How Your Gift Is Saving The Armenians -ld19180309

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The Literary Digest

March 9, 1918

Almost in the shadow of Mount Ararat lies Yerevan, the center of Armenian relief-work in the Caucasus. The ancient city is now predominated by fugitives from the persecutions of the Turk, the refugees numbering nearly a quarter of a million. There the representatives of the American relief organizations have their headquarters, and from this point the work is carried on for the aid of the stricken people, of whom William T. Ellis writes in the Buffalo Express:

There are no starving Armenians in Yerevan. Yet this is the center of the community that fled from Turkey under the spur of the persecutions of the Turk. The reason is that the American committee for Armenian and Syrian relief, of which Cleveland H. Dodge, Metropolitan Building, New York, is treasurer, has established here a system of organized relief, including industrial work on an extensive scale, that has meant literally life, as well as rehabilitation, to this section of the refugees, who number altogether about a quarter of a million in the Caucasus.

Perhaps that industrial work will make the best start for the story. Instead of direct relief, in the form of food or money, the committee, with an eye to the future of the people, has distributed labor, except in the case of children and helpless women. Since clothing as well as food has to be provided the refugees, the committee has begun at the beginning, and distributed cotton and wool among the women to be cleaned, carded, and spun - except that the cotton is first carded, after the ancient bowstring fashion, by men. The wool is given out as it comes from the sheep' backs. This is returned by the women in the form of yarn, for the spinning of which they are paid. Thousands of pairs of socks have also been knitted by the women.

Because the Armenians are skilled artisans, they have been set to making knock-down hand-looms, and upon the machines thus built trained weavers are set to making cloth out of the yarn spun by the women. This cloth is used for underclothing, in the case of the cotton goods, and for outer garments made of wool. A fine quality of homespun is produced, which could be sold in the Russian markets at a profit. Instead, all the clothing thus produced is used for the refugees. Last winter 15,000 persons were clothed, and this year an additional 10,000 orphans will be clad in the most comfortable garments they have ever known. Of course, all the tailoring is done by Armenian refugees.

This is the sight that old Ararat now looks down upon: a little company of American board missionaries, at present lent to the relief committee, creating anew, amid unusual conditions, an entire industrial organization that will provide, without pauperizing, for the needs of a homeless and utterly destitute people. The Rev. E. A. Yarrow, of Van, the local chairman, began this phase of America's ministry, and George F. Gracey, whose industrial work at Urfa was destroyed by the Turks, has contributed his expert knowledge in building up this organization, although Messrs. Mac Callum, Reynolds, and Maynard have taken to it all as if it were preaching. All the elaborate organization of cards and records and investigation, which social science at home demands, has been kept in operation, that only the deserving might be helped. This is the Orient.

No men are helped except to be given work, and no workers are used by the Americans unless they are refugees. No clothing goes to the adult, but for the orphan children there is direct relief in the shape of ten rubles a month, or about one dollar and sixty-six cents, a small enough pittance since only one child in a family receives the amount which must provide for mother and brother and sisters, if there be any. The first allowance was only six rubles, or one dollar a month, but owing to the depreciation of the ruble and the increase of gifts from America the sum was increased to ten rubles. Says Mr. Ellis:

I was present when the first distribution of this increased allowance was made, and many were the blessings rained upon the head of the Americans. Naturally, with the present big prices, and rubles worth only six to the dollar, ten rubles a month does not buy many grand pianos.

A building and site for an orphanage have been bought by the committee, and is being enlarged by refugee workmen. Dr. G. C. Reynolds, the veteran missionary from Van, whose wife died on the retreat, and who has come out here to end his days in congenial activity, is in charge of the orphan relief and the orphanage. He conducted a large orphanage in Van. His purpose, he says, is not by any means to gather all orphans into institutions, but to train a hundred picked boys and later the same number of girls, who may become leaders of the Armenian people. There are hundreds of orphanages being well maintained by the Armenians themselves, through their joint Armenian committee. Something like 7,000,000 rubles every six months is spent by this committee.

All the work upon the new orphanage is being done by refugees, from the building of the walls to the construction of the beds and the tables and garments.

Other relief-work for the children is the furnishing of milk for the babies, and the maintenance of a physician, and the opening of a hospital. Dr. Kennedy is working with the Americans, he being a Canadian, and representing the London Lord Mayor's committee. A British Quaker, Mr. Heald, is representing the American committee at Alexandropol, where there is a center of relief work. In 300 villages hereabouts the Americans administer and supervise relief for the women and children. In the Yerevan district, says Mr. Gracey, there are approximately 50,000 persons being aided, directly or indirectly, by the American committee.

The shadow of Mount Ararat is not so ever present as the shadow of the great tragedy of the Armenian nation. This man saw a priest shod like a horse, before he was slain; this one saw crucifixions; this little boy and his sister lived for three months in the mountains on roots and berries, before they came up with a force of Armenian volunteers; this woman from Mush witnessed throughout four days, from her hiding-place before she got away to the mountains, the locking of families into houses, many persons being crowded into one house, whereupon kerosene was applied and the victims burned to death. The mind grows numb, and the heart sick, from a constant recital of such tales of horror, as it is difficult to believe the twentieth century could hold.

There are 200 orphanages established in the Caucasus with about 6,000 inmates and upward of 300 schools for the refugee children, but, says the writer:

The outstanding factor in Armenian relief has been the American committee. Its work has been on a large scale, and systematic form. All of it has been supervised by Americans, and the subordinate workers have been men and women trained in American mission schools, and known personally to the missionaries. Professors have not hesitated to become relief agents in villages, or accountants or actual workers in the industrial department. Had it not been for the fact that there were available a force of American board missionaries knowing the language and the land and the people, and with trusted helpers at hand, the wonders that have been wrought in the way of repatriation, rehabilitation, and the maintenance of life, and self- respect would have been impossible.

Could I write the hundreds of tributes to America that have been given to me by high and low for transmission, I would need columns of space, and the stories would all be attuned to the note of America's uniqueness as the brother nation, the friend of the needy everywhere.

Thanks to [ASA] for digitizing this article.

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