of fund raising, a new building is purchased and renovated. Thanks to the generous support of the Tudor Trust, St Sarkis Trust, City Parochial Foundation, AGBU London Trust, Goldsmiths’ Company, London Boroughs Grant Scheme, Benlian Trust, Age Concern, J. McCarthy Foundation, Help the Aged and the LB of Ealing.
The building is named Hayashen and is officially opened in February by Mrs Lucy Ter Petrossian, First Lady of Armenia. The CAIA handed Mrs Ter Petrossian a cheque for £1000, raised at fundraising events over the year to go to providing welfare and support to the displaced people in Artsakh. Our largest hall used mainly for community events is named after Monte Melkonian, an Armenian from the diaspora who was martyred in June 1993 defending Artsakh. It also allows us to increase our administrative function and develop our library.
CAIA also starts to host English language classes for elderly refugees and these are run by Ealing Tertiary College.
The CAIA celebrates its 10th anniversary. As part of the festivities John Bilezikjian, the celebrated oud player from the USA visits Hayashen and gives two musical performances with his wife Helen, an accomplished singer.
The CAIA is awarded a Trust for London winner for its committed service to the community and in acknowledgement of its outstanding achievements.
The youth club is established, with funding from BBC Children In Need, and subsequently by Renewal SRB 6 Programme. Every Friday evening Armenian teenagers get together to meet, chat, play games, watch films and take part in a wide variety of educational workshops and presentations given by guests.
The CAIA begins to host a series of lectures on Armenian history, culture and diaspora, to help promote Armenian identity. Further cultural events follow, including a talk on Armenia and the USSR by Dr Ronald Suny and a performance by Nouritza Matossian about the life of the artist Arshile Gorky.
CAIA marks its 15th anniversary and becomes an incorporated charity.
Building work commences on extending our main hall. This is made possible by by funds provided from the Big Lottery, the ALG, Renewal SRB 6 and members of the Armenian community. A new lunch club for Senior Citizens is also funded as part of Acton Healthy Living Centre
The newly improved Centre has its official re-opening in May 2005. Markar Melkonian visits Hayashen to give a reading from his biography of his brother, Monte Melkonian, My Brother’s Road.
The CAIA continues its work supporting the Armenian community with the dedication, contribution and generosity of its members, trustees, staff, volunteers and funders from both the public and charitable sector.
The CAIA hosts an concert by the Oshgan trio, who play Armenian folk songs. Hayashen also hosts an event for members of various community groups who completed an NVQ funded by the European Social Fund, and also attended by Mr Robert Evans MEP. In November the youth club is re-launched and there is also an outing taking 25 children and teenagers to see a production of The Lion King.
In February a group of parents and toddlers visited the International Dolls Exhibition organised by the Ladies Creative Centre in Ealing. In April there is a special screening of Serge Avedikian’s documentary file “We have drunk the same water” and in October there is a one-woman production of “My Darling” based on a play by Chekhov. In July CAIA takes part in the Acton Carnival. In April the London Councils decides to stop its funding for the CAIA’s advice service. However, there is positive funding news: in June the Centre purchases a new minibus, which is used to transport elderly people to and from the Centre. This allows many older Armenians, who would otherwise be unable to come, to attend the lunch club which is held on Mondays and Fridays. The bus was purchased with funds donated by The St.Sarkis Charity Trust, The Percy Bilton Trust, The Clothworkers’ Foundation, and The Trusthouse Charitable Foundation. The Centre continues it activities in the community, including providing training sessions on being an interpreter and food safety.
In April Armenians gather at Hayashen to celebrate Easter, and are joined by the MP Stephen Pound. On 9 May the CAIA hosts a concert given by the musicians Gor Mkitarian and Sonya Varoujian, who perform songs written by themselves about love, friendship, yearning and the homeland. In October there was a dramatic reading of the story of Queen Shushanik, daughter of the legendary hero Vartan Zoravar – a story of faith, love and treachery set amidst the turmoil of the 5th century, scripted by Jean Fairweather.
Special events this year include an Easter party and an Armenian cookery class. CAIA continues to provide training courses, including this year one on financial capability, and runs a lecture series on Armenian history and culture. A focus group is run to consider the advisory service, to consider what we offer and what the needs of the community are. CAIA registers as UK on Line Centre to provide basic IT classes to address digital inequalities.
The Centre celebrates its 25th birthday by holding two major receptions. The first on 4th September at Hayashen with over 120 CAIA Members, volunteers and guests. The second on 4th October held in the Mayor’s Parlour at Ealing Council with over 50 people and guests present. Thanks to funds from South Acton Ward, Ealing Council puts a sign directing visitors to Hayashen at the top of Mill Hill Road.
The CAIA receives a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a library digitisation project. The project aims to help preserve Armenian history and culture by making the Centre’s resources more accessible, getting more information about what is in the library online. The project was launched on 20th May with over 100 members and guests present, including H.E. Mrs Karine Kazinian, Armenia’s Ambassador in UK. In December, CAIA raises £400 to the Syrian Armenian Emergency Relief Fund at the Acton Christmas Fair thanks to volunteers.
In February and March the Centre holds a six lecture series on Armenian culture and history, for the fourth year in a row. In September a group from the youth club attend a weekend stay at Woodrow High House.
The CAIA marks the 20th anniversary of Hayashen. The Centre continues its work supporting the Armenian community which could not have taken place without the dedication, contribution and generosity of its members, trustees, staff, volunteers and funders from both the public and charitable sector. The regular activities continue: the elders’ lunch club, the youth club and the parent and toddler group, the advice service and the health outreach service. In addition, the Centre continues with a digitisation project within their library, hold a series of six lectures on Armenian culture and history and hosts a question and answer evening with Kathy Leech, the UK Ambassador to Armenia with an exhibition from the Save the Children archives. In June there was a special gala concert by the guitarist and composer, Gilbert Berberian.
In the year commemorating the Armenian Genocide the CAIA has supported as many other groups and bodies as possible by relaunching its website and publishing Armenian events in the community. We have also published our library stock online to enable people to access our resources. We have supported various other charitable organisations by giving them access to our resources in order to better publicise the Armenian genocide and we also had a film crew come in and televise some real life stories with our Elders. This year we also had the honour of our CEO Misak Ohanian receiving a Honorary Award for outstanding service in recognition of the UK’s Armenian community from His Excellency Armen Liloyan. The management committee of the CAIA are incredibly grateful to the Armenian Embassy for this prestigious honour and recognising the relentless work Misak Ohanian does to support the Armenian community.