The Centre for Armenian Information and Advice is set up, after funding is granted by the London Boroughs Grant Scheme in October. When it began, the CAIA’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 is launched in January. In July the Armenian community playgroup is set up, providing parents with low cost or free childcare support three times a week. In August the Centre organises a picnic at Burnham Beeches, with food, drink, songs, dances and games. The CAIA begins a major research initiative about London Armenians, into the social-cultural and economic situation of our community. The research is carried out in partnership with the London Research Centre and published by the London Boroughs Grant Scheme – see article in Voices, The Ealing Magazine, August 1998.
Normal CAIA services are suspended following the earthquake; the CAIA becomes a channel for aid to Armenia and is heavily involved in the British relief effort. Its appeal for money raises ÂŁ10,542.72 for Aid Armenia, a charity which the CAIA is involved with and which raises ÂŁ3 million for a children’s hospital in Kirovakan.
The Centre also organises an Armenian cultural evening at Hammersmith Town Hall, for the following January, to raise funds for the earthquake appeal. The evening includes contributions from the musician Levon Chillingirian, two dance troupes and speeches from local councillors, MPs and Archibishop Yeghishe Gizirian.
An Elders’ afternoon is established, with Monday afternoons in Chiswick (supported by Hounslow Social Services) and Friday afternoons in Acton (with the cooperation of Notting Hill Housing Trust). The Centre’s fundraising to buy a minibus is successful, and the new bus is used for the most part to transport elderly and disabled members of the community to and from various projects run by the centre (funded by the LB of Hounslow, Help the Aged and the St Sarkis Trust). The CAIA holds Armenian language classes for adults and gets a one hour slot to broadcast Armenian news on a new radio station, Sunrise, every Monday night, lasting for one year.
One of the main tasks of the CAIA is to help refugees to settle and integrate into British society, giving advice and support with immigration, housing, employment and interpretation. At this time, many Armenians from Iraq come to the Centre for help, fearing that they will be conscripted into Iraq’s army or be caught up in war if they return there, after being refused help by the Home Office. See: 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.
The CAIA negotiates referral rights to a 6 bedroom house in Acton with Acton Housing Association, giving six single disadvantaged Armenians, mainly refugees a place to live. The agreement is still in place today.A similar referral arrangement was agreed with the Notting Hill Housing Trust for six flats in a sheltered building in Acton that operated until 2003.
The Centre moves from its cramped room in Market Place, to a larger office on Gunnersbury Lane. See article in Ealing and Acton Gazette, 12 February 1993.
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 (bottom right photograph).
Following four years of fund raising, a new centre is purchased renovated and opened, 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 centre is called 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 ÂŁ1000, raised at various functions and events over the past year, to go towards the welfare of needy and displaced people in Artsakh. The new centre allows the CAIA to relocate its previously dispersed services under one roof and gives the organisation the scope to develop their services. The east wing, a large hall, is named after Monte Melkonian, an Armenian from the diaspora who was martyred in June 1993 defending Artsakh. There is also a big office for the staff and volunteers to work in, and a large room that is used as a permanent library and resource centre.
The Centre hosts English language classes for older refugees, run by Ealing Tertiary College and the Mothers and Toddlers group is set up in addition to the playgroup.
The CAIA publishes its second directory of Armenians living in London the rest of the UK. The first was published in 1990, and the third in 2002.
The CAIA has regularly organised day outings: in May 1997 a big group went to Southend. The CAIA continues its 10th anniversary celebrations. As part of the festivities John Bilezikjian, the celebrated oud player from the USA, gives two musical performances at Hayashen with his wife Helen, an accomplished singer. Both events turn into informal music and dance session as the audience joins in.
The CAIA is a Trust for London Award 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 Centre hosts a series of lectures on Armenian history, culture and diaspora, to promote Armenian identity. The Centre has hosted a variety of cultural events over the years, including a lecture on Armenia and the USSR by Dr Ronald Suny (1989) and another from him in 1995, a performance by Nouritza Matossian about the life of the artist Arshile Gorky based on her book Black Angel (1999), cookery classes, and performances from music group Kotchnag (1990) and the Datev teenage dance troupe from Armenia (1999). In February 2005 Markar Melkonian visits Hayashen to give a reading from his biography of his brother, Monte Melkonian, My Brother’s Road.
Ealing Council agree plans for the extension of Hayashen.
CAIA marks its 15th anniversary and agrees to operate as a charity company.
2002 / 2003
Building work is carried out to extend the ground floor of Hayashen, made possible by funds raised from the Big Lottery, the ALG, Renewal SRB 6 and members of the Armenian community.
A new lunch club for Senior Citizens starts as part of Acton Healthy Living Centre.
The newly improved Centre has its official re-opening in May 2005.
The CAIA 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.
In July the CAIA holds a fund-raising quiz evening and holds a concert by the Oshgan trio, who play a selection of 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 Avedikianâ€™s documentary file â€śWe have drunk the same waterâ€ť and in October there is a one-woman production of â€śMy Darlingâ€ť 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 CAIAâ€™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 Mayorâ€™s Parlour at Ealing Council with over 50 people and guests Â 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 Centreâ€™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, Armeniaâ€™s Ambassador in UK. In December, CAIA raises ÂŁ400 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 eldersâ€™ 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 theirÂ 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 wasÂ a special gala concert by the guitarist and composer, Gilbert Berberian.
In the year commemorating the Armenian Genocide theÂ CAIA has supported as many other groups and bodies as possible by relaunching its website and publishing Armenian events in the community. Â We have also published our library stock online to enable people to access our resources. Â 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. Â This year we also hadÂ the honour of our CEO Misak Ohanian receiving a Honorary Award for outstanding service in recognition of the UKâ€™s Armenian community from His Excellency Armen Liloyan. Â The management committee of the CAIA are incredibly grateful to the Armenian Embassy for this prestigious honour andÂ recognising the relentless work Misak Ohanian does to support the ArmenianÂ community.