A group of medical workers are scheduled to depart Fresno Yosemite International Airport on Saturday morning and travel halfway around the world to help those in need.
They had originally planned to leave on Friday, only to have their flight cancelled.
It is the seventh Fresno Medical Mission-Armenia, arranged by Armenian Honorary Consul Berj Apkarian. Every year since 2015 (except for the 2020 pandemic year), a volunteer group travels to Armenia to provide aid.
“Azerbaijan’s recent aggression and attack on a sovereign nation has fueled our energy to do more and give more. And I’m telling you, I’m so proud of our community,” Apkarian said at the airport on Friday before the canceled flight.
(View) The Armenian Medical Mission is ready for help
The focus of this year’s trip is on helping injured soldiers and others affected by the recent military skirmishes with Azerbaijan, Apkarian said.
Apkarian’s employer, Community Health Systems, is helping to fund the trip.
The 16-strong Fresno group will join 17 other medical professionals across the country for two weeks. They also bring medicine and supplies. The combined delegation includes surgeons, dentists, paediatricians and physiotherapists.
The desire to give something back
“I think that’s why we all went into this profession, physical therapy. We wanted to help or support people in some way. We have this altruistic quality.” — Kristina Koroyan
Some in the delegation say the nearly 20-hour journey from Fresno to Doha, Qatar via Dallas to Yerevan, Armenia is well worth it.
Kristina Koroyan is a therapist at Sanger Physical Therapy. This is her third trip.
“A lot of manual labor is required. I think with the injuries that we’ve seen, individuals have then been given the right exercises or the right protocols to follow after a particular injury. So I think our role is to enlighten them as much as we can,” Koroyan said.
She hopes to be able to train therapists in Armenia as well.
“I think that’s why we all went into this profession, physical therapy. We wanted to help or support people in some way. We have this altruistic trait, I suppose,” Koroyan said.
For Clovis dentist Dr. Vatche Wassilian is about giving something back. Originally from Lebanon, he attended medical school in Armenia.
“This is the spirit of the United States. We learned that here from this great country. … to help when there are people who need help,” said Wassilian. “This is the time to go. If you have the opportunity, because people need us. (Armenia) needs us.”
Karbassi in the official shop
Fresno City Councilman Mike Karbassi will join the medics on the trip. He not only shows support, but also has official business.
“(Armenia) would like to have an economic exchange with Fresno in the Valley. And so my focus now is meeting with them, meeting with the university people and meeting with their people in the federal government to see what trading options we have. For example, they make wine, I use wine from Fresno State,” Karbassi said.
“They are developing countries, which means there can be a lot of economic growth. Therefore, it can be very beneficial for Valley companies.”
Though he won’t be in Fresno during the Sept. 29 city council meeting, Karbassi said he will be attending via Zoom. The 11-hour difference means his 9 a.m. start time in Fresno is 8 p.m.
Karbassi’s trip is funded by the taxpayer.