1992 was a Cruel Year for Armenia
The Armenian Eye Care Project had its beginnings in 1992, and progressed with twice-yearly visits to the country by Dr. Ohanesian and Dr. Hill principally, but also ophthalmologists from all parts of the United States. On Roger Ohanesian’s first visit to Armenia it was a long, cruel winter for Armenians. The built-in ethnic hatreds were exploding, the country was still reeling from the war and suffering from the devastation of the 1988 earthquake. There was electricity just one hour a day, no gasoline, babies in incubators were packed in blankets and people were chopping down trees because there was no heat.
Dr. Ohanesian arrived with lots of supplies donated by American medical manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies. The initial objective—to modernize the Republican Eye Hospital, the principal ophthalmic facility within the country — was accomplished by the late 1990s with more than 5 million dollars of equipment donations.
The hospital was dark and dismal with long days and hard surgeries. Dr. Ohanesian said that the Armenians had two natural resources — their own innate intelligence and the Armenian diaspora. He wasn’t sure what he could do to help so he did the only thing he could do — he returned to Armenia and subsequently founded the EyeCare Project. He has gone on to count on these two important factors for nearly 25 years.