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Armenian Scouts Hold 40-Year Reunion in Pasadena Saturday

April 2nd, 2009 by Temple City Tribune

scout1Approximately 350 people attended Saturday’s reunion of Armenian Scouts and their families in Pasadena Saturday evening.
I was privileged enough to be invited to the lavish, catered affair Saturday at the AGBU building on Altadena in Pasadena. Sponsored in part by AGBU which is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Armenian identity and heritage through humanitarian, educational, and cultural programs
As the guests arrived and greeted friends from years past, I couldn’t help but feel the stalwart emotions even though I didn’t understand one word spoken. Luckily, I later had a translator who clued me into the various speeches by visiting scout masters from as far away as Australia.
As guests arrived they were visibly stunned with how each of their former scouting friends had changed and spent a lot of time looking at all the photos from the past that accented the walls of the AGBU hall. In fact, many guests were uploading photos they were taking on Saturday evening to Facebook for their friends in Iran who were eagerly awaiting postings of photos and details of the event. Technology that simply didn’t exist in the early days of scouting have now become a mainstream tool for almost all involved.
speaker This particular scouting group celebrating 40 years was founded by Shahen Vartanian in October of 1968 in Tehran at a local AGBU elementary school called Nevart Gulbenkian.  For the first few years the group was called Gulbenkian School Scouts Group.  The name changed to AGBU Scouts Group in mid 70s. The group started with 20 plus boy scouts. A few weeks later a girl’s scout group was added with more than 10 members.  The group was headed by Jemma Ghazarian who is now the honorary head of the group in Tehran.
In the third year, 1971, a cub scouts group was added to the organization, headed by Armineh Hovsepian, who later married the founder. The following year a Brownie group was added, along with groups of boys and girls Venturers. 
The total number of members increased through the years.  It reached 500 plus in 1977.  Then it collapsed to around 100 in 1980, after the Iranian Revolution.  It increased again to up to 300, but it never quite reached the previous heights again.  
kid at dinner Vartanian was the scout master until 1986.  He moved to Sydney Australia where he continues his scouting activities with local Armenian organizations.  
The group continues activities to this day in Tehran with about 200 scouts.   
Founded in Cairo in 1906 by a group of eminent individuals under the guidance of Boghos Noubar Pacha, the A.G.B.U. is perhaps the most important of Armenian charity organizations throughout the world.  Today it is established in over thirty countries and operates in cooperation with its 22,000 members to achieve its goals of a purely humanitarian nature.   
Scouting in Armenia began sometime around 1912. Scouting developed abroad among the refugees who had survived the genocide of 1915-1916 or those that had fled the new communist occupation. Scouting then ceased to exist in Armenia.
In 1929, The World Scout Bureau recognized the Association of Armenian Scouts (HAI ARI) based in France, while the association did not have its own territorial base, it made an exception.  This Scout Association was the first and only association to receive recognition as an exile Scout Association.
In 1989, communism collapsed and the independent Republic of Armenia emerged in 1991. The French based Association of Armenian Scouts in Exile, expressed their wish that Scouting in Armenia should become a part of the World Scouting Organization as soon as possible. It helped in the process of creating a national Scout Organization in Armenia.
rick salutesIn 1994, HASK (Armenian National Scout Movement) was officially founded. Hask has over 2,035 members, boys and girls, spread throughout the entire country. The French exile group expressed its desire to withdraw from World membership in order to allow Scouting in Armenia to become a member of the World Organization. In April 1997, the Armenian National Scout Movement was accepted into WOSM, becoming the 144th member.
There are approximately 20,000 Armenians in the San Gabriel Valley and Glendale’s Armenian population has surged by 65 percent since 1990, with more than one in four of Glendale’s residents now claiming Armenian descent
Glendale, which has the highest concentration of Armenians outside Armenia, is now home to over 52,000, up from 31,402 in 1990.
Aside from Asian Americans, Armenian’s are one of the fastest growing immigrant populations in the U.S.
Few of us know much about the rich culture and diversity of these people who are our friends and neighbors.
Scouting in Iran became one of the only ways boys and girls could co-exist in a social way after the revolution of 1978.  Subsequently many moved from Iran and made a new home in the United States.
Another key person in the organizational success of the reunion was Rick Keshishi from Studio 55 in Monrovia.  Monrovia’s Studio 55 printed and displayed the historic photos and an comprehensive slide show documenting the last 40 years Armenian Scouting, its service as well as those who participated in so many events, so may years ago.
As guests wined and dined, speakers reminisced about their years in scouting and how it helped them evolve as young, proud, productive adults.

Story and Photos by Terry Miller

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