In 1918, following the devastating death of their 14-year-old son, Howard, Mihran and Zabel Karagheusian of New York resolved to establish a humanitarian mission in his memory. By 1921 they founded the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation, in order to shelter, feed, and educate orphaned children who had survived the Armenian Genocide.
Beginnings in Turkey and France
In 1921 the Karagheusian Foundation’s first endeavor, the Howard Karagheusian Home for children, opened its doors in Istanbul. Within two years, however, it was shut down by the Turkish government.
In 1924 the Foundation’s operations were moved to La Gaudiniere, an estate in France’s Loire Valley. For the next 12 years the new Home served as a pioneering institution, providing children with shelter, healthcare, education, and vocational training.
Yet despite the great strides made at La Gaudiniere, two setbacks, the Wall Street crash of 1929 and a disastrous fire in 1934, impelled the Foundation to end its operations in France, in 1936.
Work in Greece
In 1937, when Armenian refugee populations continued to struggle for survival throughout the Levant, the Karagheusian Foundation shifted its focus to the region by launching operations in Greece.
Here the Foundation provided food relief, immunization, and a host of social and health services.
During the Second World War the Foundation once again supplied emergency food relief and helped control epidemics. It continued to aid the Greek-Armenian community in the post-war era, adding a housing program and a children’s summer camp to its projects.
The Foundation remained active in Greece well into the 1990s.
Work in the Middle East
In the 1940s hundreds of thousands of Armenian refugees in Syria and Lebanon grappled with poverty, disease, inadequate educational facilities, and a dearth of social-assistance programs. The Karagheusian Foundation responded to their predicament at the dawn of the decade, and went on to play an instrumental role in the development and advancement of Armenian communities in Syria and Lebanon.
In 1940 the Foundation supplied hot breakfasts and lunches to schoolchildren in Aleppo. A string of Syria-specific assistance initiatives were added in subsequent decades.
In 1947 the Anonymous Donor Program was started, with the support of Vartan Jinishian. In 1949 the Foundation established the multi-specialty Karagheusian Pediatric Center, and, starting in the 1940s, led the fight against the spread of epidemics in schools.
In 1982 the Karagheusian Social Services Center was opened in Aleppo. Three years later the Foundation provided 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 Aynjar. In the ensuing decades the Foundation helped raise living standards through food and social assistance, and opened a children’s clinic in nearby Mejdel al Aynjar.
The Foundation’s flagship clinic in Lebanon was established in 1941, in Beirut’s Burj Hammud 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 schoolchildren’s playground.
One of the Foundation’s most popular Beirut initiatives has been its 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, by delivering emergency-assistance services and expanding programs.
Work in Armenia and Karabagh
The Karagheusian Foundation’s humanitarian assistance in the wake of the 1988 Spitak earthquake marked the beginning of its work in Armenia, and, eventually, Karabagh.
In 1991 the Foundation donated $1 million for the establishment of a reconstructive-surgery center in Yerevan. Since then it has launched a long string of assistance initiatives.
They include far-reaching programs in children’s healthcare; distribution of medical equipment and medications; support for orphanages, schools, youth camps, nursing homes, clinics, and hospitals; and housing assistance.