An Interview with Haig Kherlopian (USA), on his initiative to raise funds for Syria

While we are seeing the destruction of Syria and the killing of innocent civilians, Christians in general and the Armenians in specific have quickly joined hands in sending food and help to the Syrian people. While collective efforts are much needed, individuals have also taken initiative in helping relieve some of the challenges facing the Syria people. Haig Kherlopian, the pastoral intern in Armenian Martyrs’ Congregational Church in Havertown, Pennsylvania, USA, has partnered with AMAA to raise funds for Syria, by running the marathon. In order to understand the reasons and to get to know Haig further, we conducted with him this interesting interview.

(Interview by Raffi)

Raffi - Who came up with the initiative to fund raise for Syria through the marathon run? 
Haig - I was looking at different charities that were sponsoring the Philadelphia Marathon, but none of the organizations spoke to me either because I was not passionate about them or they were organization that funded research that had too much overhead costs. So I contacted the Armenian Missionary Association and talked to them about running for one of their missions’ projects. Syria relief was the one that made the most sense. My father is originally from Homs, Syria. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Raffi - Who was supportive to you?
Haig - My church community was the biggest support group. I am a pastoral intern at the Armenian Martyrs’ Congregational Church in Havertown, Pennsylvania. They supported me with their encouragement and prayers for my health. They gave financially to the cause and continue to pray for the region. My friends also helped out a lot. Many non-Armenian friends gave contributions. The great thing about this fundraiser was that it was a lot of smaller contributions with different types of people supporting the event.

Raffi - Did you find people appreciative or negative? What was your reaction to both?
Haig  - For the most part people were appreciative. People like donating to causes that have an immediate impact. When I was telling them that it would help bring food and water to people in need, they were glad that their giving would be put to use on something that was tangible.  The reality is many Americans are ignorant on the details of what is happening in the Middle East. With the presidential election, Hurricane Sandy, and the Petraeus affair taking up the news headlines in recent months, it was good to remind people of what is still happening in Syria.
Raffi - How did you prepare for this run?
Haig - While I was studying in Seminary, I did two half marathons. They were necessary steps to take before running the full marathon. On my day off, which is Mondays, I would do a long run at a nearby state park. I listened to audio books and/or Christian progressive rock music during my long runs because I can get bored easily. Whenever I had time in my schedule during the week, I would go on shorter runs, which was usually after work.

Raffi - What kind of difficulties did you face before and during the run?
Haig - People talk about hitting a wall when running a marathon. I hit the wall close to Mile 24. My legs cramped up when I stopped for the last water station. I ran a really slow couple of miles at the end and it hurt my finish time. It was also difficult to ignore all the people running pass me. I did my best not to run their race, but stay true to my pace.

Raffi - How did you feel after finishing?
Haig - My goal was to just finish, so I felt good that I was able to scratch the Marathon off my To Do List.  Whatever energy I had after the race was used to focus on Youth Group in the evening. My thoughts and feelings were on 1st Corinthians which is what we are studying for Youth Group. 1st Corinthians 9:24-27 was on my mind towards the last five miles of the race, it motivated me to finish.

Raffi - What will happen with the raised funds?
Haig - The funds will be given to Armenians in Syria through the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA). They will provide provisions and help keep Armenian schools operational. Donations went straight to the AMAA.