An Insightful Gift to Armenia This Christmas

BILLERICA, Mass.—In his retirement, Dr. James Fantazian did what any resourceful optometrist would do.

Optometrist Dr. James Fantazian helps a young Armenian boy see correctly during one of two missions he made to Hayasdan.

He donated his equipment to Hayasdan as a gift to his nation this Armenian Christmas. Moreover, he acted in memory of his mom Ojen, one of the last departed genocide survivors in Merrimack Valley.

Two missions to the homeland was all it took for Fantazian to see the need. Both trips resulted in corrected vision for hundreds of patients he encountered. Much of the inspiration came from his mother, an activist among her peers at genocide commemorations throughout the valley.

“I’m happy to see that my equipment will help many, especially at a hospital in Shengavit,” said Fantazian. “We’ve served patients there over the years.”

Shengavit is the oldest district in Yerevan. A previous visit provided eye care to 934 patients at 5 locations: Tchambarak, Maralyk, Yeghnadzor, Lernanist, and Ooshie. All were within 2 hours of the capital city, where his group was based for 10 days.

Fantazian was part of a collaboration between Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH), Amaras Arts Alliance, and Yerevan-Cambridge Sister City Association. The team was registered with the Ministry of Health and the Humanitarian Commission of the Republic of Armenia.

In all, 794 pairs of eyeglasses were dispensed, along with 46 medical approvals and 83 cases of nearsightedness addressed with over-the-counter reading lenses.

A previous trip resulted in new eye glasses for 2,500 men, women, and children in 6 other regions. Free eye care, examinations, and surgical referrals were provided where necessary.

It’s safe to conclude that Fantazian sees “eye-to-eye” with the visual difficulties surrounding the country.

“We were overwhelmed to witness such a dire need for eye care,” he said. “Our goal was to address every patient, no matter how difficult their situation. Another major concern was the high blood pressure diagnosed.”

The equipment he donated was on behalf of the Knights of Vartan. Included were an optical chair and stand, slit lamp with tonometer, illuminated refractor, ophthalmometer and stand, chart projector and slides, retinoscope, 224 eyeglass frames for men and women, 152 eyeglass frames for children, 25 eyeglass cases for women, 40 eyeglass cases for men, a lensometer, projection screen, slit lamp, and empty pallet.

Total value of the goods was $15,080.

Fantasian has practiced optometry in Billerica for 48 years and prior to that in the military. He is a graduate of the New England College of Optometry and is closely connected to the Armenian community of Greater Boston and Merrimack Valley.

Nobody’s been closer to him during these missionary trips than Jack Medzorian, a tennis partner and Sunday School teacher over the years.

“Jim [Fantazian] informed me that he was retiring and wished to donate his entire equipment to Armenia,” said Medzorian. “I approached my sources to find a suitable home, especially one that does charitable work and has a trained specialist.”

Medzorian got immediate feedback from a friend in Yerevan named Haik Minasyan, the director of the Shen NGO, Armenia’s oldest non-profit charitable agency, which does tremendous work in Armenia.

Last September, a visit was paid to the Shengavit hospital where Medzorian met with Dr. Varazat Seyranian, a Karabagh War veteran and ophthalmologist.

“They had a plan, a need, and capability,” said Medzorian. “It all sounded like a perfect fit for Jim’s equipment.”

The thousand-pound shipment was made out of A&A Industries in Peabody, where owner Aurelian Mardiros assisted in sorting and packing. The United Armenian Fund (UAF) office in California arranged the delivery.

Since this was another Knights of Vartan Ararat Lodge project, freight costs to Armenia were partially covered. The lodge is responsible for nearly $4 million in supplies to needy hospitals and medical clinics in Armenia and Karabagh.

Efforts are being made for Fantazian to visit Armenia a third time and pass on to folks there his vast knowledge on eye care accumulated over the past half century.

“In all our visits and medical shipments, we’re doing our utmost to improve eyesight in Armenia,” Fantazian said. “And we’re inviting other specialists to follow the same example. Only then will this country continue to improve.”

Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: An Insightful Gift to Armenia This Christmas

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