“In the Name of a Son”
The Founding of the Karagheusian Foundation
In 1918, Mihran and Zabel Karagheusian of New York lost their 14-year old son Howard to the Spanish Flu pandemic. Devastated by his passing, they resolved to establish a humanitarian mission in his memory that would support children. In 1921, the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation was founded to help provide food, shelter, and education to hundreds of orphaned children who survived the Armenian Genocide which lasted from 1915-1923.
The Early Years in Turkey and France
In 1921, the Karagheusian Foundation’s first overseas venture was the Howard Karagheusian Home for Children, located in Istanbul, Turkey. However, two years later, the Turkish government forced it to shut down.
In 1924, the Foundation’s operations moved to La Gaudiniere, an estate in France’s Loire Valley. For the next 12 years, the Home pioneered a model program that provided vulnerable Armenian children with safe shelter and healthcare, education, vocational training, and a sense of Armenian identity through culture and the arts.
Despite these important strides forward, two setbacks—the Wall Street crash of 1929 and a disastrous fire in 1934—compelled the Foundation to end its operations in France in 1936.
Efforts in Greece
In 1937, when Armenian refugees struggled to rebuild their lives throughout the Levant, the Karagheusian Foundation launched operations in Greece to include daily sustenance, immunizations, and a myriad of social and health services.
When World War II broke out, the Foundation once again supplied emergency humanitarian aid as well as resources to help control epidemics. The post-war relief for the Greek-Armenian community continued with a housing program and a children’s summer camp. These services continued well into the 1990s.
A New Generation of Leadership
In the 1930s, the Karagheusian torch was passed to Howard’s older sister Leila Karagheusian. Ready to take on the chief responsibilities of the Foundation, she embodied modesty and hard work, always putting the needs of her people first. Her high professional standards became her hallmark, elevating the reputation of the Foundation’s centers supported organization on an international scale. She was one of the firsts to recognize the need for preventive care and swiftly launched the project. These progressive inroads made under her leadership served as a model for the training of social workers by various governments.
Presence in the Middle East
By the 1940s, hundreds of thousands of Armenian refugees in the Middle East faced poverty, disease, inadequate educational facilities, and a dearth of social assistance programs. The Karagheusian Foundation responded, supplying hot breakfasts and lunches to schoolchildren and initiating a string of social assistance projects. The Anonymous Donor Program was launched with the support of Vartan Jinishian in 1947 and, two years later, the Foundation established the multi-specialty Karagheusian Pediatric Center. These efforts helped lead the fight against the spread of epidemics in schools.
In the 1980s, the Karagheusian Social Services Center opened in the Middle East, which resulted in providing 85 apartments to low-income families.
The Foundation’s first project in Lebanon was a children’s clinic, established in 1940 in the town of Anjar. In the ensuing decades, the Foundation helped raise living standards through food and social assistance programs and opened a children’s clinic in nearby Mejdel al Anjar.
The Foundation’s flagship clinic in Lebanon was established in 1941, in Beirut’s Bourj Hammoud district. Assistance programs proliferated in the following decades. The Foundation instituted immunization, milk distribution, school sanitation, social work, and diverse healthcare projects. In addition, it built a school playground and its ever-popular Social Center—a hub for vocational training, cultural activities, and sports.
In the late 1960s, the Foundation began a massive rehousing project, providing low-cost housing to some 500 families. In addition, it built the Mihran Karagheusian School.
The Lebanese Civil War severely affected the people of Lebanon. The Foundation stood by the Armenian community throughout the years of conflict, delivering emergency assistance services and expanding programs.
Initiatives in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh
The 1988 Spitak earthquake marked the beginning of the Foundation’s work in Armenia, and, eventually, Nagorno Karabakh (NKR). In 1991, the Foundation donated $1 million USD towards a reconstructive surgery center in Yerevan. Since then, it has launched an array of assistance initiatives, including far-reaching programs in children’s healthcare; distribution of medical equipment and medications; support for orphanages, schools, clinics, and hospitals; and housing assistance.