The CAIA’s activities returned gradually to normal in 2021. In May we held our deferred AGM and were able to hold our annual lecture series, which was streamed online as well as being held in-person at Hayashen, and it included a variety of thought-provoking educational talks such as The Second Karabakh War by Dr. Vicken Cheterian, Armenia at a Crossroads: Reviving the National Project after the Second Karabakh War by Dr. Kevork Oscanian, readings from the re-released edition of Leon Surmelian’s I Ask You Ladies and Gentlemen by Richard M. Anooshian, Why be Armenian in Europe today? by Nicolas Tavitian from Brussels and others.
2021 marked the 35th Anniversary since the establishment of the CAIA and the 27th year since we purchased the Hayashen Community Centre. Both these important milestones were marked with a major celebration on 11th December 2021. The event was attended by various dignitaries including local MP Dr Rupa Huq who unveiled a special commemorative plaque for the occasion.
2020 was a difficult year for the whole world. The covid-19 pandemic led to a lockdown in the UK lasting for most of the year. During that time the CAIA moved as many of its services online as was possible, including the advice service, youth club and children’s pre-school group, and volunteers helped the CAIA to distribute weekly food parcels to 150+ housebound elderly people.
Following the Beirut bomb explosion in August 2020, CAIA supported UK Armenian community wide fundraising effort for the benefit of the Lebanese Armenian community who were affected terribly.
In September 2020, the government of Azerbaijan launched an attack on Artsakh, which resulted in the killing of civilians, shelling hospitals and churches and other civilian structures, the use of mercenaries from Syria, the use of banned cluster bombs, and the use of white phosphorous munitions, creating thousands of homeless Armenian refugees. During the war, Azeri state-endorsed cartoons and social media characterised Armenians as cockroaches needing to be killed. CAIA contributed £3000 from its unrestricted funds towards the humanitarian effort which caused a great deal of trauma, grieve and anger to all Armenians across the world.
In 2020 CAIA also published and circulated two issues of “Armenian Voice” which reflected not only our local work during 2019 and 2020 as well as the above trauma. We wrote: “For Armenians, this violence cannot be seen in isolation, but rather a continuation of the 1915 Genocide. When the international community (with some honourable exceptions), including the UK government, are effectively silent about the recent atrocities of Azerbaijan and Turkey, as well as the 1915 Genocide, one can be forgiven for thinking that the slogan “never again” does not seem to apply to the Armenians.”
During 2019 repairs were done to the Monte Melkonian hall at Hayashen, including the installation of LED lights in the hall, repairs to the roof including laying of a water-proof felt, painting the external walls, painting the internal walls and ceiling and the laying of a new vinyl floor. This has given a new lease of life to the hall.
During February and March CAIA ran its lecture series on Armenian history, culture and identity. This included lectures on the Armenian volunteers in the French Foreign Legion, the Armenian diaspora, Shakespeare on the Armenian stage, the Hamshen Armenians and national costume.
In May the CAIA gained the National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education (NRCSE) Quality Mark award for the high level of its pre-school and after school children’s services.
On 24 November, the UK premier of Armenia My Love took place at Hayashen, organised by the CAIA and the Romanca Society. The film followed the destiny of an Armenian family living in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, through the eyes of a child trying to make sense of his shattered childhood and the lives of his people.
The CAIA continued to run its advice services, elderlies’ activities and children’s activities, as well as taking part in events and hosting events. These included: taking part in the London Legal Walk, a trip for our seniors to Brighton, delivering a course of beginners’ English language classes, and running the Simra II project looking at identity and integration.
To mark CAIA’s 30th anniversary a short documentary was produced by young brilliant director Seda Grigoryan which can be viewed on CAIA’s YouTube Chanel at https://www.youtube.com/user/CAIAHayashen
We successfully completed HLF-funded UK Armenians & WW1 project, producing an audio-visual archive and a film. The exhibition and accompanying film, Testimonies of War, were shown at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s UK office in Shoreditch, London in January 2018 and at Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Manchester in February.
We also carried out a major refurbishment in the centre’s kitchen, which serves the elders’ lunch club on Fridays, and added several bookshelves and improved our extensive reference library.
We also launched this new website in the beginning of the year.
For the ninth consecutive year CAIA ran its lecture series on Armenian history, culture and identity. In addition, in March Dr Randall Rhodes from the American University of Armenia (AUA) spoke at Hayashen, giving a presentation about the AUA, including its academic programmes, its educational approach, profile of students, staff and funders, costs, achievements and plans.
In February, CAIA’s youth cub took 35 young people on a residential trip to Woodrow High House in Amersham. In March CAIA took part in the Armenian Symposium, an all-day conference organised by the Armenian student society of UCL and Repat Armenia.
In November Hayashen hosted a quiz night organised by the Armenian Society of Kings College London, entitled Yerevan is in the game! to mark Yerevan’s 2800th anniversary.
The centre celebrated its 30th anniversary during its annual AGM, celebrating all the wonderful work done during these decades.
As usual, we also run our February lectures on Armenian culture, identity and language – a popular series of talks attracting a large and lively audience and bringing the community together, running for 10 years already.
Another highlight was being featured in a BBC documentary, as one of the charities working with Felix, a project which collects unsold food from the supermarkets and distributes to charities.
The premiere of Testimonies of War took place on 6th August 2017 at Hayashen, followed by Q & A with film-maker Athena Mandis and networking opportunity. Another screening of Testimonies of War and a display of the UK Armenians & WW1 exhibition took place at the Wiener Library in October.
The year started with a major news for CAIA, as we were able to secure funding from Heritage Lottery Fund to deliver UK Armenians & WW1 project, which formally commenced on 1 April to gather, document and preserve oral histories and research into the Great War’s impact on the Armenian communities in the country.
Another major project was Support 4 Carers Ealing service, delivered by a consortium of several organisations. As part of the consortium CAIA provide flexible short breaks & respite care support at Hayashen/community setting or via home visits.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
CAIA marks its 15th anniversary and becomes an incorporated charity.
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.
The CAIA is awarded a Trust for London winner for its committed service to the community and in acknowledgement of its outstanding achievements.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.